Friday, 23 January 2009

How do I make a date with a mum?

Ever since my first trip to a post-natal class, I have felt that making friends with other mums is like dating.

You have to work out if they are suited to you – are you going to argue about public versus private education, vaccinations, TV allowances? Do you have anything else in common, other than your having children of the same age? Do you have similar politics, do you both work outside the home or from home? Do you both like Costa Coffee or the local independent, organic place?

And then you have to sell yourself to them. You have to look like someone they would like to spend time with. You have to show that their child will benefit from spending time with your child. You have to make them laugh and laugh at their jokes. You have to be able to look past the little annoyances.

I never dated. No, that’s not quite true, I went on one date when I was 12 years old. To the fair. It was all very awkward. I didn’t know what to say or do. Apart from that, all my relationships (four of them) have started when drunk. I’ve never been out for a movie and a meal to get to know someone first. I’ve just fallen straight into the relationship.

So maybe that’s why I can’t make friends with other mums. I don’t have the dating experience under my belt. And I can’t very well get drunk before going to a toddler group.

The only local mum friends I have are people I’ve known since school days. None of their children are the same age as R. There are a few mums of children R’s age, who I would love to be friends with. But I don’t know how to do it. I see them walking round town together, texting each other, I hear them talking about going round to each other’s houses for coffee and joking about buying cake instead of baking it. I have absolutely no idea how to break into that.

Will it get better when she starts school? Should be I standing outside the nursery school doors, waiting for mums to talk to? Do I need to wait for an opportunity, like the one Single Parent Dad got when a local mum needed his help? Or should I go out there and be pushy in some way?

Is it just me, or do other mums and dads have the same problems?


  1. What a bloody great post! And YES, other mums/dads DO have the same problem! I reckon make a pact with yourself... next time you go to a toddler group, although really hard, don't allow yourself to leave until you have struck up a conversation with someone, and i bet you anything your glowing and funny personality will shine through! And do this each time you go, with a new mum/dad...

  2. Thank you, Elsie.

    I can usually manage to talk to them - much more these days than when R was a baby, admittedly. But I can't work out how to suggest hooking up out of class:

    So, you're looking into X playgroup, are you? Do you want to go for a coffee to talk about what you think of it?

    Have you seen FILM X, yet? No? Do you fancy going together? We could go for a pizza first?

    I suppose the easiest ones are:

    Do you fancy meeting up at SOFT-PLAY-CENTRE X some time so the kids can play together?


    Do you want to bring X round to ours one afternoon? You don't mind dogs, do you?

    Hmm. Maybe I can do it.

  3. You are absolutely right, most mums do have the same issues.
    I am lucky (?) in that when I am nervous I talk - oh boy do I talk! - and it's mistaken for confidence.
    But when my son started school it was in a different area to where he went to nursery so we didn't know a soul, either of us, and I figured if he can make friends then so can I!

  4. It's a common problem. Making new friends takes time & patience. I find smiling is the best way. Or else asking another mother for a piece of advice - even if you don't need it - as an opener. Have you tried finding something you could join / volunteer for as a way to get to know more people?

    Personally I loathe committees but they're a great way to meet people properly. Another way is to join something like Toastmasters. But you know something, a lot of people you see in passing are probably wondering how they can get to know you. So, let them!

  5. I've read so many blog posts on this subject. It is a real difficulty. I think you just have to put yourself in the right places (which you are doing), and then be patient. A kindred spirit will come along. Or if not a kindred spirit, then one or two mums who you have enough in common with to enjoy hanging out with, and frankly that is usually enough.

    As for "does it get easier when your child is at school?", I don't know. You have more chance of conversation at a toddler group. When they're at school, you have to fit it all into 5 or 10 mins at the school gate. And if your child gets invited round to another's house, you won't necessarily go too, like you did when she was a toddler. People who join the PTA or other groups to get more involved seem to have very mixed experiences. Some are great. Some seen cliquey and nightmarish.

    The Americans have a great phrase which is "let's get our kids together". That implies that you are inviting someone round for the sake of your respective children, and nothing to do with your own social needs, and it seems easier to say somehow than "do you want to come round for coffee?"

  6. If you already go to a toddler group (and it sounds like you do), why not suggest a Mums' Night Out to a local pizza place? Sometimes people feel more comfortable in a group environment. And it is easier to talk if you're not chasing after small children. Also, you will know that the people who think it's a good idea and want to come along, are those who are keen to make friends, or at least open to the idea.

  7. Really perceptive post :)
    Offer to help set up at any of the groups you go to; that's a good way to get chatting. Or how about hosting a charity coffee morning? You could invite people that you just know to say hello to, and raise money for a good cause at the same time.

    Of course the great thing about dating other mums is that sex is rarely on the agenda, which means you can keep your big knickers, and you don't have to shave your legs.

  8. Tara: It hadn't even occurred to me that I'd have to do it all again when she starts school. I should definitely get some practice in!

    Caren: If I had the time, I would definitely do something like join a committee or volunteer for something. Or go to yoga or aerobics or something. Finding regular extra time is a bit of a challenge, though. Though, theoretically it shouldn't be a huge problem, so maybe I should consider it more.

    Iota: I love the 'Let's get our kids together' line. And I think that there is at least one child (and mum) who I could and should ask. The mums' night out is a good idea, too, and one I've considered myself. I know the staff quite well (my sister works there - though in a different bit), so could maybe ask to say something at circle time.

    MT: Coffee morning. Hmm. Or, actually, my friend has just started one of those party business things (aloe vera, rather than Ann Summers!), so I could host one of them and help her out along the way. That's an idea. Not sure how hubby would feel, of course! And you made me spit my tea out all over the netbook with your closing line.

  9. i can't make friends with other mums cuz i have too much other crap to do! although you look way busier than i am.

    and i never actually dated either. the husband just kind of 'happened'.

    what kind of editing do you do?

    i came here via jobeaufoix's

  10. Hi Holly, and thanks for stopping by.

    Yes, having too much other crap to do does make it more difficult.

    I actually make the hubby take me on dates every few months, because I missed out on it. Don't think it's the same, though.

    We edit and develop electronic materials for the big educational publishers in the UK. Sometimes we also edit printed material for them, as well.

  11. I have been going to a toddler group for an hour on a Monday morning. For that lovely hour we can talk about anything, birth, babies, boobs and boys. When the hour finishes it is like we have all hit the awkward button and can't chat anymore. I doubt this will change much at the nursery gates.
    I have already lost one date. She told me she doesn't think babies should go into nursery when they aren't old enough to talk and then asked me what I am doing with the baby. Oops...

  12. NMSOM: When we we leave toddler group, we walk down a big steep hill. Quite a few of the others do, as well. Almost no-one walks down together, though. One mum will speed up to overtake, another will slow down until no-one is walking anywhere near each other. Very strange, indeed.

    It's awful how judgemental we mums can be. I always try to speak on a personal level (e.g. I don't feel I can do X, so that's why I'm doing Y rather than saying that I think no-one she do X), and I try to be open to all different parenting styles and choices - everyone's circumstances are different, after all. But I know that sometimes I probably come across in a completely different way.

    Good luck with going back to work. I have a friend who went back recently and she found the journey there and back really difficult (cried much of the way), but was fine once she was stuck into the actual work and found it refreshing to be back.

    Personally, I love (most of the time) the balance I've found between work and family and I wish that everyone would have the opportunity to find the balance that suits them, but know it's too often not possible.

  13. I can't comment I stuck to my group of six NCT mums. I do chat in passing in coffee shops but I wouldn't count that as making friends.

    Hey, you talk to us bloggers - does that count?

  14. SaEM: I really wish I'd joined an NCT group. I know so many people who have stayed really close to their NCT mum friends. It seems like it was a much closer dynamic than the NHS pre-natal group I went to.

    It counts for me, definitely, but unless any of you live round the corner, it's not much good for making sure R gets to play with children her own age at home.

  15. Thanks for your supportive comment. I'm looking forward to being my own person for a while, not just someone's mum... but I will miss my sidekick.

    We didn't have any NCT classes in our area, I know my friend stayed really close to her NCT pals. I think people that go to those have a more similar mind-set anyway because they have to choose, and pay, to go there.

    Maybe when you find the right mum, you'll just know and you won't need to go through all the small talk - you'll just be friends straight away. She's out there for you.

  16. UPDATE! In my last toddler group, a mum asked me for my phone number. It's the real thing!!!

  17. OMG! You're just like, totally lucky!

    (I washed and dried my hair and put make-up on this morning, so that I could ask a mum round for coffee at nursery. Didn't see her. Ah well. Maybe I'll be as lucky as you and someone will ask me.)

  18. Briliant post Tasha. With Miss E I was very much alone as a fairly shy 25 year old with no friends or family with a young baby. It was pretty tough.

    When Miss M came along I was determind that I would get out there and make friends, so I attended the playgroup near to Miss E's school and made friends with the mums and children who would be in her year. It helped that I also had an 8 month old niece as it meant I could meet up with my sister-in-law which was great too.

    I say go with Iota's idea of getting the kids together maybe at a local play centre. Then you can have coffee without the pressure of those first date nerves. Good luck. :D

  19. Thanks, Jo.

    I will do it. I will.

    Or maybe I'll save it up for May, when she starts at the local playgroup, attached to the school where she'll hopefully be going next September. I'll need to find some mums to get on with there, otherwise the next 7 years will be a nightmare!

  20. This reminded me of when I was pregnant with my first baby and only knew my neighbours, child-free ones side and elderly the other...oh and the woman at the post office...Making new friends seemed very daunting at the time. But somehow I muddled through, with a few mistakes along the way. It'll all take time. With a few smiles here and some friendly cups of tea there, you'll soon work out the right folk for you. :-D

  21. We come and go so often between the US and UK that I always have to pick up and start all over again. Kids help. And I just ask people over for coffee. Sometimes you click, sometimes not. Keep trying until you do...

  22. It feels like being a teenager all over again. Will anyone be my friend? Am I wearing the right things? Am I saying the right things?

    Ughh - I hate it! Slowly, slowly, though I'm finding people who I think will be long term friends as opposed to just acquaintances.

  23. I found it v difficult with my first Treasure - remember vividly coming back from my first NCT coffee morning in deep depression and eating an entire packet of choc digestives...but I did find a friend there - rather like drunk dating, something just clicked, and by Treasure 2 I think I was just better at compromise!

  24. I met loads of other knackered Mums through a my fab childminder in the East End - we were all in the same boat, working and sharing our new experiences, the NCT Mums were also great but I was the only one who went back to work so life got really busy. I met loads of other families when nursery started and I'm still friends with some of the Mums from there, now at Infant and Junior school there are three who befriended us when we moved West. I have loads of friends with kids around the same age so it's mix and match all round. Birthday parties are the best way to get to everyone together...and a great excuse to make new friends!

  25. OMG! I SO know how you feel. It was really hard with my first one to find people that I could relate to. Joining a mum's group was the only thing that saved me. I actually loathe joining any kind of group so it was quite hard for me to do, but like Dulwich Divorcee I did click with one other mother -I think my psychic eye spotted another closet degenerate under the layers of mummy fat and breast milk - and it went from there.
    I think that being honest about how you feel also helps open up other people. Throw yourself out there and you'll soon sort the sheep from the goats. Or something like that anyway..
    Good luck!

  26. C.21st: That must have been difficult. And, ah yes, the postmaster is my best friend and the postmen and couriers who deliver work... there was a time they were my only human contact during the day.

    Susanna: That must be a struggle, starting again each time.

    Almost American: Oh yes, it is like being at school, actually. Even to the extent of there being different groups - the cool kids (yummy mummies), the swots (domestic wonders who bake and craft and don't have TVs), and the people who just don't fit in. I hadn't thought of it like that before.

    DD: I think it probably gets easier when you have more than one... with the first everything is just so new, but after that you know more and have more to say, I suppose. Compromise is something I really need to practise!

    Nixdminx: Intersting you mention the birthday party. We had a birthday picnic for R's 2nd birthday and I was thrilled that people actually came, some with their husbands/partners as well as children. But, while we did all talk a bit, I didn't follow up on it and suggest other meetings or something. I really don't seem to know the etiquette!

    Mothership: I think it is a case, for those many of us who don't find it easy (I have a friend who can talk to anyone about anything and has no problems whatsoever), of really making an extra effort. I do have mum friends who I see, but none of their children are R's age and I really think it would be lovely for her to have one or two friends of the same age to have round to play and so on.

    I do think it will come together, fine. Especially when she starts at the local playgroup and we have to duty and raise money and things like that.