Saturday, 1 February 2014

The Parent Trap

Having a baby is a bit like having a dog, you're constantly cleaning up their poop, they love you unconditionally and ... they are great ice-breakers.

Take a newborn out for a walk to the park or the local coffee shops and you'll be guaranteed at least one chat with an old person, fellow parent or curious child (the words 'be gentle with the baby' often a pre-cursor to little Billy, Jessica or Magnus poking your precious new-born in the head as you pull your buggy away in horror.)

Yes, motherhood can be lonely but with all the passers-by exchanges, on-line forums and baby clubs, oh and the obligatory NCT or ante-natal classes, there are numerous ways in which to make friends for glorious days of meeting in coffee shops and taking your little angels for walks in the park. Or so it would appear.

The problem is, there is a catch ... sometimes you'll have nothing in common with other mums apart from the fact ... well they are mums.

I myself have met some lovely mums but also some that I have very little in common with and in other circumstances would not have chosen to share a bottle of wine with on a boozy after-work night out.

One such mummy I shall refer to as my 'buggy buddy'; we bonded when Mr Boo was only about 4 weeks old and I was walking my local streets (still in my baggy maternity pants and no make-up, slightly comatose) and a young mum started chatting to me about our identical 'designer' buggies.

She seemed a bit pushy but friendly enough, not really my type but we exchanged numbers and agreed to meet up for a coffee one day soon. I never heard from her again, and at that point couldn't be bothered to get in contact, after all she had made the approach and suggested a meet up and, rather like the rules of dating, the asker should follow up, not the askee.

The months passed by and one day I found myself in Waitrose navigating my way out of the door with buggy and shopping bags when a familiar face started chatting to me; 'Snap, we have the same buggy, I wouldn't buy it again though, would you?'

We chatted for a few minutes before I realised it was her, the girl whose number I'd saved in my phone as 'buddy buggy' months before. Well it took her a little longer and she realised we'd chatted before, we had a good laugh about it and she said she'd forgotten to save my number.

She came over to my place the following week with her little boy and we had a pleasant enough chat, although I still had the niggling feeling that I was trying to make a friendship with someone that just wasn't on my wavelength.

The following week she invited me along to one of her baby-classes, one that as chance would have it I had already signed up to, so after the class I went back to her place for lunch.

Again, we had a pleasant enough afternoon, she made all her own baby food so Mr Boo was treated to some real food as opposed to that which comes from a jar or pouch, and cooed and 'mmmmmmd' enough to make me feel sufficiently penitent at my lack of from scratch baby food making, but a nice enough time was had by all.

We chatted about life, and work and family and again I noticed a few signs that we were from quite a different backgrounds when she said 'I don't know if your mum's the same, but she will insist on supervising the cleaner when she comes round, she doesn't trust her to do a good job if she's not standing over her."

Now two points to this; 1) no my mum has never in her life had a cleaner 2)whilst I think having a cleaner would be great and many of my friends have cleaners as I might myself if we had the dough, the assumption that everyone, especially my mum, must surely have one suggests that we are maybe coming from different places.

She then talked about the nanny who would be looking after her little one once she went back to work part-time and again I realised there was a gap between us, socially and economically.

Whilst I could just about afford to go back to work and pay a nursery to look after my son, it would be a stretch and currently it's easier for me to work from home and rely on some family support. A nanny would certainly be out of the question right now. As would a cleaner.

But again, these differences were small and I have friends from all walks of life so I buried my doubts about the friendship.

A few weeks later we agreed to meet in the local arts centre which has a soft (if somewhat grubby) play area and a coffee bar.

She had suggested the meet-up but stressed that as little ... let's call him Frank ... had to have his nap, at home, in his cot, at a specific time, she could only meet for 45 minutes. Fine, no worries.

As she arrived my little one was soundly asleep (he was about 5 or 6 months old at this point) so we parked up at a table and I left her and the little one's to go and buy us some coffees.

Now I must stress that this particular floor in the centre is vast and open, with no restrictions to who enters or leaves the floor or the building ... so I was alarmed whilst at the coffee counter to look back and realise she had left my son (ok, asleep in his buggy but nonetheless vulnerable) to put her son in the soft play area on the other side of the space where she could not have seen either him or his buggy.

There were other mums milling around so yes I'm sure he would have been fine but I felt annoyed that she had not been able to wait just a few minutes for me to return with our drinks before abandoning him, or thought to wheel the buggy near to the soft play area so that if he woke up crying she could have picked him up until I returned.

Well needless to say I was furious but kept a sharp eye on his buggy whilst buying the coffees and returned to the buggy as soon as possible to find my son screaming and covered in vomit having woken alone in a strange environment with no one to pick him up and let him know all was ok.

I scooped him into my arms and took him over to the soft play area covered in vomit "He's been sick" ... she looked at me with a vague "oh" and carried on making sure her son had full access to the soft play blocks. I let it pass, wiped him down and went back to the table, baby in one hand, to fetch first her's and then my drink.

We met a few times after that and then it just kind of fizzled out. It wasn't her, it wasn't me ... it was just one of those things. No fall out, no argument, baby or no baby we just weren't each other's type.

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