Weirdly enough, I wasn’t going to write about this theme this week, but the thought just crossed my mind and I better take advantage of it before it vanishes out of my brain.
A friend of mine has a maternity blog and one of her posts this week was about the 5 worst things she’s heard as a mum. As I started reading it I could relate to all of the things (in my own way and through my own perspective) and she made a call for us readers to share our own. So instinctively I started thinking of my own. And as a succession of ideas came to my mind I realised something (not really related with what she wrote #bearwith)
I realised that I belong.
I belong to this massive group of women that have one thing in common: we had babies. So it’s interesting because no matter what’s going on in our lives, where we live, what we do, how uch money we have, there’s one thing that we all can relate to: that we had babies. And it’s comforting.
But as much as there’s good side to it, there’s also a bad one. Let me start with the bad side first because I want to finish this post on a positive note.
At the same time as it is comforting to be part of this huge group of women, it sometimes isn’t so. In so many cases, we only have that one thing in common: we had babies. That’s it. No other connection apart from that one alone. So despite being connected to these women, one might feel lonely in the crowd
Also I’m sure most of you have heard a mum complaining about how lonely motherhood is. That’s because it is. Even when you have friends and family around, it is. For several reasons.
We spend too many hours alone, taking care of a human being that is the centre of our attention – it basically occupies 90% of our brain, 90% of our day. Most of most days are spent talking to a human being that doesn’t reply back for months and once they start replying, words like “dadada”, “bababa” and “tetete” are not a boost on our intellect. In Dinis’ case it wasn’t until he was 7 months old that he started actually chatting instead of the very occasional babbling (I’m under the impression that my kiddo is an introvert).
Also, watching other mums do things differently to our ways can make us feel doubtful of our own ways. It’s even worse when they seem to be doing things in a way we wish we could, but we don’t feel like we can.
So that disconnect with those mums you have nothing in common with makes you sink in loneliness furthermore.
Back in September/October I hit rock bottom and that’s exactly how I felt: lonely as hell.
I have a loving, dedicated, supportive husband but we’re living in this country, practically on our own. We live abroad, with no family around (just two young cousins with their young adult lives) and we live in London, a city that does make you feel lonely at times even when surrounded with friends.
In the last couple of years, most of our closest friends have moved back to other countries and the ones that stayed are not on the motherhood stage. They’re living their own childless lives where we’re not part of their plans as we have a kid.
The truth is, most people don’t know how to deal with new parents: “Should I invite them?”, “Should I go over?”, “I don’t want to bother”, “They probably don’t want to come”. And don’t get me wrong, those thoughts are totally legitimate as much as the “Ugh, the kid will start crying”, “They can’t stay late” or “I don’t know how to talk to/what to do with a baby” kind of thoughts. Of my oldest London friends only one has a 4 year old, which, again, is at another stage in her life, her son is a much more independent kid and she’s gone back to work. She also lives on the other side of the city – and you know, new mums don’t travel long distances on London’s tube regularly. It’s already a pain with no babies, imagine with a huge buggy. Rush hour is lovely! #NOT
So, back in September, I hadn’t met any mums around here and my husband João was working long hours with no time or patience to chit-chat in the evenings. My only escape was the internet. There was a lot of YouTube and Netflix, a lot of back and forth Messenger with family and mum friends that live abroad, but nothing beats actual face to face. For as much as I love days in, I love days out! And as much as my friends are there for me only a text message away, I need to talk to actual people!
Then once you get the courage to meet other mums, there’s a bit of a sense of hit and miss with some people. Yes, you both have babies, but you have nothing else in common! You end up hanging out with people that you say goodbye to at the end of the meetup with the thought: “Would I talk to this women and be friends with her in any other situation in my life?”. And a lot of the times the answer is “no”. So even though you have just made friends you still have that feeling of emptiness and loneliness hovering over your head.
But then comes the good part of being a mum.
Even when you have nothing in common with all these other mums in any other situation, having a baby is what makes you feel like you’re part of a community. And wow, what a massive community that is. Because no matter the differences, the truth is we all share the same issues, the same struggles, the same fears and the same joys.
One of the first times I left the house with the buggy in the morning, I felt like I was actually part of a sort of cult. I never noticed that many buggies and mums out and about! It felt like I was in a movie and I almost felt the urge to smile and say “Good Morning!” to every single mum I passed by. Which is nonsense, come on, this is London! But it was actually nice! I felt like I belong to a group: I was also a mum! Like all those ladies!
Even nowadays, there are times where I will pass by another mum and we both smile at each other as if we were saying: “Hey! I see ya! Hang in there, tomorrow will be better, babe!” or a simple “You rock!”.
There’s also a very positive side to meeting new people. It’s weird but meeting other mums kind of feels like dating again! There’s that fear of not being a match and on the other hand an excitement that it could be the start of something great. Friendship-wise, of course. Let’s not get weird. You either chat online or simply do it the old-fashion way, starting conversations with strangers at the park/cafe/health centre/children’s centre. You try to get to know each other, organise coffee dates, if everything goes well, you organise play dates for the kids at each other’s house. It’s kind of odd. But that’s how it goes when you don’t know anyone! You have to start somewhere! And sometimes you meet these awesome women that you’d actually love to be friends with whether you had babies or not! It’s awesome!
For this, if you did the course, NCT groups are the best. Even though it isn’t cheap, I do slightly regret not doing the NCT course. I notice that it helps so much to share your experience with a mum that is going through the same phase as you are with a baby that is the same age. A couple of months difference and there is a gap in what the other mum is experiencing at times.
But with mums that are going through the same as you at the same time, it gives you a real sense of relief. You’re not a mad woman. Your feelings are real. Other women feel the same pain, the same fears, they also had the worst night last night and they also need 5 coffees to get through the day.
No matter what, we’re part of a village
I used to think I knew what it was like to be a mum. And to be honest my idea of what it was like is very close if not exactly how I thought it would be. But now I actually know. I feel it. I live it.
And it’s a bizarre feeling. Because at the same time as you’re lonely on your own personal journey, you’re always part of this community that, thanks to technology, now feels like a village. A village that is there for you whether you need help or moral support. Other mums have your back.
You’re part of Facebook groups with odd questions, helpful advice or simply support and understanding. You meet local mums on Mush and other great apps that promote local meetups. You chit-chat to women at the park or at play dates. Or you start a conversation at the Health Visitor Centre and have this awesome opportunity of making new friends.
Motherhood is lonely at times. But most of all Motherhood is kind. Motherhood is strong. And above all, motherhood makes you feel like you belong.