Attempting to learn from my past mistakes, five weeks into my second maternity leave with still no sign of a baby, I spent time at home trying to do the typical 'nesting', sorting, keeping a two year old amused, worrying about how I was potentially ruining her life by giving her a sibling - all whilst pretty immobile thanks to the bitch that is sciatica. I absolutely did make more of an effort to try and enjoy those weeks, however as most of my mates who are mums will know - the guilt fairy reared her rotten little head and flapped her guilty wings around my face whenever I sat down for longer than half an hour to catch up on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, or enjoy time on my own when Elsie was at nursery.
Physically I was able to try and pull on those times of rest, but my mind (as will be the story of my bloody life and no doubt this blog) kept overflowing with endless lists of what once again, I should and could be doing with my 'free time' (LOL)
One of which, was a mission (literally) to find maternity leave mum mates - yay! (GAH)
Thanks to my Instagram obsession, I am familiar with the terms 'Girl Gang' and 'Mum Tribe' and I wanted in. Who wouldn't want a tribe of women and a gang of girls to support you over those foggy first few months at home with a newborn baby? I sure as hell did!
My experience of NCT first time around hadn't been the best. Altogether a good bunch of people but let's say it never really took off - at least not as a group. I am still in touch with three lovely ladies from our group, but ultimately NCT is always a gamble isn't it? Nevertheless, In my warped imagination and representation of reality (I know I know, I want to slap me too!) - we were going to make best friends for life! We would picnic together, hit the pub together for long (snigger) boozy Sunday lunches with our gorgeous little bundles and book large country houses in the Cotswold's for long weekends away - right? Right? Right? No. That didn't happen.
Having already set up yet another expectation in my mind of what I hoped NCT would offer our new little family, it was pretty much destined to fail. Ultimately because my expectations were not realistic. When you chuck a bunch of couples together who have never met before, you cannot expect everyone to click. Having had my NCT dreams dashed, It was only months later on my first maternity leave when I met a belter of a new mum mate at a baby Zumba trial (desperate times friends, desperate times) and discovered that not every bloody NCT group around the country are leaping hand in hand into the sunset as friends for life, hers didn't. Low and behold, It wasn't just me again, but an Idyllic notion that had been crafted in my mind of how I believed I should have been experiencing early motherhood.
The pressures of becoming a new mum are extreme. The prerequisite that you will enjoy and appreciate your maternity leave, adore and be grateful for your new bundle, whilst on top of that have the perfect support network is enough to make any new mum who might not be relishing every aspect of motherhood (and I realise some will) run for the bloody hills. Images of new mums across NCT, Advertising and Social Media are largely misleading - they construct a representation that most women are riding the (tidal) wave that is motherhood with the ease of an Olympic surfer, with their very own Girl Gang crew by their side.
And so - apprehensive that I would once again fall victim to the loneliness, my pursuit of 'sisterhood' continued into my second maternity leave and led me to Match up Mums, basically dating for Mums. After pimping myself out for the majority of my maternity leave with Elsie, the thought was already exhausting but I knew that I would need that support -especially as a new mum of two, and I craved...wait for it....what EVERYONE else (will I ever bloody learn?!) appeared to have. First things first, I answered an online questionnaire about what I liked doing and what kind of mums I wanted to meet.
Did I like baby groups? Not really.
Would I prefer pub lunch meet ups? YES! YES I WOULD! Hallelujah!
This was going to be perfect, I was going to meet the Mum Tribe of my dreams!! But alas, my fluffy expectations of my newly found girl gang was flawed. Because it was too bloody fluffy. Life doesn't tend to work like that - least that's what I am painstakingly learning at the grand old age of thirty five. In any case, I paid my thirty quid (not bad for potential friends for life, I thought?) and waited with baited breath to be matched with my new bessies. I was wondering if I would turn up on my first 'date' to greet a bunch of anxious leopard print wearing, prosecco guzzling mums who would need me as much as I needed them. Not this time. It was all a tad awkward - we had our drinks, made polite chit chat, but essentially the group didn't really work - the 'spark' just wasn't there. It did lead me however to another group of Mamma's, all whom had just had their second baby and who, whilst not always in person, but namely via the lifeline that is whatsapp (thank you Lord!) got me through some seriously tough early weeks and long dark nights with Marnie.
My quest for the perfect Mum mates didn't end in a en masse girls holiday to Palma (that's another post) and I'm not sure if I will ever belong to a gang or tribe, but actually, over the last three years I have sniffed out the most amazing support from a network of bloody awesome, kind women - some of which were friends already, some I acquired in various stages and places (mostly soft play hell holes) but nearly all of whom I have had more honest, heartfelt and raw chat with in my whole grown up years.
Support for me was invaluable. I craved it, and also wanted to offer it up to other women who might have needed someone to just ask 'are you ok?' . I know first-hand that you can try too hard to seek out that network, strive to gel with a group that maybe just aren't very 'you', but ultimately, just having one mate that gets it (oh I love women that GET IT) on the end of the blower is all you need.
Photo credit : Factory direct Jewellery
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