Last month I was lucky enough to spend the evening with women friends I seldom see. It was a cold night here in the Peaks and I really wanted to stay home, in pj’s and in front of the fire, but I made the effort, got ready and went out to the pub. Once there I remembered the joys of Saturday nights out, good wine, lots of it, good conversation and the invisible link of friendship that never breaks.
When I became a Mum I was totally clueless about all things baby, never having changed a nappy in my life it was a steep learning curve. Lots of things happened in those first days of motherhood, from complete panic to absolute tiredness, there was one thing I could never have forseen. The unexpected bonus of being a Mum undoubtably was making friends. The friendships that grew from the shared awfulness of those early years,survived and grew through school days, teen tantrums and beyond.
Thinking back I can remember sitting in that wonderful (not) arena that is the Mum and Tots club. Seemingly perfect Mummies, with perfect little darlings talking about breast feeding and NCT and organic nappies, made me, with my screaming toddler and twin babies feel a complete loser. It was all I could do to get out of the house with all three children in one piece, brushing my hair was just not a priority. I decided there and then that a possett of sick on each shoulder was a fashion statement I could make. Just how those women actually put lipstick on and matched their tights and skirts and shoes remains a mystery to me to this day.
Sitting in the group, watching the competitive parenthood of comparison, while my boys slowly and systematically broke all the toys, I felt invisible. I was in adult company and I wanted to talk about the world, politics, life outside the home, anything but babies, but sadly not many of the lovely Mummies wanted to talk at all. There was the talking through the child Mum, ‘now Amber show the lady how you know your alphabet’ to the competitive foodie, home made flapjacks and never a spoonful of sugar near babies mouth. Sadly my children didn’t really fit it in and in truth neither did I. I didn’t give up and eventually, three play groups later on, I discovered other less than perfect Mummies, and together we staggered through those early years with a good degree of humour and the glass of wine, which saved many a day.
The school gate was the next major hurdle and it was here I met the women I was out with last month. My daughter started school and I was beginning to find my feet in our new home town. When a lovely lady called Clare persuaded me the Parent Teacher Association needed new parents I agreed to help out, to be honest I said yes to make her go away. She came back the next day to tell me I had been elected Chair!! As usual in my life, finding myself in situations and not knowing what I should do, I made it all up, and found friendship in the rest of the Mums and some of the Dads.
How we laughed. Organising the hell that is the Christmas/Summer/Spring Fair, what fun we had sticking labels on bottles, ripping up raffle tickets and sorting donated items, some of which were actually useable, the rest, sadly went in the bin. School disco’s with cakes and pop and vomit and boysrunningroundandroundreallyfast and girlsinbestdresseschattinganddancing. We raised funds, we laughed we drank wine and sometimes we even cried, or maybe that was just the children. One of my friends son spent two years at PTA meetings strapped in a buggy being fed biscuits. Strange to think he is now doing GCSE’s and luckily he doesn’t seem damaged by the experience.
It is now thirteen years on, those women are still my friends. Our children are all adults, making their way through University, College or work, we have survived the SATS, the GCSE’s the teen years and come through mostly smiling. We have all changed too. Some have moved away and return for brief evenings out, when visiting family, some have changed partners, some of us have got married. In the years since babies some of us have returned to study, learned new things, traveled and generally lived a life. We see each other very occasionally, but when we do it is as if it was yesterday. I like that a lot.
It seems to me that the world could learn a lesson from us Mums and some of the Dads. Everyone should be able to pick up where you left off even if if it was two years ago. We need to stick together, be loyal to each other, enjoy each others company, support each other in times of crisis, laugh at every opportunity. I cherish my friends, they have made us who we are, and they know far too much about me to ever let them go!