When I found out I was pregnant with my eldest I was shocked, it was a lot quicker than I ever anticipated. Not many of my friends had babies, or were even considering babies and I was panicked about finding friends to spend my maternity with. As my pregnancy progressed we thought about how to meet people and then out we went and did it. We paid for the NCT classes, we went along to the antenatal hospital classes and our, my, quest to form new friendships with other new mums began in earnest. Let’s face it, becoming a mum can be the loneliest you have ever been. Yet you are never alone. You have a whole other human relying on you, dependent on you for their very survival.
You can be so lonely, but never be alone.
Today, of those friends I made back when my eldest was merely a bump, only one still lives where we met. Everyone else? Moved on. Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Qatar, Scotland, Perth, Kent. Even if we hadn’t have emigrated when the biggest was 6 months old I’d have still been left with none of my original circle of mums around. The mums that I exchanged “is this labour” stories with, the horrors of my dramatic birth, the 3am emails asking *is this normal??!* scattered around the country, out of the country even.
Meeting other mums
One thing I’ve learnt as an expat is that to help combat the loneliness you need to keep putting yourself out there. Finding places to meet others. To keep going and going and going. When you find likeminded people, like minded mums. When you go to every baby group or coffee morning you can find in the hope that just maybe you find someone who loves cake as much as you, or needs coffee, or just has one of those days.
But doing that is hard, and not only is it hard, sometimes it’s downright impossible.
You pysch yourself up, get your children dressed and out the door. Then back in the door because someone needs a wee. Then you steel yourself to go out again. And again, you’re foiled by a nappy explosion. On your 72nd attempt you might actually make it up the street. Nerves fluttering. Terrified. As well as flustered, red faced and most probably late. Not the best first impression that you’ve ever given. Not the best way to make new friends. Not impossible, but most certainly stressful.
It might be the church hall filled with snotty nosed children (of which at least one will be yours) cups of lukewarm too milky tea and the buzz of conversation of which you want desperately to be part of. Yet you’re wiping a nose with one hand and lifting the baby up with your other, each time you open your mouth to take part you’ve someone demanding your attention. Surrounded by people, the very opposite of being alone, yet being lonely.
It might be a bustling coffee shop, where every time you try to take a sip and interject into the conversation you’re jumping up to stop a child escaping.
It might be a walk in the park, where everyone else is pushing contended babies in their prams and your pushing a wailing banshee, or having to stop every third step to admire a rock, or a blade of grass, or a stick. It’s always a stick.
Surrounded by your children screaming for attention, surrounded by other new mums, surrounded by people. The very opposite of being alone but being lonely, relationships and friendships waiting on the sidelines yet struggling to get past the “how do you take your tea?” stage. Not having the chance to move them onto the next level. Bumping into the same people week after week after week, yet not knowing whether you have their name right. They’re just soandsos mummy.
And maybe, you move it to the next level. You make friends. The kids are friends. You live happily ever after. Or maybe not.
The tale of the lonely expat summer
As an expat, friendships tend to be formed quickly. Very quickly. Maybe it is the very nature of the transient lifestyle but one quick hello can lead to phone numbers exchanged. One or two texts lead to coffee dates and invitations to come and use the washing machine. Bonds are formed quickly, solidly, unbreakable.
Which means when it comes to the summer I really struggle once again with loneliness.
This summer sees me abandon ship as temperatures soar as high as 50º to the point where you can’t go outside. It sees the majority of my mum friends do the same. I go from having a solid group of girls who are there for me, who’s children play with my children, to having no one around me and being a full time solo parent to the boys. Never alone.
From the end of June I’ll spend 9 weeks in my home town of Derby, where I grew up, went to school and have my very best ever childhood friend and one old friend who had a baby last year who lives on the other side of the city to me and try as I might our schedules struggle to fit. Other than that – no one is local to me.
No one for me to stress about whether I am being a good parent, whether I shout too much, or how oh how I will get these children to sleep.
There is no one for my four year old to run screaming in the park with.
There is no one for my two year old to chase delightedly through the trees in our local park.
Because it’s more than just me being lonely, it’s them. They need me to have mum friends as much as I need to have mum friends.
This summer there is hope for me. This summer for me there is Momzie. The app for mums to meet mums.
Similar in concept to Tinder, but for mums, you are connected to likeminded mums in your local area. Setting up a profile is simple and easy via your Facebook profile and once you make a connection you can start to chat. That chat helps establish the small talk, the getting to know you, the taking the awkwardness out of that very first meeting.
For me, it gives me a chance to meet mums in Derby (I hope – if you’re in Derby with small people around 4 and 2 please sign up so I can find you!) as the church halls stop for the summer, as the baby groups don’t happen, as loitering in the park trying to catch the eye of someone just doesn’t work for me. I can find people who are like me, who have children of the same ages who are looking to form friendships. I can have a mum-friendly summer right in my back yard with mum friends. And wine. Or prosecco, I’m easy.
It doesn’t matter what stage your children are at, everyone needs mum friends. No one wants to be lonely. Sometimes it’s all about taking the chance, jumping on and trying to make new mum friends.
And if you’re in Derby? Well then maybe you’ll be swiping right on Momzie on me.