At the weekend, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting up with two fabulous friends I’ve not had the chance to see much of lately. Me and my mini-me drove to Hampstead Heath – coincidently the postcode I used to work in as a Deputy Head – to catch up with Terry and Nick. It’s not too bad for the ego, to be seen schlepping around the heath with two such gorgeous specimens and their puppy, Poppy. However, something occurred to me as we chatted and dodged muddy puddles. These days I am, without doubt, dull. Let me elaborate in a roundabout way.
As with everyone, my friends are made up of groups from various periods of my life. The friends from my youth growing up in Devon; those from my hungover university days; the wine-swilling teaching posse from each the various schools I’ve worked in and my non-teaching London homies. The most recent addition are the mum clan – those who have shared with me in everything from swollen ankles to stress incontinence. All in all, I am blessed to have a fabulous support network and a billion honorary aunties (and uncles) for Harry.
Yet, on the rare opportunity I get to catch up with people from my fabulous LBM (life before mumdom) I am extraordinarily conscious of what little I have to bring to the party now. In my LBM (and pre-husband), things were a little more rock’n’roll. I’d be eating out in new and exotic restaurants; there’d be travels to far-flung destinations or I would have tales of tipsiness at some event or bar. Still being a career girl, I would be able to talk with relevance and passion about my job or at the very least be able to afford to enjoy a proper night out.
These days conversation is somewhat less sparkly, from my side. How do you make the contents of nappies, getting excited about new episodes of ‘Hey Duggee’ and the statistical analysis of your sleep deprivation sound sexy? Answer: you don’t. What would you rather talk about? A cheeky new concept rooftop bar in the heart of the city or a state-of-the-art soft play centre that actually sells passable coffee? For those LBM friends who have already had children – they’ve done their hard yards and have no wish to revisit the hell that is teething and toddlerdom (let’s not forget, at forty-two, I’m late to the party). For those who haven’t had children, they have no desire to unpick why a three-year-old bunny called Bing has a strange father figure of a different species, half his size or whether Mamia nappies are in fact superior to Pampers, even though half the price.
I have begun to dread the question – what have you been up to? ‘Oh, you know, drinking a shed load of coffee and diffusing tantrums with the skill of special forces operative. Other than that, not a lot!” Watch the tumbleweed blow across the heath… This is where the mum friends come in to their own. Many of them are new and have come in to my life through the blessed NCT (National Childbirth Trust). We bonded over acid reflux and know more intimate details about each other, having shared the childbirth journey, than many would wish to know. However, with them I can get away with sharing the little inconsequential milestones such as: Harry showed an interest in me going to the toilet and wanted to flush for me but he’s not quite ready for potty training yet. Nothing like a toddler engaging with your number twos to kill a conversation normally but mum mates, old or new, get it!
Luckily quality friendships work with the ebb and flow of your life. I may feel like I’ve lost my shine but that didn’t stop me from having proper giggles and the loveliest afternoon with two people who have seen the best and worst of me over the years (that includes dressed as a caber tosser, a drag queen, Amy Winehouse and Princess Leia – we love a dress-up party). I need to remember that I will once again have the opportunity to eat at a restaurant without having the iPad and Paw Patrol on standby. I will be able to enjoy a few drinks without being summoned for mummy hugs at 5:08am and I will get chance to travel to somewhere without considering weighing up the quality of water slides versus kids club. I also need to remember to wear Tena next time I’m out with them. An hour’s drive and then all that laughter plays havoc with your pelvic floor.
Here’s to friendship and navigating life’s different paths. With true friendship there will always be common ground. And here’s to remembering that you are a sum of all you have been and are now – don’t forget to shine.