I’ve just come back from visiting a mum friend of mine who has decided to quit working. Forever.
I had two initial reactions (in my head): No you won’t. How could you do this to me?
This is a relatively new friendship, but a very important one to me. Finding good mummy friends is like internet dating, you have a subconscious list of criteria you are mentally ticking them off against.
- Kids ages and gender
- Approach to parenting (earth mother/erratic and shouty)
- Behaviour of kids (can they play in the same house long enough to allow us a proper chat, or do they destroy/ignore each other)
- Lifestyle (crafting/wine, spa days/boxed wine, country hikes/pub lunch with wine)
It’s a very fine balance… how much do I need to be seen to tell my children off for not sharing or jumping on their child? Is it ok to say “they’ve been real d1cks this week, sometimes I just want to press pause and run away”. Will they wince at my potato waffles, chips and beans or just be bloody grateful someone else is feeding their kids and having to do the tidying up?
So this friend ticks all boxes. Our kids are the same age, same gender, feisty and I deem that we are both ‘normal’ (honest, imperfect and a bit sweary). But another big part of it is that we are both the part-time working mums who are running round late everywhere, forgetting kids’ parties and not replying to texts. We apparently also look the same (bushy mushroom hair). But as the high-waisted one would say, she also has ‘the X factor’.
So with all the boxes ticked I freely confide in my bushy-haired friend “I’m a b1tch wife”, “is it ok to ditch swimming for a lie-in and leave the kids in front of the TV for 3 hours?” yes she says. I actually love her. I know she feels my pain. We are both stretching ourselves thin and failing in certain areas. We have a weekly round-up after GymTots and rate ourselves against the following criteria and how badly we are screwing up in each: Mum, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee/employer/colleague
Here are my ratings this week. This is not what HR like to call a 360; these are self-judged.
We’ll laugh at each other’s confessions and make drastic pacts: let’s drop ballet. Let’s let the men look after the kids. We’re going to get a dog. I’m going to quit.
No. You can’t. Then we won’t be equals. We won’t be equal screw-ups. You will find time for someone to tame your mushroom hair, leaving me frizzing out in the cold (see what I did there?). You will have other playdates and replace me. You’ll go to the gym and we won’t be able to moan about how lazy we are. You will have time to go the shops and after a little nap will have the energy to make your kids and husband a delicious and nutritionally balanced meal. Then you’ll play ‘the shopping game’ (Orchard Toys. Legends) and tell me you don’t really need the TV anymore and are all talking to each other. You won’t be able to meet up with me because you’ll be having your nails done in time for lunch with the girls (the other beautiful ladies who don’t work).
I’ll be imperfect alone. And dumped.
It takes time and grooming to nurture these rare mummy friendships. I’ve learnt that my very favourite mum friends tend to have:
- Messy front gardens (both senses probably)
- Back gardens cluttered with mould-covered plastic crap (only in the 1 sense)
- Strange substances crusted into their carpets that they haven’t had the time or inclination to chisel off (dropping the innuendos now)
- Sometimes lose it and shout at their kids in front of guests
- Only make one of the 3 allowed kids teas: pizza, sausages, beans on toast
- The ability to turn a blind eye to the trail of destruction caused by my kids
- Kids that leave a greater trail of destruction than mine.
Come on, it feels great when someone else’s kids behave badly on a play-date, it allows me a minute to silently worship my kids (secretly smug).
So, if my friend follows through with her rash decision, I will be holding auditions for new friends very soon. In the pub, or just outside the school gates, after they have shut in my late face.