Why catching up with friends is impossible with a baby

Ever spend time catching up with a friend only to leave realising you have no idea what you just spent the last couple of hours talking about? As you head home and think about the chatter and gossip, you realise that you can only recall snatches of the conversation. You have no idea what the conclusion to your pal’s work drama story was. You don’t remember what the latest news is on her attempt to cut out dairy. You can’t think what it was she was attempting to tell you about Susan and her new neighbour. It’s all a blur. Why can’t you remember half of the conversation that you were present for? Because there was a third (and in some cases a fourth, fifth and sixth etc) wheel present for the big catch up. Getting together with friends is one of the best things about maternity leave, it’s one of the only activities you can do as a new mum that keeps you sane. But between the crying, the struggle to get a decent latch, the worry about being unable to bring up a burp, and the worried glances at the clock as you realise it’s getting closer to nap time, it’s virtually impossible to engage in the conversation. For example, I’ve tried to start this post about a dozen times. But every single time I attempted to get the first sentence out something happened. A child got out of bed wanting a drink, another one cried out needing a cuddle and I suddenly remembered I hadn’t packed the nursery bag for the morning. And it’s this exact problem that strikes when I’m attempting to socialise with other adults. My youngest cries and reaches out her arms desperate for me to pick her up, once she’s in my arms she thrashes and wants to be put down again. Then it all begins again once she’s on the floor. My toddler demands snacks, and a drink, before then announcing she needs a wee. I try my best to follow the conversation, to remember what was being said, but the constant interruptions and the pressure of needing to keep on top of the kids mean I end up totally lost. My brain cannot compute the parenting functions alongside the attempt to be a normal grown-up function. As a result, Mother Nature takes over and prioritises the parenting bit, because that involves caring for offspring rather than gossiping about how fit Chris Pratt is. Mother Nature knows what your priorities should be. She also knows how to suck the fun out of everything. I worry that this makes me a terrible friend, or at the very least it makes it difficult to make new ones. With my existing mummy friends it’s not so bad. We know each other so well now, and as we all have kids in tow we get how blooming hard it is to carry on an adult conversation. We each take it in turns to begin a conversation that inevitably gets interrupted then rely on everyone else to remember what the hell it was we were just talking about. But meeting friends who don’t have kids when you have a child with you is a whole other ball game. For you, it’s stressful as you know that you’re not listening properly, you keep interrupting them because your child threw their toy out of the pram and you just have to pick it immediately. Then there’s a bit of spit-up and a nappy change, plus you’re so tired from being up half the night that you cannot stop yawning. Like really wide, impossible to hide type yawns. For your friend, it’s like the best contraception ever, anything that encourages you to abstain altogether is 100 per cent effective after all. There are some days when it’s not even about interruptions. Some days your baby has just decided that no conversation will be taking place at all today, and the screaming leaves you deaf to anything but their noise. Once I spent an entire lunch ferrying my toddler back and forth from the toilet because she was mid-potty training and kept insisting she needed to go. There’s no better conversation, and appetite, killer than “I need a poo poo” said 100 times. It sucks that your social life is now so crippled, because having actual adults listen to you and respond to what you’re saying is such a bloody lifesaver. That’s why you need to remember to book a date where there will be no children allowed. Meeting up with fellow mamas for a play date is brilliant, because you remember that you’re not alone. Meeting up with fellow mamas for a few drinks after hours is essential for surviving parenthood, and actually finding out what’s the latest news with your friends. So do it as often as you can. V X

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