Family & Education

Help! I need some new friends

Jessica Weinstein's on maternity leave, and she needs a new gang


Making “mum friends” is a definite skill. By which I mean not just friends who are also mothers, but friends whose motherhood is at exactly the same stage as your own.

Last time I was on maternity leave I wrote in this paper about how I was lucky enough to find a great network of new mums and new friends through my antenatal course. This group is still going strong and we’ve all just emerged from a string of weekends celebrating our children’s third birthdays.

But with a new baby, I need new mum friends —or at least now mum friends. Mothering second time round is a bit different altogether in many ways, but especially with the delicate art of finding new buddies. Last time I had the antenatal group support network ready-made. This time there was no need for antenatal classes so I find myself eyeing up mums with new babies at nursery pick up and even women with buggies in the park.

A few weeks ago I even found myself going against my natural shyness to chat up another new mum in the park. A cautious nod (we both have tiny babies in rather large buggies) became a chat as we both started breastfeeding on the park bench (how old is your little one?) which then became a conversation which spanned everything from which hospital we gave birth in, to what we do for a living, to shul nurseries versus nurseries with longer opening hours.

As we stood to leave, I asked for her number. It felt like a logical next step in our fast-forwarded relationship, and as our babies were born only a few days apart, we’re both Jewish and this park was local for both of us, we were likely to bump into each other at some point, right?

We’re yet to find out if it was a proper “meet cute” moment or if in fact we have anything else in common, but with some mum friends that doesn’t really matter, or at least it comes later. It’s a bonus if — once they get to the “socialising” age — your kids also get on.

Maternity leave is a time in adulthood when the tables are turned. You think by the time you hit your 30s you’re done making new friends, but then you have kids and, wham, you’re back in the playground again — literally and metaphorically. And this continues every time you have another child.

You check out the other mothers who look like they might be your ‘type’ of mum; like someone you possibly would have been friends with in a former life and hey, now maybe fate has thrown you together.

Yes, I now have mum friends (or we could just call them friends!) made on or since my last maternity leave. I have even reconnected with an old friend I lost touch with after university sent us to different cities. We bumped into each other at nursery shortly after both our eldest children started there (they have subsequently became firm friends). I can arrange playdates with these mums, discuss school applications and reminisce, fondly or otherwise, about those early sleepless nights (as well as non-kid-related topics, sometimes). But of course, those friends are not on maternity leave with me this time.

So the search starts again.

It’s not just about the practical details of caring for little people. Mum friends are a very important sub-sectionof friend. Just like your best friend at school was important, even though maybe now you’ve lost touch; or the girl you hit it off with at Freshers’ Week and ended up living with for the next three years; the first-day-at-work-friend; or even the holiday friend who made that one trip so memorable. We need to be surrounded by people who understand what we are going through; who are having similar experiences at a similar time.

Just look at the number of TV shows gracing our screens at the moment, showcasing the power of a mum friendship: from the Canadian Workin’ Moms (created by and starring the Jewish actress, producer and writer Catherine Reitman and her husband Philip Sternberg) and Australia’s The Letdown on Netflix to the BBC’s own Motherhood. We all need a clan and we all need different clans at different times in our lives.

So, next time you see a woman with a buggy hovering slightly nervously near another woman or group of women, like it’s playtime at a new school, please be kind. She might well be me, hoping to meet a kindred spirit.


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