What! You too?

 “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.


Drinking Humble Champagne

A Mum Friend turned forty at the weekend.

There was much discussion on Ways to Turn Forty, but in the end she invited us all to a Champagne Breakfast in a tiny, local restaurant. I knew I should be very excited – it sounds such a decadent treat – but instead I found myself thinking of it as a hassle. I have a bad habit of viewing things like this as More Difficult Because I Have Children, meaning that I just focus on how much would need sorting or organising and end up asking ‘is it really worth it?’. In this case my mental list of difficulties would probably be summed up like this:

Number 1: I’ve just booked swimming lessons for Quibble on Saturday mornings, which we need to cancel if we can’t find a babysitter for Squeak. Babysitter will really have to be family because Squeak is a little High Maintenance. Family do not live very close, so will have to be invited to stay for the day.

Number 2: I’ll still have to have breakfast anyway, because Squeak will be up at six. And I’ll still have to get lunch for everyone when I get back, even though I’ve just eaten.

Number 3: I have no nice clothes to wear because in the past year I have been either pregnant or knee deep in children (I doubted the dress code would be slightly stained jeans and a crumpled old t-shirt). What do you even wear for a champagne breakfast anyway?

In the end I could also have added that getting two children up and breakfasted in the morning does not leave much time for getting ready and so I was late. It also turned out to be raining and I forgot my umbrella. When it came to it I had to take a deep breath and force my grumpy self out of the door.

Of course, you know what happened next. The food was lovely, nobody cared what I wore, I got to spend time relaxing in great company. Those few hours restored me a little and reminded me what it felt like to be calm and happy.

But more than all of that, I had a moment that forced me to see how self-pitying my grumpiness really was: one of my Mum friends turned up a little late apologising for her clothes as her toddler had had a nasty fall the day before and spent the night in hospital. He was fine now, just awaiting discharge, but she’d come straight here and not had a chance to change.

See, went that little voice in my head, it really wasn’t too difficult for you to get here, was it?