If I was to ask you “why do you go to mummy, baby and toddler groups?” what would you say? Is it for your child’s benefit? socialization, education, build self esteem, health benefits etc? Or perhaps for you to bond together and have fun? Maybe its a desperate solution to break free of those 4 walls at home? Or is to be sociable yourself in a hope to make mummy friends? All of the above?
I am a sociable person and will talk to pretty much anyone, I wouldn’t say that I was awkward nor weird, I like to think I am quite cool, relatively normal and I make friends quite easily. At least I thought I did until I entered the world of motherhood and boy was I wrong. When I became a mother I had 2 priorities, or rather things I wanted to get from attending groups:
(1) Ethan/future kids to have little play mates, fun and experiences
(2) For me to make some new friends and have a social life along side theirs
Was this to much to ask? Did I have high expectations? Apparently so, because it soon became apparent that mummy groups can be very intimidating. You walk through the door to be met by small groups of women sat or stood together that seem to already know each other and be in friendship groups, are happy with where they are at and other than the odd hello, laugh about your kids and sympathetic smiles the relationship usually does not blossom beyond this. At first I thought it was just me, you see when I had Ethan 4 years ago it became apparent that I had PND early on. This illness brought to the surface (amongst other things) many insecurities I had as a new mum and during this time I had found out about Mini Me Time (then Ickle Uns – remember those days?) and was attending Baby yoga on a weekly basis, then on to the music and then sign groups. Whilst everyone I attended with was lovely, I often felt like a bit of an outsider.. the mum to the left was sat with someone she already knew..the 3 mums over there all seemed to hang out too and again the chats and banter, for me never went beyond the children’s centre or church hall…it certainly didn’t help my illness but I wondered why I personally was finding it hard to make mummy friends?!
Yesterday I spoke to lots of lovely mum’s at the “Sing & Social” (we go most weeks) and realised that I wasn’t alone in these feelings and it wasn’t a result of PND (well maybe a little) but that the majority of mum’s feel this way about groups. It seems many feel like they’re walking into the lions den and wonder if its really worth it. I have never attended on a regular basis, a mums and tots group outside of Mini Me Time because it was far too awkward and I thought I could save my £1.50 -£2 and play with my kids on my own at home. We all agreed though that the Sing and Social is unique in the way that it is actually conducive to making new mummy friends, maybe not lifelong, lets hang out tomorrow friends (though some probably do) but as in its a lot more open and friendly. The group is quite structured compared to others and whilst many still sit in their friendship groups and enjoy a good chat over a cuppa, we are also all encouraged to mix…the baby area opens up an opportunity for new mums and mums of babies to chat around their babies playing…the music and movement section invites you to sit amongst other parents and laugh together as we wiggle, jump, stretch and bounce! Queuing for cakes provides an opportunity to chat to those also eagerly waiting a top up and some sugar!
Like me, many mum’s here wouldn’t usually go to a playgroup unless they went with someone or already knew someone there. They do however and have often, come here because the environment is more open and friendly and offers a special something, whether on your own or not that you could probably never re-create in your own home and is worth every penny! I recently suffered a stillbirth which has been super painful, very isolating and going to groups did not appear on the agenda; the last thing I wanted was to be surrounded by others with THEIR babies, being the awkward bereaved mother or just randomly crying around strangers. The last thing on my mind was making / keeping mummy friends. Four weeks after our loss, yes four weeks we went to the sing and social, I thought I must be mad but several familiar faces welcomed me, offered condolences and listened to my experience. It isn’t the easiest of places to go when all you see are babies, but it is made easier by such a friendly atmosphere. Whether shy, confident, timid, out spoken, awkward, sociable…all agree that everyone that goes is friendly and easy to talk to – I still find, as some of the other mums do that these relationships are solely a Tuesday morning thing but how much nicer it is to walk through the door and have people to talk to, rather than sit week in week out having a one to one play sess with ya kid or stay away because your personal trials may isolate you even more. I also realised that being a 1st time mum and trying to break through into the world of mummy friends was just the surface, because then you go on to have another and suddenly are isolated again because you are running around like a mental woman trying to see to the needs of 2 or even 3! Then there’s the problem that many groups only cater for one or the other..if you go to a baby class what do you do with your toddler? If you go to a toddler group how do you keep baby entertained and give the toddler the attention they require? It gets so stressful sometimes and all you want to do is have a lovely morning out where everyone’s needs are catered for..even yours.
One thing I didn’t consider was what it might be like for the mums blessed to have 2 babies in one go – mums of twins! There are 2 sets in our family; one from my side, one from my husbands, both born with in 6 months and both find it such HARD work to even get out of the door some days, especially in the Winter with 2 snow suits, 2 hats, 2 blankets, nappies etc I spoke to a mum of twins Nikki yesterday who confirmed the battle of getting out with 2 and also how hard it can be at baby groups, not just to make friends, but generally juggling the needs of both babies. Whilst mum’s of one cuddle their babies she often had to leave one or both in the pushchair to be able to meet both babies needs. As we chatted she said how she liked the Mini Me Time sessions for the fact that it can be helpful with twins and you don’t feel an outsider for whatever reason. She will often bring her mum or a friend to the group to help her but it made me more aware of what other mothers go through to help their kids have a social life, fun times and for them to have some adult conversation. There are several sets of twins that attend this group and like Nikki with Alfie and Evie they absolutely love it and their mum’s seem fairly chilled out. Again the fact that they have more than one baby or child in tow hasn’t prevented them from being able to meet other mum’s or make friends with none twin mum’s .. you can put them down and let them play, let them go wild with all of the other kids.
Having mummy friends to hang out with isnt particularly as important to me any more as it used to be, not just because of what life has served us, but because I have accepted that like work its nice to have people to talk to on the job, that welcome you each day your there. Motherhood is a full time job and some days you just have time to do your own family tasks, other days you want to chat with “colleagues” or a friendly face that knows what the jobs like! So whether you are like me and find talking to people easy or not you will always find a friendly face, mad kids, a good cuppa and mum’s just like you , a fellow colleague, at Mini Me Time classes and groups, and who knows you might be the one that has a friendship extend beyond the church hall!
The Sing & Social group takes place every Tuesday from 9.30 – 11.30 at St Andrews Church in Morley – It is £5 per family (must be siblings) and offers play and socialization, breakfast, music and movement session, singing and signing and bubbles…Come find out for yourself the fun and smiles available!