The hardest thing about becoming a momma is probably trying to find someone, anyone, who is happy talking about all the shit baby stuff, but still actually quite likes you. I don’t mean likes you in a, ‘Well-we-both-have-a-baby-and-we-live-quite-close-to-each-other-so-I-guess-we-should-be-friends’ kind of way…I mean actually likes you. You know…they’d still like you and want to hang out and talk shit even if you both didn’t have babies.
Two days before I had a baby I moved from Zone 2 to Zone 5. This was the London equivalent of moving from The Shire to Mordor. It was dark and trying and I literally didn’t know ANYONE. All my friends were back in ‘real’ London and the thought of getting myself and a baby there was about as appealing as putting one of The Small’s nappies in the NutriBullet with the contents of the cat litter tray and necking it for breakfast.
So, I found myself in suburban wilderness, with a new baby, not one item of clothing that fitted me and a husband that was away. A lot. We had done NCT which was full of ace people but we were all so busy managing our new realities that it was hard to get together and, honestly, while they were all really lovely I just wanted to hang out with people who I really knew. I wanted to hang out with people who would allow me to bitch and moan about how shit it was and know that they would understand that I was just venting. After all, they knew the high capacity I had for talking shit when I was fuelled by tequila…this was the same principle except without the table dancing and the inappropriate spewing.
So, in my mission to find friends, I went to baby groups and children’s centres and I looked on Mumsnet and Netmums (before fleeing terrified). I met people, some of them very lovely, a lot of them guarded and nervous. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m not really one for beating around the proverbial bush so my approach at baby groups was much the same as my approach to blogging – no boundaries, no holds-barred, raw, dirty, painful honesty.
It took me a while to realise that this wasn’t what mommas had in mind when they went to baby groups. I think most of them genuinely went so that they could spend an hour or so telling everyone how wonderful it was, how well it was all going and how awesome motherhood was just so that, for a brief moment in the day, they could forget about how hard it really was. I was destroying the denial that was basically their therapy.
So, I had to find another approach. After much bitching and moaning and crying and wailing to my husband about why we had to live in this armpit of London and how there wasn’t ANYONE here who I could be friends with, I realised there was only one way. I would have to abandon all dignity, get down on my overweight, varicose vein riddled knees and beg.
As I’d been tramping up and down the streets near my house I had occasionally seen a girl pushing a pram that I truly believed was supposed to be my friend. I had absolutely nothing to base this on apart from the fact that I always coveted her clothes, she had a wicked fringe and she was pushing a pram. That’s it. We used to pass each other all the time and eventually we starting saying ‘Hi.’ It was the momma version of flirting at the school disco.
Eventually, I saw her coming out of what I could only assume to be her house which, it turned out, was next door but one to mine. I walked past her. Then, in a moment of complete dorkiness, I turned around and said, “Hi…I’ve seen you around loads so I thought I’d just come up and say hi and introduce myself. Are you new here?”
“No,” she replied. “I’ve been here seven years.”
Who was this woman I’d become? What had motherhood reduced me to? Still, I’d started so I was going to finish.
“This is Billie.”
“This is Cassian…oh and I’m really sorry! I’m all red because I’ve just had my eyebrows done.” She clasped her forehead and laughed.
Then. Right then…I know we would be friends.
“Oh god. Don’t look at mine. I can’t remember the last time I had them done.”
“You know there’s a woman that does an awesome threading job at Superdrug on the high street. You have to be OK with sitting in the window while you’re in excruciating pain, but it’s only £3 and she’s really good.”
And that was it. We were mates.
After my first success, I got more confident. I commandeered a couple on their way out of playgroup because I was pretty certain they would be great couple-friends that we could meet at the pub on a Sunday and have a drink with (I was right) and my husband took my lead and cornered an awesome American lady at a playgroup who, in his own words, “Looked like she needed a friend in Zone 5 too.”
Needless to say, we are collecting (dragging by the hair kicking and screaming) a really awesome group of friends. It’s taken a while and I’m sure there are more of them out there to find (watch your back Harrovians) but I’m starting to feel at home. Both in Harrow and as a momma.