I wrote this reflecting, mainly, on my first year after having Arlo. I don’t really feel like this any more, but, as usual with most things, I find that it’s only once I’m out of that frame of mind that I’m able to evaluate past feelings and write about it.
Dear South London Mum,
I kind of got plonked in this situation rather unexpectedly, and I feel like I’m playing one big game of catch up.
Can you tell?
I wonder whether you noticed my awkward shuffle when the NCT teacher describes our choice as “very unusual” for a London couple in their early twenties to decide to start a family.
It shouldn’t be awkward. But I just want one area of my life where I don’t feel different. If I don’t quite fit in with most twenty-somethings my age, I want to try my best to feel I fit in as a new mum.
But it’s difficult.
I don’t have a wedding to talk about. I don’t join in with the ‘How long did it take you to conceive / When did you decide to start trying’ conversations.
I don’t have anything to add with regards to house extensions or kitchen renovations. I don’t have the same dilemma about moving near to good schools before the application date.
You do a really great job of treating me the same as you, and I am so grateful for that. Perhaps you genuinely feel that we ARE similar, even though I feel like the biggest sore thumb around.
I don’t have regular salon-maintained hair. My clothes are all tired with holes in. I have one pair of shoes for winter (Converse) and one pair for summer (Birkenstocks). We aren’t searching for a childminder or a nursery so I can have a day off. I didn’t go anywhere this summer.
My main aim of every day is to spend zero pounds exactly. My town is a complete deadzone so we always have to travel out to do anything. In London traffic, that’s half an hour at least, and most of you live about an hour away. I feel irrationally guilty and angry if Arlo and I get caught short and end up having to buy lunch or a drink.
It feels shameful and stressful to be so unsettled financially.
Still, if I had more time and means to see you. I’d probably realise that we have more in common than I think. Or at least, we all have our own internal struggles. Perhaps we might even breach that tricky barrier of superficial conversation topics.
But I can’t afford to blow £15 a week on a cafe/soft play meet-up. There is no space to invite a group round to mine, there isn’t room for us all to sit down, and it’s really not a toddler-friendly set-up (And yes, I realise that sounds like a ridiculous excuse when there are two toddlers living there.)
I probably seem disconnected. I know I could be more sociable. But I am held back by my anxiety that you don’t really know what to say to a 25 year old mum (and vice versa), as you were living in a different world at that age.
I know that we all have our own niggles in adjusting to motherhood, and that it can be a lonely place for everyone. I know that age and money shouldn’t really matter, and I feel a little silly for even feeling that it creates even a small difference. But I do wonder if I would have found more like-minded parent friends had I started this whole parenthood thing around seven years later than I did.
Would I have felt just a little less lost?
I already feel that I’d quite like a do-over. To start this new stage with a lot more confidence and enthusiasm.
Above all, I just want to find my place again. But I’m not sure that anyone ever does in that first year or two of being a mum.