I became a mum two years and two months ago. Like many stay at home parents, I wombled along to a baby group in the hopes that putting my baby around other babies would somehow make said baby happy and in turn I would be around other mums. Despite the fact that singing cheesy songs in a circle of other mums is my literal nightmare situation (hate singing in front of people and large collections of mothers somewhat scare me) I went along with the best intentions. I arrived excessively early as usual and walked around outside of the circle of chairs, cradling my baby (who was five weeks old) staring at his face and nowhere else. I used him as a way to calm myself down and distract myself from the nerves of the situation. This was actually when he did his first set of grins which I still remember fondly. When the time came to sit down, I looked around the room, suddenly feeling like a schoolgirl all over again. It was obvious that a lot of the mums already knew each other as they sat in their little groups, oblivious to other mums around them. Every so often, you could see the bewildered mum, looking down at the floor and you could ascertain that she too was new. I sat down next to one such mum in the hopes that at some point over the half an hour I would pluck up the courage to speak to her. I smiled at her and she looked away shyly. The seat on the other side of me remained empty for the whole session and we never said a word to each other. I choked back panic as the leader of the session started singing (seriously can't stress how much people hearing me sing freaks me out) and tried to mumble follow along to unfamiliar and oh so cheesy songs. My baby slept for the whole session. It was generally a bit of a disaster. As I was getting ready to leave, a woman walked up to me. I just remember noticing her long dark hair and her warm smile. She said hi and asked me how old my son was (always a good ice breaker). I stuttered over small talk for a minute and we started walking out together. We realised that we were headed in the same direction to walk home and so we walked together and chatted away. As it came time to part ways, she asked to swap numbers. When I walked through the front door, instead of feeling like a total flop, I felt like I was walking on cloud nine.
Over time we met up regularly and very quickly became comfortable around each other. She invited my husband and me for dinner with her and her husband one evening and it was wonderful. We got to know each other and met each other's families. I soon discovered she is a fabulous cook, very creative mother (and primary school teacher by trade), and a wonderfully kind friend. I can't remember exactly when, but at some point she mentioned another woman to me. She thought I would like her, so we decided the three of us would meet. The first thing I remember thinking about this other woman was she had this kind of softness about her. Both of these women are the kind of people you meet and immediately know that they have such a level of goodness in them, naturally kind people. I felt the same kind of relaxed around them as I did when I first met my husband. I had fallen out of love with some long term friends of my youth and it felt so rejuvenating to have women as friends around me again. I have friends from school who I still adore, but we don't get to see each other as often as I'd like, they don't have kids themselves and being a stay at home parent can be lonely. Since we met, we have hung out as a trio many times. M (as I'll call her) is always out and about, she went to prenatal yoga and took her baby to signing classes and swimming, she home makes all food (and holy hell is it good) and I have never, ever seen a hint of a temper in her or any kind of emotional instability for that matter, her daughter is always dressed in the cutest, vintage-esque clothing and I have never heard her snap at her husband! She is equal parts funny and tender. The other one, H, is a force of nature. She is very active, she has done so many badass adventurous things, she looks after everyone around her and constantly readjusts herself as her partner works offshore. Her daughter is usually dressed in a selection of super funky, bright clothes and she takes her out everywhere with her. She is gentle and understanding and has this lovely smile that warms up a room. We email each other regularly and every time I see her name in my inbox, I smile. After a traumatic birth with my second son and a hospital stay, M dropped off a homemade lasagna amongst other things and homemade brownies on the doorstep for us to find. When she found out I had been having a bad time with my mental illness, H came round to drop off a little "first aid" bag of chocolate. They have split car seats between their cars so they could take my two children and me places with them. They both have cars and proper homes and they get their hair done at the hairdresser (you can tell), workout even when they don't feel like it, actually control their chocolate intake and have very smart, sweet daughters.
I don't drive (though I am working on it), we live in a first floor flat, I don't have a lot of money, I didn't have such a defined career as they do and I have all sorts of issues. I'm an emotional ass person, my boys are utterly crazy, I try to make sure their Primark clothes don't have too many pasta sauce stains on them, I buy a lot of second hand stuff, our sofas still smell a little musty (second hand) but at least are a better replacement to the mattress we had on the floor! I snap at my husband sometimes, my husband clippers my short hair at home and box dyes it himself, I buy lots of snacks which are completely not home made or nutritious (blame being pregnant), I eat an obscene amount of ice cream at the moment, I consistently fail to force myself through workout DVDs at home and when I do, the downward dog position just brings me worryingly close to eye level with the dark red carpets (not our decision!) in our flat and all the stains on them. My boys are completely crazy and loud and I'm pretty sure out of the three of us mothers I am the only one who regularly uses snacks as bribery, came through to a toilet filled with tampons and has shouted at one of the kids then immediately burst into tears for being a terrible mother. Granted, until recently, they both had one child and I had two close together and as far as finances go, there is a pretty big age gap between us so they got a head start on me! Still, I have always wondered why they were friends with me. It didn't seem to make any sense. I see them as being so "together" and it seems like they have everything figured out and running smoothly.
I was telling my mum this and she told me of a friend she had when she had young kids. She was also living with a tight budget and had a young son. She met a woman who lived in a very affluent part of the neighborhood, who was about ten years older than her and well off. The woman was kind and a great friend and mum constantly questioned why she was friends with her, considering she was so "lowly" in comparison. Then she had an epiphany. She shared a secret with me that blew my mind and has since made me relax...
She was friends with my mum... because she enjoyed her company.
It's easy when you see yourself as the "lower end" friend to notice all the things which make you separate and equate them with reasons not to be friends with you. However, just as I am not friends with them because their children are well behaved, or their houses are nice or they have decent money, they are not going to be put off being friends with me because I don't have much money, live in a flat and my kids are like feral monkeys at times (also very sweet at times too I have to add). The age gap, wage gap, simply the gap in how good our hair is, has nothing to do with it for them. I always looked at them like the finest friends range and myself as a bit of a dented value range box. The fact of the matter is though, I see them for the kind people they are, people who are thoughtful, who make me smile, who support me in my journey as a mother, who unquestioningly accept my decisions in life which some people view as barmy. Quite simply, when I am around them, I feel good. At the same time, I like to think they know they can count on me. I'll always be there if they need me and I am happy to be here for a laugh, for a chat or to give them any level of practical support. I am even here to have a snot dripping cry with, however I somehow feel that if that ever happens it will be me in need of the tissue!
Thank goodness for good friends, for they make the world of difference in your life. Friendship is like slipping into a freshly made duvet, sipping a warm mug of hot chocolate whilst you hear the rain softly tapping against the window. It's a feeling of being enveloped in comfort and safety and it's something which is so valuable. It's very easy to question why people are friends with us, using things which don't even factor into our decisions to be friends with them. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves it's all so much simpler than that.
Sometimes people choose to be around each other... just because they like each other.