Baby groups make me feel intensely uncomfortable. Mummies. The Babies. Even troublesome toddlers. I love them all (mainly). Just not if there are too many squidged into a small village hall.
I’ve struggled to understand why I can’t get to grips with these gatherings. I’ve tried (with questionable conviction admittedly) but I just have zero motivation to get involved in my local mummy circles.
It’s not that I can’t see their attraction. The sanity saving merit of mummy camaraderie. I get it. A forum that invites you to indulge your desire to compare sleep deprivation, moan about the inadequacies of health visitors and debate purée versus baby led weaning. Sign me up. A place where you get a cuppa and a biscuit for less than two English pounds. What is there not to like? What about the inevitable trap of becoming someone’s mummy rather than an individual with a name? That doesn’t even bother me. In fact the anonymity is appealing. Because what two and a half years of being a mummy has taught me is my problem with these groups is my mummy identity. Or lack of one.
Although I’m confident that I’m a great mum to my girls, I’m less self assured when it comes to my role in these circles. It’s not that I don’t have mummy friends – since having Poppy and Milly I’ve made some great relationships with a handful of lovely ladies with similar aged offspring – I just prefer to see them one on one. Or two on one. Any more than that and I start to flounder.
Yes, put put me in a room with a gaggle of mummies and their dribbly accomplices and suddenly I become uncharacteristically self-conscious. A little like teenage me. The me before I came out of my shell and shrugged off the shyness that plagued me as an early teen. Except this isn’t about shyness (I’ve well and truly given that up), I just find I don’t know what to say. I know, not like me at all.
There was a Huffington Post article doing the rounds recently setting out the 11 types of mum you meet at a baby group. There are mummy types I aspire to be. Others I fear people may think are me. But none that are REALLY me. And this emphasised my problem with baby groups. I never feel like I fit in. I flounder because I don’t have a role and fear being incorrectly labelled or shoe-horned into the wrong mummy box.
Offer up some pearls of parenting wisdom (however well-meaning) and risk a reputation as the ‘know-it-all one’. Chipping in with an amusing anecdote from Poppy’s widening vocabulary could easily be misinterpreted as a brag leaving me brandished as the ‘competitive one’. Does an admission that you really needed a glass of wine at the end of a tough day recently make you ‘the lush’? Eek.
But deep down my biggest problem with baby groups is I don’t want to fit in. Or stand out. Because if the truth be known, I don’t really want to be there at all. So as result I just spend my time at these social sessions trying to be anonymous. I find myself offering to oversee the kids causing mayhem in the ballpit or latching on to the lone dad braving the group who looks equally uncomfortable as me, thus completely defeating the object of these gatherings. It just doesn’t work for me. And you know what? This is totally fine and acceptable. It doesn’t make me a bad mum and it doesn’t make me a bad person. It’s just taken me a while to realise this.