Pre Ted, loneliness is not a word that I would have associated with becoming a parent.
Super tired, yes. A nervous wreck, of course. Eating my weight in cake and drinking endless cups of tea, definitely!
I even thought it myself. How can I be lonely when I’m with someone all the time? I’m pretty sure people even said that to me. “How can you be lonely? You’ve got Ted to hang out with?”.
Have you ever had a conversation with a newborn baby? They’re cute but their chat is pretty dry. And in all honesty after spending 24/7 with them it would be pretty nice to go out and have a conversation with an actual human adult. Even if that conversation would mainly feature baby bowel movements and how many hours you spent shushing last night (a lot).
Walking around my local park and nearby area (I lived in the baby capital of Stoke Newington when Ted was born) I would see groups of mums just hanging out, best friends with kids having coffee and parents at the playground chatting. I felt like they all knew something I didn’t. That there was a special club that I should have joined before Ted was born to get to know everyone.
I felt rubbish. And yes, I did have a little cry. Probably while walking round the park.
It’s taken me months to write this blog post. I’ve come back to it on numerous occasions, just looked at it, did a spell check then left. To finish it I’ve had to listen to the Wicked soundtrack while typing, as you simply can’t feel crap while listening to Idina Menzel blast out Defying Gravity.
It’s not that it’s a hard subject to write about, I guess it’s just hard to go over the times when you felt low. Being a parent is tough, especially in those first months and emotions are running high. At a time when you’re probably at your most vulnerable, everything is magnified and for me I felt like I was somehow failing because I wasn’t out there every day in my leisure wear, coffee cup in hand chatting to my fellow new mums.
With no family nearby, friends at work and a husband busy bringing home that bacon, it’s a situation that I guess a lot of new parents find themselves in. It hadn’t crossed my mind while pregnant that I didn’t know anyone else in London that had kids. I was looking forward to all the time off work, spent with my little bundle of Ted, but I didn’t consider that I wouldn’t have anyone to spend it with.
Of course, there are the evening, the weekends, the visits from friends and family. But those weekdays. Those weekdays are long. Even longer if your baby wakes up at 5am then doesn’t go to sleep until 9pm. That’s a whole load of time in between, and as much as I love my own company, I really don’t love it that much.
BUT, this post is not all doom and gloom and me venting and feeling sorry for myself. If there’s one thing I pride myself on, it’s that I’m an optimist.
Call me a Sagittarius, call me up-beat, call me just plain annoying. But one thing I’m good at doing is digging myself out of a misery hole and problem solving the shit out of it.
For me, it was just another mountain I had to climb. If I could get through the four month sleep regression then I could sure as hell put myself out there and find some new friends.
I started small.
There was a lady on our road that had a baby only a couple of months older than Ted. We’d chatted a few times in the street about buggies (we had the same one) and how annoying and steep the steps down to our flats were. I didn’t know how to contact her as I didn’t have her number, and I wasn’t brave enough to just come out and ask her. So, I sent her a note. I found a pack of thank you notes left over from my wedding and wrote her a message and included my phone number. Looking back I can’t even believe that I had the balls to do it, but I wrote it out and posted it through her door (of course running away quickly). I realise now that I could have just knocked on her door, but really, who with a baby wants an unexpected visitor. Definitely not me.
The next phase in ‘find new friends’ was to go to all the baby groups and classes that I could possibly go to without going insane. Luckily for me there was a one in my local park which was both free and met every Tuesday. Sometimes I made it, sometimes I didn’t, but everyone there was lovely and non-judgemental (apart from the one time someone told me it wasn’t PC to put a child in a play pen. I’d just bought Ted a play pen). I totally realise that not all play groups are like this, and believe me when I say I’ve been to a lot of them, and some are just plain shit. But some are good, and some are worth brushing your teeth for and there are some that you’ll want to go back to. It might just take some time and dedication to find the right one.
What made the biggest impact on me while finding friends was the Mush app. If you haven’t heard of Mush, it’s basically an app designed to help parents in the same area meet. Kind of like Tinder but with more nap chat and without the harsh swiping.
This opened up a whole world of new possibilities. There were literally hundreds of new parents less than a mile away who were in the same situation as me. A new parent, a little bit lost and just wanting some company.
It feels easier (and less scary) to connect with people through social media, that’s where the Mush app really works it magic. No matter how crappy you’re feeling, rough you look or if you’re having a particulary socially adverse day, you can still say hey and start talking through the power of the chat/messaging feature
I made Mum dates. A lot of them. Once I got started, I found it hard to stop. And the more I went on, the more I enjoyed them. It made me realise that I definitely wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t the only one feeling lonely.
I laughed, I had awkward moments, I drank coffee, I hung out at the park, I got stood up.
Some I only saw the once, some I still chat to and there’s a lovely few of them that I call friends.
One thing I’ve learnt about myself from being a parent, is that I can pretty much do anything. Compared to raising Ted and dealing with those two weeks when he resisted ALL NAPS, going on a Mum date isn’t really that scary. It’s even less scary when you realise that the other Mum is in the exact same boat and dealing with nap/food/general douche bag phases too. In fact, it helps. It helps so, so much to hear that other people’s kids aren’t sleeping, or only eat Babybells or for some reason like eating the gross sand at the play ground.
When we moved to Bristol I had to say goodbye to all these new Mum mates (a little bit heart breaking), but they’re still there to chat to, they’re there supporting me and my new lil business and they’re there to send hilarious photos of your child to (you know, the one’s when they’re mid blink/falling over something)
Don’t be afraid to say hi to the Mum down the road (or to send her a note), don’t feel silly about asking a Mum your chatting to for her number so you can meet up again and don’t fret about arranging a Mum date.
You don’t have to be super confident, or mega chatty or even fully awake (most new parents aren’t anyway).
Because being lonely is shitty, and admitting it is hard, but putting yourself out there and finding someone you can laugh with, discuss your birth story in detail with and someone you can just hang out with is pretty sweet.
For more info on the Mush Mum meeting app visit the Mush website here
New parents can often feel overwhelmed and isolated. Please talk to a friend/family member or health practitioner if these feelings persist or are affecting your day to day life.