Lean On Me: I’m on maternity leave and lonely. How do I make mum friends?

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Lean On Me: I'm on maternity leave and lonely. How do I make mum friends?



(Photo: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)Welcome to Lean On Me – a weekly agony aunt style column from Metro.co.uk where Kate Leaver answers your friendship woes.
Dear Kate,
I’ve just had a baby girl and in some ways, I couldn’t be happier. I love her more than I expected to be able to love someone. But I’ve also found that I feel really lonely and I’m not sure what to do.
I’m on maternity leave so it’s my first big chunk of time away from work and all of a sudden my main form of company is a baby who can’t talk, she only cries and a lot of the time I don’t know why. I am the first one of my girlfriends to have a baby – because my husband is a bit older than their partners – and so I don’t really have any mum friends to hang out with or talk to about parent stuff.
I try to see my old friends as often as I can but I just feel like they don’t quite understand what I’m going through, besides which, the days feel very long while they’re at work and I’m at home breastfeeding. Do I need to make mum friends? How do I do that?
Eloise, 27

(Photo: Mmuffin)Dear Eloise,
Let me tell you about a woman called Michelle Kennedy. She was in exactly your position: the first in her group of girlfriends to become a mama because her husband was a bit older and that fast-tracked them into parenthood.
She never felt lonelier than when she was at home breastfeeding her son at 3am, scrolling through Instagram photos of her friends out dancing. The chasm between her old self and her new self was staggering. She felt alone and lonely, as delighted as she was to have brought her son into the world.
At a Starbucks one morning with her little family, Michelle struck up a conversation with another mother, waiting in the queue for her coffee. They chatted about breastfeeding, they got on, they seemed to have that chemistry that might suggest they could be friends.
‘We should exchange numbers,’ Michelle suggested. To her horror, the woman said, ‘I already have enough friends.’ Michelle was crestfallen.
Imagine how vulnerable you’d feel, being socially rejected with your son in your arms. She vowed never to reach out to another mama in person again, lest the same thing happen.
Luckily, Michelle had the perfect skill set to solve the problem of motherly loneliness. She used to work on dating apps, so she decided to launch her own app, specifically for women just like her. Peanut is like Tinder for mums (only they match with new mum friends, rather than romantic partners, so there’s a lot more talk about teething).
If you’re pregnant or a mother, you just download it, put together a profile and match with other mamas in your area. It’s available in the UK, the US and Australia. It’s changing lives around the world, in this very specific and rather beautiful way. Michelle met a woman on her own app she now cannot imagine her life without and whenever she travels, she meets new mamas in those cities.
So my first suggestion, lovely Eloise, is to download Peanut. Its existence genuinely makes me feel better about the prospect of becoming a mother.
Because of course it’s going to be important to stay in touch with your old, beloved friends, but I understand why you feel isolated and I get why you need mum friends, too. We bond so powerfully over shared experience, so having someone who gets the motherhood thing can be so important.
One of my most cherished friends in the world had babies before the rest of us and she needs her mum friends. She has an all-mum WhatsApp group, they live in the same neighborhood and they meet for brunch and play dates all the time.
So Peanut is obviously miraculous, but you could also pick up some new mum friends at local parenting get-togethers in community spaces. Have a look near you, Google it, check Facebook groups, see if you can find a baby class or a toddler’s play group.
More: Parenting

Having mum friends will make you feel so much less alone, I really believe that. You can swap breastfeeding tips, debrief on bad nights and plan how your children will fall in love when they grow up. You can also, obviously, talk about Netflix and love and work and Beyonce, because women are capable of all that.
I wish you such luck with the gargantuan task of raising a child. Please know that you’re not alone in feeling alone. When I wrote my book, The Friendship Cure, I did a callout on social media for people to speak to me about loneliness. The single most vocal group was new mothers.
Mamas around the world were desperate to speak to someone, anyone, about how alone they felt. I was genuinely relieved to hear that someone had invented an app for them, and I hope you will find it helpful.
Kindest regards to the small human you’ve got at home, and to you.
Kate

About Lean On Me

Kate Leaver is the author of The Friendship Cure and she will be answering your friendship woes in her weekly Metro.co.uk column.
If you’d like to submit a question or problem, email LeanOnMe@metro.co.uk with ‘Lean on me’ in the subject line.
Submissions are anonymous and you can follow the discussion on Twitter #LeanOnMe.

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