It's a total contradiction that despite having someone by your side at all times you can feel the loneliest you ever have in your life when you are a mum.
Yes, leaving the house with your new buddy may now mean being stopped in the street by strangers as they coo over your Tiny Human, asking after their well-being but when does anyone ever ask you how you are doing and how you are finding it?
There are thousands of mother and baby groups to attend; you can even take your baby to a workout with you. But how many times have you found yourself in the local soft-play centre chatting to a fellow mum but only coming away knowing her child's name and sleeping patterns rather than what you actually need – her name and contact details so you can arrange to meet up for a much needed coffee or playdate?
How many times have you chatted to that nice mum in passing on your routine buggy walks and wished the words on the tip of your tongue, "Hey fancy going for a coffee after this walk?" hadn't remained on your tongue with you walking past, still in desperate need for some adult conversation and fellow mum support and reassurance?
Some of us are incredibly lucky to fall pregnant around the same time as our good friends, meaning that we already have our very own mother and baby group with some of the people we love most in the world - friends we can be our true selves with and don't have to worry about being judged by. But what happens if you don't have any friends with babies, or if your friends with babies were in the baby boom cycle before you and are now heading back to the world of work? It can be bloody scary, I tell you!
I have had experience of both. With my first baby I already had a team of friends with babies and never really had to make the effort to find support. However, with my second I am now living in a new area and thus, completely out of the loop when it comes to the local motherhood scene.
So how does a mum without mummy friends go about getting herself some? And what if, heaven forbid, no one wants to be your friend? (let the flash backs to the hell of schoolyard insecurities commence). This was all at the forefront of my mind whilst sat alone with my seven-month-old in the baby soft play this week, surrounded by lots of other mums and their babies and feeling desperate for one of them to make eye contact with me and strike up a conversation. But despite commenting that their respective Tiny Humans were cuties and laughing with them when their toddler toddled into my buggy, I was still sat there on my own with my gummy grinned girl giving me looks of sympathy!
I then started to look around and realised that as well as the odd group of three mums and their babies, the majority of women in there were there on their own with their little ones. It got me thinking, is this by choice or like me would they like to chat?
There we were deeming the dating period of our lives as the most excruciating and sweaty palm-inducing. But as a mum with no local mummy friends, I now realise it has nothing on trying to infiltrate a group of mums in the hope to be asked out on a play date!
I am not placing blame on mums with mummy friends. After all, how do they know that I would like to be asked over for a coffee or natter? How do they know I've been up all night or worried sick my Tiny Human isn't eating like they were last week and now after some reassurance from another mum that I am doing all the right things? You see, they don't.
I know this because when I had my eldest and was safely cocooned within the ranks of my own mum group of friends I never thought to ask another lone mum over to join us. This was not because I was purposefully trying to be cliquey and it's not because I am not a friendly person who doesn't like meeting other people. It's simply because I just didn't. Sometimes it was through the fact I was too tired to talk to my friends, let alone others, sometimes due to the social anxiety we all feel about approaching someone we don't know and sometimes because we were so wrapped up in our own babies and nattering that I just didn't notice.
How many awesome women and mums are we missing out on meeting by not being brave or aware enough to make the first step of friendship?
I decided to put it to the test.
Right there in the middle of the ball pit I decided to be the master of my own mum destiny and take charge. Just behind me were a group of mums all with babies around the same age as my own, who I had been having periphery soft play conversations with. Now, I'm quite a confident person and can string a sentence together (when I put my mind to it). However, the thought of approaching the group of mums made me feel anxious and a bit ridiculous all at the same time (a bit a la school disco).
I am a grown woman, who has given birth twice and still the thought of trying to engage with a group of fellow mums was making me feel so stupid that three times I talked myself out of it.
You will be pleased to know that I persevered through my doubts and bold as brass went over and explained that I was new to the area and wondered if they could recommend any good baby groups for me and my little girl to attend. They were all really helpful and offered lots of advice but no invitation for me to sit down and join them. No Hollywood moment where they said "Hey, pull up a chair and come join us for a natter and we can talk you through where we go as it would be great to have another mum along. Oh and do you fancy a cuppa and a biscuit?"
I have to admit that following the 20 minutes of psyching myself up and practicing my intro in my head it was a bit of an anti-climax. But what was I expecting? Did I really expect to come away with a few new friends simply because we all have the one thing in common – motherhood?
I'm going to be honest here and really put myself out there. I guess I did! I did have a deep seated hope that they would ask me to join them for a cuppa. I did hope they would hear the words "new to the area" and want to make me feel welcome. Most importantly I wanted them to understand as a fellow mum, how difficult it is to approach another group of mums you don't know and to be brave enough to do that means that this momma wants some bloody friends! But alas, no swapping of numbers or arranging of play dates. But I do now know that there is a good Baby Sensory in my area, even if I will be going to it on my own.
Has this put me off doing this again? Am I going to hang up any ideas of introducing myself to strangers in the hope I may make a friend, or at the very least a coffee buddy? Hell no! Instead, it has made me more determined to approach as many mums as I can. To ask her name, before I ask the name of her Tiny Human. To ask how she is, rather than focusing first on her child.
Oh yes ladies I am going to be flying the flag for all mums out there desperate to make some new mum friends and for all mums out there who are wishing they'd asked that lone mum to join them. I am going to be brave and set myself mini mum challenges. I am going to speak to lots of mums and the next time I see a mum sitting on her own, I am going to sit with her and strike up a conversation. You see the only island I want to be as a mum is sitting on one of the Barbados variety whilst sipping something rum based out of a pineapple.
So if you happen to be approached by a slightly nervous and knackered looking mum over the next weeks, please be nice to me, its probably taken me four coffees and numerous failed attempts to approach you. I promise I don't bite (unless you're Johnny Depp that is!)
This article is republished with the kind permission of Olivia Siegl, the mum behind the Baby Bible No Bullshit Mum Revolution. Olivia's blog can be read at The-baby-bible.com, and you can follow Olivia on Twitter @TheBabyBible.
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