Alexandra Hunter on the trying business of making friends with other mamas..
Like almost every other pregnant couple I have known, my then-partner and I signed up to antenatal classes for two main reasons: to learn more about a subject we both knew precious little about; and to make new friends locally, who would also be at home with their tinies when everyone else was at work.
Female friendships are complex and wonderful things; my girlfriends are some of the most important people in my life. We have shared the highs and the lows of our lives and our relationships have been nurtured and developed over many, many years. Sadly, as you grow older, your friendship hubs disperse. Your old friends often can’t be there when you’re having a meltdown due to mastitis at three in the afternoon, because they’re in a business meeting – and anyway they’re not local. Knowing you’ll be home on your own for a lot of the time with a small baby, while the people you love carry on leaving the house at 7.30am and returning 12 hours later is daunting to say the least.
I felt under tremendous pressure to make new mum friends as I had been warned how isolating having a baby can be – and honestly, it was hard. We got to our first NCT class and I was scouting the room for the women I thought I could make friends with, already knowing that there were some – certainly kind, intelligent and brilliant – women I would have nothing to say to. You have two things in common with people in NCT: you’re local and pregnant. But is that enough to form solid friendships, and fast?
Part of the struggle of being a new mama is admitting to others how hard it is and asking for help. That requires a whole heap of honesty, normally reserved for those you know won’t judge you. Opening up to a group of strangers about how it really feels when they are all pretending everything is going swimmingly for fear of being judged themselves is a difficult dynamic to navigate. I remember having coffee, heavily pregnant, with a local woman who was also due in a few weeks and getting home and crying. It felt like a bad date. She was lovely but we just didn’t click and I had so hoped that we would.
Every mama friend I’ve spoken to has felt the same, and most antenatal groups tend to form splinter groups after a few months. Two of my favourite mama friends are in fact from NCT and I would have been lost without their support over the last two years. They have offered wine, support, playdates and numerous WhatsApp messages. When I realised they were happy to sneak Prosecco into Kew Gardens for playdates I knew I had found friends for life. These women are no longer my local mama friends, they are among my closest friends. Like all of the best friendships, they have been built on trust, honesty, tears, support and love. You will find your crew, but as with internet dating, you just have to keep looking.