The Modern Mama’s guide to getting out and about and making true friends
Words Molly Whitehead-Jones
It’s often said that it takes a village to raise a child – but the very nature of 21st century life means that support network you so vitally need as a new mum is unlikely to come ready-made. A study conducted by The British Red Cross and the Co-op last year highlighted early motherhood as one of the loneliest possible times in women’s lives; research from Channelmum has revealed that 92% of British mums feel lonely, with 54% saying they’ve felt more so since having a family.
And, disturbingly, the biggest source of this isolation comes from “cliquey and bitchy” baby and toddler groups – the very endeavours that are supposed to help us forge new friendships – which 51% revealed they feel excluded from.
But now modern mums are taking back control. We simply aren’t prepared to make do with the mum mates that NCT deals us, to switch off our brains for mindless baby classes, or spend our maternity leave sinking into a boxset black hole. Why should we be content to settle when today’s technology makes it easy to seek out our own tribe and find activities that are stimulating for both us and our babies?
So how can you meet these women who are as keen as you are to retain their own sense of self in motherhood? Here’s a guide to the apps, events and venues designed to make it easy and fun to create a handpicked ‘village’ of your own.
There’s no need to hang around the local playground/playgroup hoping to bump into a like-minded mama when your phone can help you seek them out from the comfort of your sofa instead.
Peanut, possibly the edgiest of this new breed of ‘mating’ app, lets you swipe through mums in the local area, Tinder-style, and either ‘wave’ or reject them based on your shared interests. When you sign up, you select three primary interests (among the decidedly-unmumsy-sounding categories you choose from are “Spiritual Gangster”, “Fashion Killa” and “Powered by Caffeine”) which helps ensure you only end up connecting with women on the same page as you.
Other popular apps of this ilk include Mush, which allows you to search for other mothers based on a variety of filters (age, baby’s age, distance from you, etc), and Mummy Social, where you can arrange and/or sign up for locally-based events. For those on the cusp of becoming a mum, there’s The Bump, designed to help you meet other pregnant women and get a head start on forging a connection before your babies arrive.
And because it’s often hard to plan outings in advance when you’ve got a baby in tow, there’s also Hoop, which helps you find a whole range of classes and events going on in your local area – perfect for those days when you find yourself going stir crazy in the house and need some ideas for what to do with yourself.
Bored of baby sensory? Feel like you’ll go mental if you have to sit through another Music Makers class? Then it’s time you headed to an event that’s about you rather than them (and let’s face it, your little one’s not going to mind – they don’t even know where their nose is, let alone that Wednesday’s normally your ‘little yoga’ class…).
The super-cool Mothers Meeting – the original pioneer of this kind of mum-focused meetups – is still going strong, regularly hooking up with top brands and your favourite InstaMums for exciting panel events, focus groups, film screenings and exclusive product launches.
As well as running a great online resource for London parents, SW Mummy organise both family-friendly and mums-only events (so you can either bond over your kids, or over how nice it is to get away from them for a while).
If you’re outside London, groups like Mamas Collective in Manchester, Mums the Word in Sussex, Mum’s The Word Online in Tunbridge Wells, Love For The Mama in Birmingham, Trouble Lounge in Bath, Cheltenham Mamman, are all based on a similar model.
And if you’ve recently started your own business and are looking for advice, the monthly Roundtable XYZ meeting gives you the chance to grill the experts and chat with other parent-preneurs, all while bouncing the baby on your knee.
The clubs and courses
World’s away from the horrors of soft play, Purple Dragon provides a safe, welcoming and much more sweet-smelling place where kids can burn off some energy and explore their creativity; mums can join in the fun or kick back for a coffee and chat instead. With branches in both Putney and Chelsea (and plans to open more locations soon), You can choose the membership package that best suits your needs and access a whole range of stimulating classes and workshops.
Family members club Maggie and Rose – located in Kensington and Chiswick – is designed, in their words, to “provide a beautiful creative space for children in surroundings that appealed to grown-ups too – bye bye chilly church halls, hello inspirational home from home,” while The Cupcake Family Club in Parsons Green offers a similar membership-based programme of fun activities.
And if you’re looking to get out of the capital for a while, spend a little time relaxing as a family and meet others with children of a similar age, try &Breathe Postnatal’s incredible postnatal wellbeing retreats. You can head to either Morocco or France for a restorative weekend of exercise and healthy eating, and childcare’s thrown in.
We all know how important coffee is to us mums, but heading to Starbucks with a toddler in tow often leaves them with itchy feet from having to sit still for more than five seconds, and you with a burnt tongue from your hastily-downed flat white. Thankfully, there are lots of places where you can get your caffeine fix while the little ones run riot, and they’re also great spots to chill with your baby too.
FountLondon in Hackney bills itself as “an oasis for creators and makers, families and parents.” Here, you’ll find plenty of kid-friendly events, fantastic Italian restaurant Il Cudega and a shop stocked to the rafters with beautiful bits and bobs from a huge range of independent brands. The Little Highness Play Cafe in Highbury runs a range of workshops for kids, and has a soft play section that’s mercifully clean and well-kept. And, if you fancy jumping on the train for a day out in the country, the by-now-legendary FMLY Store in Bruton enables you to not only stock up on all your Selfish Mother goodies but also grab a coffee (or even a glass of bubbles if you visit on ‘Fizz Friday’) alongside a gaggle of other smart, stylish mums.