I remember an old Wilco song, from a mix tape my rock star boyfriend gave me in Uni. How to Fight Loneliness. A lifetime later and I’m married with a baby, but that song now plays in the back of my mind more than ever.
Of course having a baby is lovely. Gazing into my newborns eyes whilst breastfeeding was indeed a joy. But any activity can get boring when you do it for 8 hours a day.
There were many things I was told about motherhood. It would be stressful, exhausting, overwhelming, that I wouldn’t even have time to shower or drink my tea before it goes cold. But no one told me how boring or lonely it would be.
I guess I was expecting to be busier than I was. I’d have some activity planned like mum’s group or swimming lessons but my baby would have other plans, like crying or an explosive poo. Some days I would look at the clock and wonder if 5 pm was too early for bedtime. There were just so many hours in a day!
So I joined the lonely mums club. The good news is so have all the other mums too.
Recently Baileys commissioned a ‘Make the Time’ report, looking at how women were spending their time.They found women spent only 5% of their time with friends, and that 70% of us want to spend more time with our friends. Our girlfriends give us the fun and support we can’t get from our children or partner.
When my daughter was nearly 18 months old our mum's group finally organised a girls night out. Our table of six stood out in the restaurant. We were dressed a little less fashionably and had bigger bags under our eyes, but we laughed louder and enjoyed our food all the more. We didn’t talk about sleep routines or toilet training. We shared stories of wild parties we went to as teenagers and how we met our partners.
I have to admit my inexperience here and say that as a first-time mum I have worried how my daughter will cope if I go out at night without her. She has terrible night-time separation anxiety and I’m the only one who can settle her at bedtime and throughout the night. But guess what? She was fine! My husband tricked her into sleeping by taking her for a walk in the baby carrier. There were a few tears but nothing drastic, and he enjoyed being the one to comfort her for a change.
There is good evidence suggesting that spending time with friends reduces stress. It’s not a self-indulgent activity, your family will benefit from you being more relaxed. I only use to leave my baby for essential activities like paid work or a dentist appointment. Now I consider spending time with my girlfriends to be an essential activity too. Now I put it on the list.
Go to the bank.
Coffee with Gaby.
I’ve learned not to let my social life depend on the unpredictability of my little one. When I have another baby, one day, I won’t wait so long to find my social feet again. Just an hour or two with my best girlfriend makes me a better mother, and wife, and generally a better human being.