People come and go in your life for different reasons and this group of girls was exactly what I needed in the first 10 weeks of motherhood.
As a new parent of twins in a new city, I had high hopes for my mums' group. Buoyed by otherís stories ("Iíve been catching up with my Mumís group for the last 25 yearsÖ"), I couldnít get to one soon enough. I had high expectations of long-lasting friendships and who knows Ė maybe even meet someone who had a partner with who my hubby could get along with too.
The first few weekly catch ups were promising. Everyone cooed over each other's babies, their outfits, their smiles and oohed-and-ahhhed over the latest prams and bunny rugs. The conversation was light-hearted and flowed freely Ė sympathising for those with terrible birth stories, laughing at advice dished out by mother-in-laws and sharing tips on how to get our new additions to sleep.
In short, whilst in the joyful newborn haze, we couldnít have got on any better. Fast forward 8 weeks later and we found ourselves sitting around a table at a cafť, babies still cute in their same outfits, under their same bunny rugs and in their same prams that were such focuses of the group weeks earlier. The conversation had started to come to a painfully slow halt and cracks had started to form in what was once a docile group.
Basically, we found that we had nothing but our babies in common and when we did find common ground, some personalities started to clash and grind. The bliss of a supportive network of new mums was starting to fade and a culture of big-noting and belittling started to emerge in a blaze of stereotypes.
One girl had the Ďbestí pram, the Ďbestí cot, car seat, baby rocker, play mat, comforter etc, etc, etc and if someone else had a different brand, she was on-hand to ensure you that you didnít do your research because hers (again) was better. As you could expect, she was the one that had read the baby books and knew it all.
Another was the Ďbestí mother. Cocky from being one of the few lucky mums who was able to breastfeed with ease, she hadnít left her baby daughter unattended for 5 minutes to have a shower and turned her nose up at anyone who had so much left their babies in a creche or childcare.
Donít get me wrong, there were some beautifully sweet girls; down-to-earth people who are beautiful Mums and people. But here is where institutions like motherís groups fall down. Sometimes all you have in common are your babies and sometimes, that just isnít enough.
As the weeks progressed and the half-hearted attempts at organising catch ups started to become fewer and further between, it became obvious that we were flogging a dead horse. The group chat which was once a flurry of activity was now eerily quiet apart from the occasional dutiful suggestion of a lunch. These lunches became a competitive roundtable, where suddenly people were comparing how advanced their babies were, how much their houses were worth, who got the bigger Ďpush presentí, who was about to buy the most expensive car, who was going on or been on the bigger, better or most expensive holiday.
This progressed to a stage whereby pride got in the way of developing meaningful friendships within the group. No-one wanted to acknowledge that they enjoyed the company and support of the group in case it portrayed the perception that they didnít have the perfect life and friends outside the group. Everyone wanted to make the impression that they didnít need each other, it was as if depending on Mum group friends was to show weakness.
In spite of the amount of promise in the early days, due to a lack of common ground (apart from our babies), the group became a toxic environment of spiralling competition, which ironically, caused stress and anxiety, not advice and support. I found myself being more particular with my makeup, deliberately picking my twins outfits more carefully and trying to hide my new Ďmum-tumí more than normal for each gathering. I love being a mum to my twin boys and I am really proud of the mother I have become; however, I would often come home doubting myself as a mother and the job that I was doing.
So, should you join a new Mumís group? Sure, you have nothing to lose. There are great stories of women who have had decades of friendship which started this way. I also picked up a few parenting tips along the way Ė the world of breastfeeding, solids, clothing websites and teething gels would have been a much more overwhelming place in the early days if it wasnít from discussing experiences with girls living the same challenges.
However, donít feel compelled to persist with it if it isnít the right fit for you. People come and go in your life for different reasons and this group of girls was exactly what I needed in the first 10 weeks of motherhood. Sometimes that is all that Mum group will be, and thatís okay Ė it will hopefully serve its purpose of connecting you with others at a time when you are most at risk of feeling vulnerable and socially isolated.
Nevertheless, if catch-ups become a stressor, by trying to force it, it may just compromise your confidence and happiness. Mums group is a group of people from different backgrounds and beliefs that are brought together by nothing but circumstance. If youíre lucky enough to land one or two friends from it, then count yourself lucky! If youíre still catching up with the entire group a year later, then youíve really hit the jackpot! But if you begin to find it overwhelming, upsetting or uncomfortable, then donít feel pressure to persist. You wonít be alone, there are other places to make friends and other places to get support for new mums.
Your baby needs you at your happiest and if this social setting is not assisting in that, appreciate it for what it was and fill your time with activities and people that make you happy.
I'm a first-time mother and I've found that I can't go out with my son without somebody giving me advice on how to raise him. There seems to be a general assumption that new parents have no idea about children, and it is everybody's duty to share their wisdom.