Ellie House has learned, amid the tears, vomit and tantrums, that parenthood is a long journey and you are going to need some friends to come along for the ride.
There are many things which were straight-forward prior to having a baby. In hindsight, my life in general was gloriously simple and easy.
My son is now six months old and we can actually get out of the house in under an hour. The newborn days saw me pack 50 unnecessary items and undertake a risk assessment for the day ahead.
I would like to think I’ve calmed down slightly and I have been blessed with a child who is relatively easy going.
There is one element of the pre-baby days, however, which I find myself yearning for. Some more sleep, perhaps, or a shower which lasts longer than five seconds? Thanks to dry shampoo and coffee, I am getting by.
It’s car journeys. Yes, that’s right. I fantasise about solo car journeys. No car seat which requires a degree to fasten. No child-friendly tunes which play in my head on loop. And most of all, no hysterical tantrum at such a point in the journey when I can do little to placate, except manically sing nursery rhymes.
I had reached this moment when approaching a busy roundabout. Traffic was busy and my son decided he wanted out of his car seat. If you have ever dealt with a screaming child in the confined space of a car, I hope you will understand my actions. The traffic lights turned red and in that moment, I could take no more. Hazards on, I tumbled out of the car and raced round, waving a dummy in my hand like a woman possessed.
There were three lanes of traffic and a bemused cyclist. I regret nothing. Thankfully my front-seat passenger barely blinked. She got it, because she is what I would class as a mum friend. During pregnancy I was told I would need mum friends. The concept sounded hideous, I already had friends. I had heard terrible stories about judgemental mums.
Having moved to three cities in the space of two years, I wasn’t eager to go through the whole friend-making process again. It can be surprisingly hard in adult life. University and school delivered ready-made friends but once you leave this bubble it can be a bit of a wasteland.
I have learned that mum friends are, in fact, vital. Not just because you can swap tips on weaning and exhaustion but because the saying is true – it really does take a village to raise a child. My mum friends are the strongest, funniest women I know. We listen, advise and provide support in the early hours.
Finding these glorious women didn’t come easy. I found out the hard way that having a child isn’t the only thing you should have in common. You won’t automatically get along with every mum you meet.
Parent and toddler groups are a great place to start. They can be similar to the school playground, though – ridiculously cliquey. Being on the outside is an incredibly lonely experience. I’ve nodded politely as mums made plans because they already knew each other. I have busied myself with my son as weekend meet-ups were cemented, in the knowledge that I wasn’t included.
This isn’t a pity party but an admission. Motherhood can make you feel vulnerable and fellow mums can just as easily raise you up or tear you down. I try to smile at every mum I see in the park because, deep down, we all need friends on this bumpy ride.
One mum friend told me to put a cold muslim on my child’s forehead. After much confusion and hilarity, we realised auto- correct and muslin got lost in translation.
On the toughest of days, my mum friends have provided a light in the darkness. They’ve seen me in maternity leggings eight weeks after birth and left homemade soup on the doorstep. There was the time a friend and I sat in companionable silence in the car because our children had fallen asleep in the back.
A good mum friend will never judge. She will hold your hand as you cry with tiredness and discreetly wipe the vomit off your shoulder. She will laugh with you – sometimes at you – and she will always be on your side.
To my mum friends, thank you. I’m so proud to be part of the tribe.