In the six years since becoming a parent, I’ve been through a fair few different phases and social circles.
My weeks routine changed with the situation; I worked part time, enjoying two busy days off with Tigs a week and three at work. I became a Mum for the second time and juggled a newborn and toddler, surviving mainly by leaning on the Mum tribe who made playdates a team event. I was made redundant and became a stay at home Mum, a curveball which left me with seven days a week to fill with the kids, until Tigs started pre school. For a while I was slave to the nap / preschool schedule but free from any afternoon time ties. And then, I became school run Mum, tied to the constraints of 9 and 3 with a whole day to go places with the Mouse. Until we started pre-school for the little one, increasing mornings from two up to five, and for a while now we have been on that schedule.
As the girls have grown and become settled in their early years settings, the toddler groups we used to rely on for our sanity became less frequented until we stopped going altogether. The constant rush between nursery and school ‘the two hour window stage of parenting’ leaves little time for trips to soft play or the farm. It makes socialising a little tricky.
Some midweek activities ceased – mother and baby swimming, toddler gym – as we outgrew the class and replaced with weekend sessions, and friends moved on from some groups too. Some of our pals kids had nursery in the afternoons, whilst mine had mornings, some did a few long days with whole days off, and as such the playdates became all so much tricker aside from the school holidays (in which it always seemed to rain this year).
The people in our networks changed too. Some never had second babies and returned to work whilst we started the cycle over again. Some returned to part time work, leaving days filled with stuff they needed to do, and sometimes the group dynamics were left out of sync by varied work patterns that no longer aligned. Some great friends just fizzled out, with no hard feelings, just moved on with their lives, as did we.
Starting school of course brought new people; the school Mums, the class parties, the new friends. The toddler group whatsapp chat has fizzled right out and been replaced with a buzzy constant chatter from the class Mums group. Of course the friends we’ve made didn’t just fade away, but they now have to fit in around a new crazy school world of classmates and our kids insane social lives. As we do too, in theirs.
And so now, as we approach the end of another school year, one that has felt so different to any other before, I’m feeling a little reflective about where we are, and what happens next?
The Mouse, an October baby misses the school start for 2018 and as such has another whole year of pre-school. She’s moving to the school nursery and will leave her existing pre-school pals behind. we’ll still be on that two hour window stage of parenting for another year, albeit the pick ups and drop offs will be at one central location. Tigs is well established at school as she enters year two and is always more than happy to just be at home or the allotment, playing with her little sister and drawing to her hearts content. Of course we have to fit in homework and spellings, reading and maths, which I can only imagine will intensify with each school year.
Most of the Mouses little friends, both in and out of nursery, start school this year, leaving just her and one or two friends on the pre-school circuit. Of course, they all have totally different pre-school times. Figures.
More and more of the Mums I’ve hung out with are child free during the school week, and more are increasing their work hours, looking for new jobs, moving off the scene where I remain.
I suppose, whilst I’ve been busying myself at home, the allotment, in the blog and generally loving the slower pace of life we have had this year, I realise now, that I am also on the brink of being pretty isolated as a stay at home Mum once more – something I was always so passionate about not becoming as I stepped into my role as a new mother six years ago. In fact, I’ve written wholeheartedly about how to combat loneliness as a Mum and how important is to get out more and find your sisters. I’ve also spoken about the fact that not all bloggers are able to be out at events, the whole childcare thing can be tricky for a blogger as much as it is a woman working in science.
In reality Dad Muddling Through works from home more than ever, and we have had a house full of workmen and a building project to manage this past three months. The days whizz by in a blink and I also have regular commitments each week and blog work to thrash through. I do still occasionally text round for somewhere to plonk myself for a few hours to change up the scene, and I do still try and arrange playdates, albeit far less frequently than I used to as the Mouse is pretty shattered after a morning going loopy at nursery. We have loads of people around us we could see, we just seem to have gotten out of the habit of doing so as much? I still see friends at after school clubs and we chew the fat whilst our kids swim / gym / party for an intense 30 minute catch up. And of course, during the holidays (which come round so quickly) we have plenty of time to fill together. In general, I can see that all of our lives are more manic than ever.
Breakfast dates every Thursday may have become once a month, but far from feeling lonely, I’ve loved being in our home more and letting the mouse be here with her toys, and her Mummy. In fact, I enjoy the girls company more than ever, perhaps why I haven’t prioritised being around other people. Time goes way too fast on a daily basis, let alone in our motherhood roles. I’ve been so busy embracing it, that perhaps I’ve not realised that I’m somewhat cutting myself off from the world going on around me.
But next year as more of the Mums claim back some of their independence and career, I’ll be claiming that one last year with my youngest and last baby. I will have to make more of an effort to get out and see other adults more regularly, as I know it’s good for me, my mental health, my wellbeing as an individual, not just as a Mum. The obvious answer may seem that this is the time to think about a little job? Although I’m not sure many have a two hour shift pattern, plus I’m pretty sure I want to get both girls in school before that – after all we have come so far, and we are after all, happy.
I guess for many of my friends, maternity leave ended five years ago, and sometimes as a stay at home Mum it can feel like you are the only one still left there, in some kind of weird maternity leave parallel universe. It isn’t forever, and I don’t know what the future holds, but one thing is certain, life as Mum never stays the same for long.