This weekend Piglet and I went to the park.
Basic, I know. Everyone goes to the park. I am basic. Don’t hate me.
The park is both fascinating and terrifying in equal measure. Mainly terrifying. How much helicopter parenting is acceptable in the face of the overwhelming fear that one’s child will be attacked by a passing poodle, mown down by a child on a speeding scooter, or internally damaged by a particularly sharp piece of woodchip they have decided to eat?
And then there are the other parents, an army of middle class mums in Boden tops and skinny jeans, miraculously balancing coffee cups alongside their children’s scooters without dangerous spillage, and dads with artfully arranged facial hair.
“Did you push over that little girl’s sandcastle? Now you just sit on this rock and think for a minute about what you’ve done.”
O how I want to talk to those parents. O how I want to be them, with their sensible middle class marriages. I imagine they must all live in perfectly colour co-ordinated homes with little white painted wooden hearts hung in the windows.
I’m sure I’m wrong.
I want to talk to the parents in the park. I want to swap stories of difficult births and sleepless nights, to drink coffee in the sandpit and to sit on that rock and think for a minute about what my life has become.
I want some mummy friends.
When you move to a new city, even one that isn’t new, one that you grew up in, left and then returned like a salmon to breed, and live in the care of your parents in perpetuity, you lose your old ties, the friends from school that you never stayed in touch with; the London friends who now live so far away. And making new ones is now that much harder. You can’t go to the pub and forge new friendships over gallons of wine and humorous complaining, and your peers at work are all married with their own families. In short, my mother, aged 62, has a better social life than me. The baby boomers are ruling the world these days, didn’t you get the memo? It’s theatre trips and cruise ships all year long.
This weekend, I went out for the third time since Piglet was born almost 20 months ago. I had strict instructions to be back home by 9pm. My dinner companions were, naturally, close family. You didn’t think I had friends, did you?
It was better than the second time. At least this time there were no desperate texts from my mother, who in between living the life of riley on cruise ships, is my eternal babysitter, telling me that Piglet was walking repeatedly to the front door looking for me, and refusing to go to sleep without Mummy’s milky pops, and it was essential that I come home immediately. However, the long and short of it is, I have no social life, and no friends.
How do you find these women, the elusive Mummy friends, the Mother Hood? Are they at the baby groups, when I am at work? Are they in the library, singing rhymes and winding the bobbin up? Are they sat in cafes, drinking frothy coffees with the Mummy friends they already had, the ones you used to have but left in London with the remnants of your old life?
I used to have Mummy friends. There were loads of us popping out babies at work that year,* spending lazy days wandering around Westfield having long lunches and enjoying the novelty of the baby changing rooms (THERE ARE ACTUAL ROOMS FOR BREASTFEEDING) while our colleagues slogged it out at the coal face.
Now there is just me, standing on the sidelines as the Whatsapp conversations continue without me, knowing that there are a million and one Mummy Friends in the park, drinking their coffees, having their long lunches and winding the bobbin up, and I have to start all over again.
Are there NCT classes for toddlers? I could do with a lesson on how to safely retrieve small cars from the toilet bowl, and I might even meet some new Mummy Friends.
*OK not literally AT work, although in those last weeks before maternity leave I did have an emergency list titled “People At Work Who Could Maybe Deliver a Baby, in Order of Preference.” It always pays to be prepared.