I am the generation that grew up watching Friends. Which means I genuinely thought that on arriving at adulthood, I would promptly move into an amazing apartment with my best friend. That all my other friends would live within walking distance of me. That having babies wouldn’t change the dynamic of the group, and that my besties would be there, right alongside me as I went into labour, sharing every moment of our lives together.
I, in part, blame Friends for how lonely I have felt as a mum (and for giving me stupidly unrealistic expectations of how good my hair would look as a new mum: Rachel Green I am not). Of course, they’d set ridiculously high standards. My friends have their own small babies to deal with (or are happily childfree and understandably do not want to spend a large proportion of their time with small people who are liable to throw a tantrum every time the wind changes). We all live in London, which means that any trip to visit each other likely involves 7 buses, 4 tubes, and a nervous breakdown or worse, the M25. We may only be a few miles apart but let’s face it, it’s easier to go abroad than to cross London, especially with children in tow.
Of course, when I had my first child I did the usual antenatal classes. And I met some lovely mums, who were all going through the same thing as me at the same time, and more importantly lived within walking distance of my flat. But, this being central London, within 9 months of having my daughter, all but three of us had moved, mostly to far flung places across the globe (I’m not joking, one is in Australia, one in America, one in Kenya and one in Columbia). Inspired by such globe trotting, my husband and I made the decision to move as well. And ended up in a small town in South East London. I know, we’re pretty adventurous.
I was back at work by the time we moved to Petts Wood so I didn’t really have time to make lots of new friends in the area. It’s amazing how detached you can be from the place you live in when you spend a large proportion of your time commuting into London. But then I had my son. There were no antenatal classes this time around (no one seems to have worked out a sensible way of doing them when you’re working and have a child. I don’t blame them, it’s a logistical nightmare). Facing a year off work and knowing only 1 other person in Petts Wood (yeah, we did a great job of integrating ourselves into the community…), I was nervous to say the least. I know lots of people swear by mother and baby groups, but they really don’t do it for me. I cannot bear talking about whether my child is sleeping through the night or walking yet; it drives me insane and actually only makes me feel more lonely as I can’t seem to bond with other mums over this stuff.
After the initial few weeks of newborn blur wore off, and I felt ready to go out and talk to actual normal people again, the realisation that I had literally no one to meet up with dawned on me. It’s fucking awful. No one wants to admit they have no friends. You feel like such a failure. Every time I went into a cafe I’d see other groups of mums sitting together and chatting, looking like they were having a fine old time. I’d sit by myself, trying to look like this was all ok, then go home feeling a massive failure. Luckily, on one of these trips to a cafe I saw a sign up about a new mums choir that was starting. While Beyoncé literally has nothing to worry about, I do love a good sing in the shower (one of my daughter’s most overused sentences is “stop songing Mummy”…), so I decided to be brave and go and join in one week. I’ve not sung in a choir for a good 20 years and thought I was probably mad for giving it a go, but sleep deprivation and a desperate need for adult company galvanised me into action. Turns out the idea for this choir had started on Mummy’s Gin Fund. I’d never even heard of MGF before (I know, sacrilege!) but through these mums I got to know the wonderful world of Gin Funders. Each Wednesday I got to spend 2 hours with like-minded women, attempting to sing while our children foraged for Pom Bears on the floor of whoever’s house we were meeting up at. At no point did anyone ask me if my son was sleeping through the night, or crawling yet. I’d finally found a group of mums I felt myself with. Being a mum is hard.
It sometimes feels like it’s a given that when you go on mat leave, you’ll find this group of friends who also have babies the same age as yours, and you’ll develop this amazing bond and be friends for life. The last thing I expected to feel on mat leave was lonely and it made me feel like I was a bit rubbish. Like I wasn’t making the most of this time off. When you’re at work, you’re surrounded by people everyday, and to go from that to being at home by yourself, day in day out, is hard. So be brave. Force yourself to join a choir (join our choir, it’s great!). Or try your local mum and baby group. Or talk to that other mum sitting in the cafe by herself. Or, be really brave and talk to that group of mums in the cafe. I’m willing to bet I’m not the only mum whose felt lonely and miserable, and you won’t be either. In fact, maybe I’ll start my own mums group. We’ll call ourselves the Lonely Mums Club. We can meet in the evenings so that working mums can join. And no one is ever allowed to sit by themselves feeling sad or alone. Who’s in?!
Oh hold on, it already exists and it’s called ‘Mummy’s Gin Fund’.
Written by Rachel Millington.
MGF believes passionately in our motto ‘no mum left behind’. The main aim of everything we do is to reduce isolation and strengthen support networks through an online and face to face community. Every year, we host a whole month of activities and meet ups called #knowvember. YOU are very welcome to come to any of the events or take part in any of the Facebook Lives. Read more about #knowvember here and see which of the events take your fancy here.