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New Mum In The Playground

06/10/2014 14:49 | Updated 20 May 2015

Lonely in  playground

''Don't worry, you'll easily make new friends when term starts,'' says my partner, cheerily.

It's not the kids he's trying to reassure, but me, their 40-year-old mother.

Six weeks after moving to a new area, the kids seem to be settling in effortlessly. But I'm beginning to doubt my partner's optimism about the whole friends thing.

It's a well known fact that school playgrounds can be cliquey at the best of times. Every school has its catwalk mums, its (cake) talent contest mums, even its cut-throat mums. My son's previous school was no exception, but it was no big deal. During the three years he was there, I got to know most of the parents, fell out with none, and became close friends with some.

So when we moved house this summer and enrolled the children in new schools - one in reception, one in Year 3 - I was a naturally a little apprehensive, but fairly confident we'd soon get to meet people. I couldn't have been more wrong.

While the kids thankfully skipped in smiling and came home talking about their new friends, I struggled to connect with anyone.

I spent the first week offering hopeful smiles at mums who looked like might be up for some interaction. And although I got a couple of half-smiles in return, it was mainly blank stares.

''You need to make more effort,'' said my partner, ever the optimist.

The second week I go in determined to initiate some conversations.

i

I spot a woman who looks like she could be a kindred spirit. Admittedly, this is mainly because she is wearing Birkenstocks. I too, am wearing Birkenstocks. Maybe we will like each other based on our choice of footwear.

i

As I approach her I realise she is already entrenched in conversation with a group of other mums - none of whom notice me. I have two choices: walk away or attempt to join in. I choose to walk away, because a) I don't want to appear desperate, and b) I don't want to look like a twat. But also because none of them notice me. This makes me wonder if I am actually at least one of the above.

This is despite the fact that when I was an 'old' mum in a familiar playground, I always made an effort to spread the love to newcomers.

The following week, the playground is just as impenetrable. And the week after that. I start to feel invisible, ignored and lonely. Which is weird.

I'm not glamorous or thin enough to be threatening, or wacky enough to be unapproachable. My kids aren't disruptive enough to be avoided and as far as I know I don't suffer from excessive halitosis or body odour (although I do like garlic).

Yet I've found it easier to strike up conversation with a complete stranger on a tube in the most hostile city in Britain - which is now 220 *sob* miles away - than I have done with fellow mums in this new playground. Which doesn't make sense. My confidence is starting to look like my daughter's new school shoes - a little, well, scuffed. But at least the kids are happy.

Perhaps I should get pregnant. Bumps always attract attention. Except I can't think of a worse reason to have another child (even if I wanted to, which I don't. Three is plenty.)

Or perhaps the real problem is that in small places (like the one we've just moved to) EVERYBODY knows EVERYBODY else. And everybody else's pets and extended family. Except me. I am the only new person; the only person brave, or daft, enough to move to a place where EVERYBODY knows EVERYBODY. Except my partner, but he's a bloke and doesn't really care if he no-one invites him for coffee. Unlike me.

It's not really about the coffee of course. It's about those stalwart mums who can collect your kids because you've got a hospital appointment, or hand out biscuits when you've forgotten the vital after-school snack and a meltdown is looming. It's about the mums you can laugh, cry and moan with and help out in return. I miss those mums.

By week four I'm wondering why the hell we left. Then a woman I haven't seen before asks: ''Have you just moved here?''

Suddenly, I feel less wobbly. Or maybe more - but that's just relief.

It turns out she too had relocated - three years ago now, but at least she gets it.

''I'll have to give you my number,'' she says.

My heart shifts, like I've just been asked on a date by a teenage crush.

I have to restrain myself from thrusting my phone in her face. ''Here's my number - take it, why don't I give you my address too, why don't we meet up for coffee - now!'' Except obviously I don't say any of this because I don't want her to think I am a) desperate b) a twat.

''Yeah, that would be great,'' I say.

Later, I tell my partner the good news.

''Why didn't you just get her number while you were there?'' he exclaims.

And I kick myself slightly.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll see her again. Hope is on the horizon - or at least, the school gates. And I didn't even notice what she was wearing on her feet.

So come on mums, pay it forward.

Have you ever felt like this?

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