When I met my partner and settled down I imagined that to be the end of my dating days. Then I fell pregnant and became a mum. Everything seemed perfect. Yet now I’m back scrolling through apps and swiping to find the right match. Not for a new man, but for new friends.
When even the Dutchess of Cambridge admits she sometimes feels lonely what hope is there for the rest of us trying to navigate motherhood? She recently said:
“Yes, it is lonely at times and you do feel quite isolated but actually so many mothers are going through exactly what you are going through.
“It is being brave enough to reach out to those around you.”
As modern women, we’re finding our feet trying to balance family life with building a career. I can only imagine that decades ago women had a different sense of community as most didn’t have to worry about returning to work once they had a baby and could rely on each other for day-to-day support. These days we cram our maternity leave full of activities, coffee dates and stress when the months pass too quickly and we have to return to the workplace. Though some of us also love and therefore miss our jobs that’s when parental guilt suddenly sets in.
Missing old friends
With my family based in a different country, I’ve personally tried to balance working from home with caring for my toddler and being part of his life in these early years. It’s hard but I wouldn’t swap it for the world and there’ll soon enough be plenty of time for me to take up full-time employment. Though with no colleagues around, I have found myself feeling lonely.
Relocating to the UK close to 8 years ago I left behind an amazing group of girlfriends. Friends I had made during my university days. Many of these now have families of their own which mean we rarely get to meet up as it’s harder to coordinate with children and husbands involved.
I recently managed to grab a quick coffee with a dear friend while visiting family in Copenhagen. My dad looked after my son while we enjoyed a catch-up. We hadn’t seen each other since her visit to London two years prior yet it seemed like we’d never been apart. The conversation flowed, we laughed, we cried. Nothing had changed except for our circumstances. It made me realised how much I missed her and the others back home. People I feel get me, understand me. We always say we’ll make more of an effort but life often gets in the way.
Struggling with loneliness
Naturally, I’ve made new friends since moving to London. Though our capital is huge and where some of us see it as home for others it’s merely a destination to be checked off a bucket list. Or it simply becomes too expensive. This means that women I imagined hanging out with through pregnancy, going on playdates with and meeting with regularly for drinks and coffees now live far away in places like Manchester and Exeter. Even one of my closest friends is in North London with her family and making my way up there can be tricky and time consuming with us being based in the south.
Through blogging, I’ve also made some wonderful friends but again they are more online than around the corner and I miss the human interaction of face-to-face. So what’s the solution?
Trying out dating apps
When pregnant I insisted that we signed up for an NCT class. Not that I felt I needed to learn how to be a parent but because with no friends and family around I wanted to establish a network for those early days of motherhood. In many ways, I’m grateful for the kind and generous people we met whom we still see. Though I have felt that our, dare I say, slightly forced friendship is centred around our children and I don’t see them without my son in tow.
So I recently decided to join one of these new mum apps. The dating apps for parents like me who are on the look-out for new friends close by.
Except for meeting my very first boyfriend online close to 15 years ago, I’ve never really tested this whole Tinder trend. I felt funny registering and filling out my ‘new mum sales pitch’ and nervously pressed the button opening myself up to possible rejection. Or hopefully a chance to make new friends!
My experience so far
So far, my boy and I have been on two ‘dates’. The first was with a fellow Scandinavian and considering having a lot in common on paper including children of the same age, our coffee date felt a little stiff. It’s not much different to going on a ‘normal’ date. I worried about what to wear, looking put together but not like I’d made too much of an effort. How much should you open up about yourself and your life? You don’t want to come off as desperate yet I also want to make sure that this potential new friend sees me as a human being who’s survived sleepless nights and other stressed situations and sometimes just needs a hug and a very strong coffee (or drink!).
My second date was also slightly awkward. If you think going to a noisy bar can be stressful on a first date, then try having an engaged conversation in a playground with two toddlers running in opposite directions and one diving head first off the slide (mine!). When my clearly sleep deprived ‘date’ struggled to understand that I was working as well as looking after my son our scattered conversation came to a complete halt.
So, for now, I’m still registered hoping to meet the one or at least a few new girlfriends who in time will learn to love me and be a part of my life going forward.
Have you found yourself feeling lonely in parenthood? How have you made new friends?