Being a stay-at-home parent is rough. Being a stay-at-home parent when you are the first of your friends to have a baby is even more rough.
You must endure comments ranging from, “We never see you anymore” to “It’s hard for us to understand when we are not in the same situation”.
And while both statements ring true and are generally meant with good intent, there are a few who deliver these dressed with a passive aggressive smile and a sickly sweet tone meant to induce copious amounts of anxiety-laden guilt on your behalf.
If it wasn’t enough that you are a raging ball of hormones, you now begin to second guess yourself: “It’s true what she says, I don’t really see anyone anymore.”
But here’s the thing: no-one should make you feel guilty. Certainly, no-one should make you feel guilty after you have just expelled a human from your womb. You haven’t been body-snatched by hyperactive aliens, you are still you.
Yes, the all-day drinking benders of yore during the golden days of college now must come to a halt; but loyal friends will understand, give you your space to wallow for however long that may be and make no demands upon you.
Because you would do the exact same for them. And the above statements are two things you should most definitely NOT say to a new mother. Nothing tests a friendship like being the first one to have a child.
Not only do you have to reset yourself as a person and develop coping mechanisms that a survival strategist would be in awe of but you now must navigate a whole new set of social circles for the first time in years. And you don’t have a clue what you are doing.
I felt lonely and isolated when I became a stay-at-home mum. I didn’t breastfeed. It didn’t work for me. Therefore, I was unable to form any relationships with other mums who did.
I would walk past groups of women in shopping centres as they sat having coffee and cast furtive yet longing glances at them before scurrying away to a corner to feed my own child.
I didn’t so much have a fog surrounding me; more a perpetual rain cloud dispensing a significant deluge over my head.
Wet, wet rain which soaks you to the core and which never fully allows you to warm up for a substantial period.
Then the whispers begin to trickle through: “She doesn’t make any effort with us anymore” and the rain intensifies to monsoon-like conditions. You join toddler musical groups in the hope of making a connection.
In the first session, the group of women attending with their children can be divided into two: The ones who have brought their au pairs so they can sit and have a chat over a cuppa and the ones who all met in their breastfeeding group. All have already established themselves in close knit circles.
So, you decide to save the ridiculous fee charged to watch your children suck on sticky and previously chewed wooden maracas while listening to inane, rhyming ditties and go for ice-cream instead. And you think: ‘There must be another way.’
The following day, I joined Instagram. The very first photo I uploaded, was a photo of my two children facing a wall while I made shadow puppets in the rays of light that poured across the surface.
My daughter’s chubby little hand reaches up to try and grab the duck shape while my son looks on. It is rare that I feature in any of the photos on my feed, so when I checked to see what was the first photo I had posted, I was surprised to see myself; albeit my shadow. I look at it now and think, ‘I just wanted people to know I was there.’ Still me. Still there.
Within a few weeks, I had started to meet women – some mums, some not – who I just clicked with.
I do believe that Instagram is like ‘Tinder for Mothers’ — you keep going until you find a match and then ‘Bingo!’ I have met some incredible people who did more for me within the confines of neat little squares within an app, than they will ever know.
I not only forged a new social network for myself but also a professional one which allows me to have my own identity once more and work around my family to what best suits us all.
I can do school runs, then pop off to an event where I take off the wellies in the car park to throw on some heels and then spend an hour or two in the company of like-minded women. I can also work in the evenings from home once homework and dinner are done.
It’s not an ideal situation for everyone but it works for us. I have learned to keep my circle of real life friends tight and invest in those who were there during the rainy days. I’m still learning, I still fall and there are still rainy days.
The difference now is I have a pretty solid network of great women around me who are more than willing to loan me an umbrella.
Lindsay overshares her life on Instagram.
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