Right before I fell pregnant with Jake I had just finished my masters degree, had 3 jobs and lived in a busy town, surrounded by people – adults – all the time. I had creative friends, work friends, student friends, fun friends, lots of friends to hang out with, go out with, chat to… And I had my family near by. Then I packed up and moved, to a tiny island, where I knew one person (my partner)… I got a part time job quickly, and met some lovely people that I saw once or twice a week…. but I was pregnant, and getting more and more pregnant, I stopped working and everything, absolutely everything I knew was changing, from my location to the marks on my skin, and soon everything was going to change even more.
I had a baby. Family visited and left, Matt went back to work. And it was just me and a tiny baby boy. Everyday. Me and a baby. I knew no one else with a small baby, I had no friends on the island to come and visit us. Looking back, Im not really sure how I survived, how I did not go completely nuts, how I got through the long unexpected days of all day/all night breastfeeding, the 17 hour days, the wails and tears of teething… then the mindless hours of building 6 blocks over and over and over and over and over…….. reading the same 10 books every single day. We did go out sometimes to the library, park, beach and occasionally a baby group for brief moments of adult conversation and a change of scenery. And I did have a small group of online friends who all had babies about the same time, who are probably the ones who kept me sane. But I did not have a single real life Mum Friend to call my own. I was lonely. It was very painful at times.
And then, once again everything changed. I made friends. I met them all within a few months, from when Jake was about 14 months onwards. Playdates started to become regular spots in our weekly routine, I drank coffee at places outside of my home! I had other adults to chat to about nappies and poo, and sippy cups and healthy snack ideas, and sleep or lack of it, and sore boobs and boob guilt, and bras, and how we hate cooking dinner at 5pm, and Cbeebies shows that irritate the shit out of us, but our kids are fascinated with, or Cbeebies shows that we secretly love, about bedtime routines or lack of them, about mum guilt, crappy relationship stuff, happy relationship stuff, sex or lack if it, having more babies, about not being able to go to the toilet in peace… about all the stuff that being a parent suddenly brings. And also about stuff that was important to you before you were suddenly a parent.
I was no longer alone in motherhood. Things made more sense. I was happier. My relationship was better. I was a better Mum for Jake. I felt like ME again, a little bit. The guilt, the love, the confusion, the doubt, the pride, was all shared with someone else who knew and who felt it. My Mum friends here, on our island, have become my family now, out of both necessity and love.
Each week I have one, two or three playdates here where Jake and Poppy can play with the other children that come, and so I can chat to my friends over a cup of coffee and some cake. Sometimes, given the nature of 3 year olds and babies, the playdates are hectic and a bit stressful, but sometimes when they creep off and play quietly together its a brief pause where ‘We’ (‘cos sometimes there just is and us and them mentality when it comes to kids and parents! 😉 ) can sit and breathe… and let out the stresses and delights of the past week. We share small moments and big troubles and connect over small details of our children’s routines and habits. We ask and give advice on behaviour, health, food, Dads, toys, activities, where to shop… we rant and rave, and just chat about grown up stuff, instead of / whilst also pretending to be dinosaurs and ballerinas, explaining why we cannot have chocolate cake for lunch and refereeing toy squabbles.
As I don’t drive, and live in the middle of nowhere, my friends normally come to me. I always try to keep my cupboard stocked with a variety of drinks and yummies. “Coffee and cake” is the strap line of playdates with one of my friends. I recently gave up tea and coffee (apart from the odd decaf at the weekends), but still keep a jar of Kenco in the cupboard for my coffee loving or sleep deprived friends, I also have tea, of course, and some herbal and fruit teas for my pregnant/healthy friends. I so appreciate them coming to see us, that its the least I can do to try an get things they like.
I recently did a Shoppertunity for #Cbias, buying Kenco coffee and some snacks for spending time with friends. You can see all the pictures from that shop here in my G+ album, where Jake and I wizzed around Waitrose and then had a lovely walk on the beach nearby.
During the shop I got some more Kenco, some lemon and honey for me (as my new drink of choice), some Mr Kipling French Fancies and Apple and Blackberry Pies for a friend/playdate with my friend, Kelly (who is also one of the contributors to Mummyology – see Its Just My Hormones).
She popped round this morning with her son, Sonny. We chatted about her pregnancy, about Father’s Day just gone, about normal life stuff, her family, and about our kid’s co-sleeping habits, early mornings, developing their social skills and awwww-ing over Sonny and Poppy having cuddles, and Jake very carefully sharing out his toys with Sonny.
We shared in our children not really eating lunch, throwing stuff and running off when we tried to talk to them.
The frustration of pre-schoolers, but in company, it lessens.
Kelly is a wonderful, calm and chilled out (on the face of it anyway!) Mum. Her attitude helps me feel calmer, and also less to blame, as its a reminder that no matter how we parent our kids will all play up at some point or another.
Even sharing cake with a friend is better, and far more civilised, than scoffing loads behind the cupboard door so your kids don’t see and pick up the gluttonous comfort eating habits you have left over from pregnancy / PMT / any tiny hormonal shift / [insert other female excuse] that makes you crave sugar.
Tomorrow I have another playdate with 2 friends and their daughters. With three 3 year olds and a 15 month old its bound to be a little hectic but it will also be a great couple of hours of chatting, moaning, laughing, venting and probably eating cake/chocolate and drinking hot lemon/coffee/tea.
These regular playdates or mum dates are so important to me now. I love my friends dearly and they probably do not realise how very important they are to me and my sanity, and Ill happily buy a bag of PGTips or jar of Kenco to keep them coming round! 🙂