If you're a new mum and have yet to run the gauntlet of trying to make friends with other mothers (aka 'mum friends'), you could be forgiven for expecting it to be something of a nightmare.
Why? Because there's no shortage of examples of how mums at the school gates are prone to bitchiness or articles about why certain 'types' of mums are best avoided.
Before you've even tried striking up a conversation with another mum you're likely to be prepared for the worst; expecting it to be like a bad speed dating experience only without the free drinks to numb the pain.
Yes, it's true that there's an inevitable awkwardness to making mum friends at first. There's bound to be, because the entire basis on which you're forming a potential friendship is the mere fact that you're both mums. That's like assuming you'll get on great with a new colleague at work simply because you're both women. It's absurd; in no other walk of life do you select your friends on the basis of such an arbitrary commonality.
Perhaps I've just been singularly lucky with my mum friends. The mums I've come to know - and love - are the kind of women anyone would be proud to call their friend. But I don't think it just comes down to luck.
As with any friendship, making it work is about what you put into the relationship as much as what you get from it. To make great mum friends you have to let your guard down and leave your assumptions at the door.
Assume the best, prepare for the worst (it's OK to let the friendship go if you quickly realise that you've got nothing beyond your wombs in common...) and if in doubt bring cake. That's sage advice passed on to me by an older mum on the topic of how to forge real friendships with other local mums.
And don't rule out the possibility that you might meet new mum friends in unlikely places.
Having moved from England to Ireland when my children were babies, I missed out on all the usual local opportunities to connect with mothers of children around the same age as my own kids. Until they went to school. The playground at home-time isn't the superficial bitch-fest-slash-fashion-show that some would have you believe. I found it to be the perfect place for meeting a host of kind, funny, cool, like-minded mums.
And I'm not the only one to feel that way. Recent research found that new mums make an average of nine new friends in the year after they give birth, and respondents agreed that swapping advice on issues like sleeping patterns and childcare with other mums helped them to form strong but almost instant bonds.
The other benefit of making mum friends is that you won't risk boring your other friends with baby talk.
My closest mum friends are mainly the mothers of my eldest child's classmates.
We don't see that much of each other but we get together once a month for a book club... of sorts. It quickly descended into more of an eating-cheese-and-drinking-wine club but those few hours of laughs and banter (sometimes even book-related) are one of the highlights of my month.
We meet for coffee after the school drop off every now and then. It's not Desperate Housewives by a long stretch of the imagination - you won't find us borrowing each other's clothes or hanging out at each other's houses every day, and I'm not suggesting that your new best friends will be the
parents of your kid's classmates from the first day they set foot at school - but I do think it pays to to drop the defensive act at the school gates and start seeing other mums as potential pals.
After all, you're going to be standing around in the playground next to those women come hail, rain or shine for the best part of seven long years. So you might as well do it among friends.
Do you have close friends you've made through having children of similar age?
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