I’ve probably always avoided making friends with other mothers. Why should the fact you have both given birth mean that you have anything else in common with a woman? At all?
Maybe it’s the drugs in the hospital, but some women seem to come out having forgotten who they were before. They enter a world of controlled crying, teething remedies, pram models, Next, sleeping patterns, buggies, Huggies, hubbies, sore tit discussion, centiles, colic, arguments about weaning and trying for the next one.
I’ve been wary of other mothers since my attempts at baby groups when Tom was tiny. (Comparing teething salts to Class A drugs in the middle of Baby Massage and expecting to get a laugh was a bit naive.) At school, I’m stealthy, keeping my head down and darting in and out. This is partially due to the fact I work up until the minute Tom needs collecting. I don’t have time to chat in the playground for an hour before the bell goes. When he’s in after school club, I never see other Mums, because we all arrive in drips.
I hadn’t tried to make friends with other mothers, because it didn’t feel like we were stopping here. I always thought we’d move to the posh end of town, but recently I realised we will never afford to. The rent I pay on our good house with all its space would get me a one bedroomed flat in the posh end of town. If our terraced house was in the posh end of town, it would have ivy on the front, be marketed as a ‘cottage’ and cost twice as much. It really isn’t that bad here, it’s been home for three years. Tom is at a good school now. Even if I could afford to move to the posh end of town, I’d be jeopardising that.
I decided to make an effort at Tom’s swimming lessons. One of the mums had a baby with her. He was beautiful.
“I like your baby,” He smiled at me and reminded me how small Tom used to be.
“Is he your only one?” said the Mum, nodding at Tom splashing around in the pool.
“Oooh go on, get your other half told, just have another one!” she laughed.
And I felt really pissed off with the poor woman. Even though it was perfectly reasonable of her to presume there was an other half and that I could ‘just have another one,’ I felt really irrationally annoyed with her.
The following week, I decided to swim in the deep end of the pool while Tom was having his lesson. In the changing rooms, another mother said, “It’s hardly worth you jumping in there for 20 minutes and only having half the pool to swim in, is it? Why don’t you come to lane swimming in the morning when he’s at school?”
“Because I am at work.”
“Oh yes.. that’s difficult I suppose.”
Us working mothers always miss each other, because we are always darting around in opposite directions. I want to meet another mum who understands what it is like to be the breadwinner, who knows how hard it is trying to do well at a career whilst raising a child, another Mum who doesn’t have a “hubby” to moan to after a really crap day. (Or a mother who is married but would never, ever use the word “hubby.”) A Mum with whom I can sit down and chat while our children play together. A mum who thinks indoor soft play areas on industrial estates are the most hellish, depressing places on earth. A mum who only washes up when people are coming round and who doesn’t know how to use an iron. I don’t know if she’s out there though, or if our paths will ever cross, so I need to stop staring at the vowel snake and the hopscotch on the playground. I need to look up and smile.