Can Google give us all the answers we need as parents?
PUBLISHED: 13:11 13 June 2015
Ellen Widdup#s 2.4 Children
Most of my friends are well into their 40s. Unlike me they chose to have children later in life.
After they had reached a certain point in their career perhaps or bought a house and created a retirement fund.
After they had reached their optimum weight, been bungee jumping, travelled the world, had a lavish wedding.
I didn’t do any of these things because my first child came along quite unexpectedly when I was in my 20s.
Of course I don’t regret a thing – after all there are people who waited patiently for the “right time” to have children only to find there wasn’t one.
But it still surprises me how, for the most part, my group of pals changed dramatically the moment I gave birth.
As a teenager all my mates were frivolous girls who, like me, worried about boys, acne and make-up and didn’t know life existed outside the M25.
Then I went to university in the North and met a more diverse crowd – but all were concerned with drinking, partying and notches on the bedpost.
My work life has been littered with people from all walks of life but again, I tended to socialise most with the people I understood.
PLU’s, my friend Katherine calls them. People Like Us.
We all do it I suppose. Gravitate towards our equals in terms of education, interests, class.
But that is the most interesting thing about motherhood. PLU’s are simply other mums.
It starts in pregnancy.
Like members of some clandestine club, pregnant women with absolutely nothing in common apart from a swelling belly, smile at each other on the train or on the street.
Strange friendships develop as they share excruciatingly intimate details of their lives with one another, blithely discussing stretch marks, flatulence and haemorrhoids.
And this bonding only increases after birth.
It makes no difference if Claudia is making £200k a year working in the city, Rachel runs a sweet shop and Chloe is claiming benefits.
It makes no difference if Gemma was 43 when she had her first child, Sophie 30 and Lucy only 17.
All had to push babies into the world in an undignified manner.
And all faced the same anxieties about sleeping, feeding, winding and weight-gain.
Finally free from the silent assessments we women make about each other, motherhood is a real leveler.
Everyone is in the same boat.
Now of course things do change over time.
As our children grow our social antennae emerge once more and we make subconscious – and sometimes not so subconscious – lists of our differences as mothers.
But if you can hang on to that fleeting feeling of being part of the new mums club – one which spans all classes, ethnicities, education levels and ages – then you should embrace it.
Retaining some of the friends you made in that period – when you are at your most vulnerable – is hugely beneficial.
After all, they are the people who know you best – or rather at your worst.
My mum pals are the reason why my friendship group is now so much older than it once was.
By having children before the rest of my peer group, I simply fell out of step with other women of my generation.
I was wiping bottoms, rubbing in sudocrem and singing lullabies while they were still downing tequila shots, snogging strangers and scaling the career ladder.
I have since reignited friendships I had as a teenager, as a student and from my early career but for the most part this was because they became mothers themselves.
They suddenly “got it”.
I promise you I did not just ditch all my childless friends the second I gave birth.
I apologise to anyone who felt I did.
But the truth is that somewhere between the sleeplessness and the breastfeeding, I stopped caring – or was simply too tired to care - what my career-minded single pals were up to.
New mums can only talk about their babies.
What they are eating, whether they are sleeping, if they can smile yet, what colour their poo is.
It’s all encompassing.
And it means that everything else goes to pot.
Career, house, chores, personal hygiene, sense of self and of course, friends.
When we finally emerge from the house, bleary eyed and wearing pyjama bottoms, we can’t believe our eyes that there are other people as unkempt and confused as we are.
And naturally we turn to these like-minded beings for support.
They become our “new” friends because they are the only ones who don’t mind us sitting for hours lamenting the pain of mastitis while shoving cabbage leaves down a vest top marked with splotches of crusty spit-up.
I might be acting like Captain Obvious here but everything changes after you have a baby. And you change too.
All of a sudden it feels like you have been plonked in a foreign land with nothing at all anchoring you to your previous existence.
And you are living a different life from those friends whose lives have run parallel to yours for so many years.
It may seem mean to our childless buddies to jump ship and join a new tribe but it’s also about temporary survival.
After all, deeply satisfying female friendships materialise out of honesty and common understanding.
And sadly, even if you have shared every triumph and failure with a girlfriend since you were both wearing braces, she can only help so much with the peaks and pitfalls of early motherhood if she hasn’t been there herself.
That’s not to say she no longer matters. She does. She always will.
Because while the PLU’s can give you the practical guidance you need, those who are enjoying the flat-bellied freedom of childlessness can wave a vodka shot in front of your face and suggest Google.
Which, let’s face it, can be just as beneficial.
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