MY LIFE IS MORE THAN BREASTMILK AND NAPPIES – but sometimes I forget that.
I was at a social gathering with our non-parent friends a while ago (I can’t bring myself to call it a party, because that sounds way too young and ragey) and since our littlest man has decided he only wants to hang out with us, he came along too. He thrives and always seems to be happier and better behaved in new and busy environments, and our friends all adore him, so it was a no brainer, even though we knew he’d be the only baby there because our eldest was at a sleepover.
About ten minutes in, I realised I had seriously underestimated how hard can be to hold up a non-child focused conversation when you’ve been out of practice for the better half of a year.
Most of my social interactions these days are with other parents, which is wonderful because finding your village is such a valuable and essential tool to surviving parenthood. I love my non-parent friends dearly, but it is pretty hard for them to relate (or care, or at the very least not be grossed out) when I’m discussing my baby’s bowel movements (because I can go into colour, consistency and frequency without prompting), and I quite often forget that those and the other bodily fluids I deal with on a daily basis are not, as a general rule, good dinner conversation topics. It’s hard, when you spend the majority of your time with your baby, to come up with things to talk about other than your baby – or at least it is at first.
I struggled at the beginning of the night. The others were all talking about their lives and I felt like I had nothing to contribute. After a while, when littlest man started getting ready for a feed and a snooze, I swiftly took the opportunity to excuse myself and whipped us both off to a spare room to feed.
This was a pretty pathetic excuse on my part, because I normally feed wherever I am sitting at the time my son gets hungry. No one has ever seemed to care, so why should I? To be brutally honest, I was feeling anxious and super insecure about “ruining” the night for the others by bringing a baby, and feeling totally out of place. I figured, once I got littlest man to sleep, then I could “fit in” and be cool and fun and social. Problem was, littlest man does not like to be rushed, and trying to get him to sleep quickly is like having your finger stuck in one of those Chinese finger traps that tightens the harder you pull – rushing is met with rather admirable resistance (and just as a side note – I’m sure he inherited his stubbornness from his father).
We ended up staying in there for quite a while, and so I spent this time in a mental puddle, gloomy and feeling sorry for myself “having” to be alone while everyone else was out in the other room having fun. My partner checked in several times trying to coax me out and to see how we were doing, but I kept brushing him off, because I was sure that even though it hadn’t worked the first 18 times I’d tried, this time littlest man would stay asleep when I unlatched him. Eventually I sent him a text (and I’m not proud of this) saying “I think I’ll just take him and go home”, which was the Bunny-equivalent of throwing a passive-aggressive tantrum.
Luckily, my partner can not only read me like a book, but knows how to deal with me when I spit the dummy.
He immediately marched in and told me I was coming out to socialise. I hotly protested because littlest man wasn’t staying asleep unless he had a boob in his mouth even though he wasn’t in the slightest bit hungry anymore, but this excuse didn’t fly – my partner took the baby, all but dragged me out of my self-inflicted isolation, and told me it didn’t matter if littlest man didn’t want to stay asleep (it didn’t) because he was perfectly happy (he was) after spending the last hour snoozing on me (he had).
When you’ve sort of thrown a bit of a wobbly, whether as a child or an adult, it can be really hard to come back from it. There’s always a bit of residual grumpiness that lingers over you, and it’s tricky to start acting like a normal person again. In this moment, I was extremely grateful for two things: firstly, I was so glad I had a partner who knew when I needed a boot up the backside and who allowed me a reset opportunity, and secondly, I was grateful for my years of experience in hospitality that taught me to “fake it ‘til you make it” when you’re not feeling awesome.
To be honest, rejoining the group felt so… cleansing. I was warmly welcomed back, caught up with what was going on, and the rest of the night was both blissful and energizing. Littlest man was revelling in delight at being passed around from person to person, and I was revelling in delight at being constantly told how absolutely gorgeous and wonderful my offspring was. And now that I was in a more positive mind space, I was able to contribute to the conversation. I laughed, I joked, I asked questions so I found common ground – and then I laughed and joked some more. It’s amazing what starts to come more easily when you are open to it.
This was such an enlightening experience for me. I hadn’t realised how tired and close-hearted I was, and I was already filled with self doubt and negativity before I even walked through the front door. No one else was excluding me – I was excluding myself. Once I included myself (well, was forced to…), I actually had an awesome time.
This is not meant to be a sad story, and I’m not looking for sympathy, or to sound like I’ve got it all figured out – I don’t. But hopefully I can share this lesson that I learned that night – parenthood can be isolating… but it doesn’t have to be. Having kids, even when your friends don’t, doesn’t mean you have to exclude yourself. I love my mummy village. I also love my non-mummy friends. And it’s important for me and my mental health that I actively involve myself with both. The more we include ourselves, the easier it gets to connect, the easier it is to socialise.
So am I practising what I preach?
A group message came out last night inviting everyone out to the beach for a bit of a last minute, take advantage of the nice weather, watch the sun go down gathering. My first thought was… that seems quite stressful, we’ll have to pack up the kids, make sure we have everything we need, drive all the way out, they’ll be the only kids there, what if we ruin the ‘vibe’ by taking the kids… self doubt, anxiety and insecurity kicked in. Then I remembered that night and how fun it was once I pushed through, and thought hell yeah, that sounds like fun, we are not missing this!
We got to the beach, and it was so relaxing – we watched the sun go down and watched the waves roll in. Our big boy ran around with the dogs, dug some holes and learnt how to build a bonfire. Littlest man played with the rocks, chewed on some bread and watched the flames and embers flash and dance. I got to take some gorgeous photos and my partner and I got to catch up with the others. It was awesome – imagine if we’d missed it because I got too caught in my own head? Human beings are social creatures, and it is so good for our mental health to build and maintain positive friendships and be involved in social circles.
And the thing is, life really is short. We need to be open to opportunities, and when we are presented with an opportunity, we need to seize the moment.
Do you feel like you’re connecting with other adults enough? If not, where could you go to find friends? How and where will you start including yourself? Let me know below 👇👇
Until next time, glow mamas.