One of the most pleasantly surprising things about having a baby is reconnecting with old friends, people with whom I’ve not been in direct contact with for some time. Social media doesn’t count (although it helps maintain the connection) – I mean real life meeting up and talking. This distancing has been due to the natural erosion of time, the loose and large circles of friends you have when you’re a bit younger, but in some cases the simple fact of them having children has changed the circumstances of our friendships and the likelihood that we’ll meet up. In hindsight, I’ve been fairly inflexible – it was the pub or bust! So to be in contact with people again who are more experienced mums than me, but also friends of mine prior to either of us having children (as opposed to the mother’s group phenomenon), has been an unexpected and welcome support.
A few weeks ago, I strolled around Sydney Park (which has an awesome playground, and a bird attracting marshland project) with a woman I’d not seen in eighteen years. (!!) Our relative proximity (we both live in the Inner West) and stage of life (we both have a kid) was enough to trigger a catch up. Despite the passage of time it was a casual and easy afternoon. I’ve also been catching up almost fortnightly with a friend with whom I spent a fair amount of time during my uni days. If asked, I probably would have described her as a good mate although I’ve seen her very infrequently over the years, despite the fact she lives around the corner. We have utilised the park at the end of my road, local cafes, and a few days ago went into town and strolled around the Royal Botanic Gardens. My girl slept while her boy explored the herb garden complete with different smells, textures and tastes. We discuss things I’m fascinated in but loathe to expose my non-child-raising friends to: snot, sleep and solids.
Of course there’s the practical fact that we all have a lot of time on our hands, and little ones to expose to the world and other children. But I’d like to think that it’s more than this, that there’s a common understanding of what it’s like to be a mum, and a desire to support and share this together. I’ve certainly changed my approach to friends old and new; even six months ago it would be almost incomprehensible that I’d meet someone from so long ago, but I’m surprising myself with not only how willing, but how genuinely pleased I am to be doing it.
It’s made me realise that there’s a pay-it-forward aspect to motherhood. The next person I know who has a bub – particularly a first timer – I know I will make a huge effort to spend time with them. It won’t need to be an event; we can go to the local park and stroll. We won’t need to worry about time keeping, because we’ll both understand that our wee overlords will have their way regardless of how much we hope and plan. We won’t even need to worry too much about conversation, no matter how many years have gone by, because there’s always my reliable favourite – baby sleep. But most importantly, we’ll be able to recapture a bit of ourselves, the friends we were before we had babies, and be another step closer towards normalising our new worlds. With the added bonus of killing a few of those painful afternoon hours while doing it.