I have three kids.
The youngest hasn’t been walking long and the eldest just turned 15.
There is one massive difference that has made this time round a complete joy and the first attempts really, really hard – mum mates.
In 2002 I was rock-bottom lonely and as a result suffered with post-natal depression.
Becoming a new mum, your whole world is thrown upside down and all your reasons for ‘being’ in your previous life can often suddenly seem irrelevant.
The days are long and although you have constant physical companionship in the form of your new bundle of joy, sometimes you just need someone to share a glass of wine with at 5pm and be able to say, ‘today was just a bit s***’.
Now more than ever we are so lucky to have so many options for finding our mum mates.
Be any kind of mum you want to be – just don’t be a lonely one. Here’s nine ways to find your tribe.
1. Pregnancy prep
If you’re expecting your first baby, then get on the case early.
You’ll probably find they arrange a meet up when the babies are born anyway.
Of a group of five or six pregnant mums, you’d be really unlucky not to find someone you click with.
2. The baby group
Put a post on Facebook saying, ‘Looking for a great local baby or toddler class – help!’ and you’ll be overcome with recommendations. Decide on one, put on your positive pants and off you go.
If you feel lost when you get there, just be honest – find someone and tell them you haven’t been before, and that it’s taken all your courage to walk through the door. I guarantee they’ll find you a cuppa and help you find your way into a conversation.
3. Your local mum club
Find your local group like the one that I run.
My group is CheltenhamMaman and I cover Gloucestershire, but here’s a few others I know of:
Love for the Mama covers Birmingham
Mum’s The Word Online – Brighton and Tunbridge Wells
The Parent Pause covers Rugby
The Oxford Mama Club – Oxford
We Got This – Norwich
Mothers Meeting – London
Juxlo Mama – London
The Mother Hub – Essex and the South East
Mama Social – Sheffield
Manc Mamas – Manchester
Mamas Collective – Manchester
4. Get technical
Peanut is an app for mums and mums-to-be so they can chat to, meet up with and learn from like-minded women.
This, along with real life get-togethers such as organised buggy walks and other events, can contribute to a happy mothering experience.
Tinder for mums? Well, perhaps, but here’s an idea. If you’re newly pregnant or have small kids, why not download the app and suggest a date?
5. Podcasts and blogs
The lid has finally been lifted on the myth that motherhood is a shiny bubble of time in which you must #cherisheverymoment.
It’s tough, and there’s a new wave of women providing funny, informative and most importantly inclusive content for mums so that they know they’re not alone.
6. Get social
Fifteen years ago, my belief at 3am in the morning when I woke for the third feed of the night was that I was completely alone, no one else was finding it as difficult and, consequently, that I was failing as a mother.
7. Go to child-friendly places
It’s taken a while but it seems that at last businesses are realising that if they want to take advantage of the millions of pounds each year that are spent by parents in the company of their children, then they need to make themselves family friendly.
Every town now has amazing coffee shops and restaurants that are going that extra mile to look after the kids – check your local paper or regional Facebook group for ideas.
Cinemas are now offering parent-and-baby-friendly screenings too.
8. Work at it
Fifteen years ago, many of us wouldn’t have had the option to go back to work if we wanted to.
Though childcare remains expensive, quite a few companies are coming round to the idea that jobs needs to work for the employee as well as the employer, so women are finding the space and time they need for good mental health back in the workplace.
And work is a place many of us make our best friends.
9. Realise you’re not alone
A small person wants to be with you more than anyone else in the world, even though they sometimes have a funny way of showing it.
Motherhood is an enormous undertaking and it’s so easy to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.
Stop to think about the very moment you find yourself in – you are safe, your child is safe, they are loved.
Being grateful for the fact that you are actually not alone can be a really powerful thing to do.