kids

Why I gave up on making 'mum' friends.

I wanted that mum-magic. I knew it was out there somewhere.

I was the first among my peers to have a baby.

I had never felt as alone as I did in the midst of new parenthood. I wanted so badly to have someone to talk to, someone to understand me and my new life.

I loved my friends, but how would they ever understand what it feels like to drive around your neighborhood in circles, crying along with your baby because he just won’t sleep? How could they relate to me at all when they were working, studying, going out — childless and free, not knowing they should savor hot meals like manna from heaven?

Suddenly I was on the outside looking in at their ordinary freedoms, the ones which had slipped so slyly through my fingers the day my son was born.

I felt a little jealous, yes, but mostly I felt lonely.

My relationship with my husband was as fine as it could be — which is to say it sucked, terribly, because we were new parents with a tiny human wedged in between our once-effortless love. It was suddenly hard to find things to talk about, and harder still to go out together. Our baby’s needs were so constant that we never ended up sleeping in the same room at the same time.

Watch the funniest things parents have done while sleep-deprived. 

We would find the new pattern of our love eventually, but not yet. Not for a while.

So, yet again, loneliness it was.

The deep connection I was searching for simply wasn’t there.

Everything I read told me I needed to find a “mum tribe” or I would be relegated to a lifetime of joyless parenting. Mum friends would get it. Mum friends would bring you wine and tell you you’re doing just fine. Mum friends would hang at home or stroll in the park and never go out to meals or movies — just like you. Mum friends were the ones to whom you were supposed to spill all those dark parenting thoughts, and they would nod and say, “Me too.”

I imagined the serendipitous meeting of my new crew members. I wouldn’t even have to say a word, because there would be this intuitive understanding of what it means to be a mother — we would click, we would know, like soulmates bonded to one another before ever meeting.

I wanted that mum-magic. I knew it was out there somewhere.

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'I imagined the serendipitous meeting of my new crew members.' Image via Lionsgate. 

So I went to mummy meet-ups. I tried reconnecting with old high school buddies who had kids. I awkwardly approached other mums at the park to no avail. The deep connection I was searching for simply wasn’t there. I didn’t find my tribe; I didn’t find a new best friend or mum-soulmate. Little by little, I started connecting with mum friends, but mostly, I gave up on the venture. It felt too forced and trite when I approached people hoping they’d be my one true mum-love.

I eventually realized what I really needed was to rekindle my relationships with my non-mum friends — the ones who understood me at a level that simply couldn’t be mimicked by newly-budding friendships.

Their lives were no longer mirror images of my own, but in our friendships I was still able to see pieces of myself reflected. Pieces that motherhood had made me forget.

I told them the things I longed to tell my mythical mum-friends, and they may not have understood, but they listened. They let me be. They brought wine and told me I was doing just fine. They held space for me. It took me a while to realize it, but they were all I ever needed.

'Their lives were no longer mirror images of my own, but in our friendships I was still able to see pieces of myself reflected.' Image via HBO. 

Mum friendships form organically as the years go on, but what you really need out the gate isn’t a “mum tribe.” You simply need a tribe. Period.

You need women who will understand you, hear you out, and accept you where you stand, even if they’ve never been there themselves.

Mum friends are important, sure, but they will come when they come. Don’t forget the friends who are already standing next to you. Don’t destroy yourself looking for love when you’re already surrounded by it.

This story by Gemma Hartley originally appeared on Ravishly, a feminist news+culture website.

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