Not since walking through the doors of Bodington Halls of Residence on my first day at University have I felt like such a rabbit in the head lights. Every time I enter a local playgroup I feel the same. I experience a terrifying need to befriend every single person that I interact with. In Fresher's week I approached far too many people with a genuine expectation of forming true bonds. It only dawned on me during our one to one 'friend date' a week later that we had absolutely nothing in common, apart from the place in which we had chosen to study and those dance moves that we roared with laughter about for hours on Tuesday night.
When I first ventured into the land of baby groups I gave my number out like some desperate suitor trying their luck with as many prospective dates as possible, in the hope that someone would bite. My checklist before giving out my details were as follows; do they have a child? CHECK Have they said Hi to me? CHECK.
It got to the point where carrying a contact card just for the business of befriending the mothers of potential playmates for Lena wasn't such a ludicrous idea. I know it's not just me that feels this instant need to bond with any new mother. There are times when upon entering a room full of new parents that the desperation for friends is palpable.
When Lena was a newborn I had gone from working manically in a crowded vibrant office to being sat with only one person to talk to and that said person responded very rarely, if at all. I was desperate for 'coffee buddies' to fill the void of absent water cooler banter.
I am the first of my close friends to have a baby. I didn't have an honest clue as to what I was doing. I knew to put my index finger between her ankles when changing her nappy to avoid ankle rub, but this was my only gem of a 'baby care fact.' I wasn't just looking for company, but for guidance. My search for friends wasn't solely for the company, it was a hunt for a motherly beacon of knowledge.
I used to feel pangs of rejection when a text wasn't received or a request for a play date wasn't grabbed. It has taken me a long time to understand what the mothers and the lesser-seen-lovely-and-brave fathers at these playgroups are to me. I learnt to re-frame my expectations and look at them differently. They were not potential new BFFS, but colleagues instead. I wouldn't give my number to or go out for a pint with a colleague after just one jovial chat whilst in the queue for the microwave. Just because they happened to work for the same company, in a different department, doesn't mean that I would expect to instantly socialise with them outside of the office. So why would I expect the same from these women? Instead I have learnt to think of them as my water cooler buddies. People I can giggle with and catch up with every so often at the overwhelming number of toddler activities. Be it the park, local church playgroup, music club, mini swim, toddler gymnastics etc. But they are not drinking buddies..... not just yet anyway.