- It was a whole day of listening to interesting, articulate and intelligent women with only a few token men (most of whom were also quite good, I should say).
- I laughed. A lot. Particularly when Jo Brand came on. (And when I learned the phrase ‘mimsiwoowoo’).
- For nine hours, my having kids was just assumed and not seen as a disadvantage I had to overcome.
- People wanted me. Well, mainly advertisers. It was a new experience – as a teacher you have nothing to give, so nobody tries.
- I got to interact with friendly strangers as we tweeted each other on the big screen while the debates went on.
- I discovered some new role models; Stella Creasy, Viv Groskop, Sonya Cisco, Prof Tanya Bryon, Laura Bates, Sarah Crown, Helen Lewis, A L Kennedy and Jo Brand. (If I’m honest, some of these may have developed into girl-crushes).
- I got to bump badges with other bloggers (no really, we were wearing fancy badges that share contact details when tapped together).
- I was reminded how special words are. As A L Kennedy said, ‘I love shoes, but nobody burns f*cking shoes’.
- I learnt a new word – ‘aphorism: a truth written or spoken in a concise and memorable form’.
- The champagne and canapés.
“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
My circle of friends has changed a lot since I’ve had kids. Those who don’t have kids, except for my closest friends, have drifted away to be replaced by a new crop of Mum Friends.
These Mum Friends are women I have met, at antenatal classes or playgroups, purely because they are the mother of a child the same age as Quibble or Squeak. These women, who I would not know but for the timing of a pregnancy, and I joined together as pioneers in this new frontier of Motherhood. We have become bonded by a shared experience. Supporting each other through sleepless nights, comparing notes on milestones (the hits and the misses) and getting dizzily excited going to the pub for a few short hours. They are easy to be with precisely because they understand what life with children is like – the challenges and the fun.
But while I have been going through this, so have some of my best and oldest friends. The friends I first met at university back in that time Before Children. On slightly differing timescales, we have all morphed from a group of laidback, silly, loud, drunken students we once were into respectable, sober, hard-working mothers.
Last weekend I met up with them all at a wedding. All except the bride have had a baby in the past twelve months; one first, three second and one third baby. And even though no children were present, conversation covered breastfeeding, childcare, maternity leave, weaning, nappies and even vasectomies. And because we were friends before we were Mums, because we bonded first over Lambrini and washing up rotas, because we can go months without speaking yet feel it’s no time at all when we do talk, we can speak with complete honesty and know we won’t be judged.
We admitted that we let our kids watch more TV than we meant to. We admitted that, in the middle of a tantrum, it was sometimes hard to like our kids. We admitted that our first family holidays made us miss those holidays where we had a lie-in, spent an entire day doing nothing, then went out for a meal. And we all knew that it didn’t mean we loved our kids any less or that we wished we didn’t have them or even that we weren’t good mothers.
We joked about the ways our offspring mimicked our words and actions catching us off guard and forcing us to laugh at ourselves. We shared our children’s cleverest, funniest and sweetest moments, reminding each of us how lucky we were. And, of course, we reminisced about those student days; our own cleverest and funniest moments.
As the night wore on, we became more laidback, a bit silly, very loud and quite drunk. And I realised that we really hadn’t changed all that much after all.