Have you ever been to a playgroup and tried to strike up a conversation with someone? Anyone, in the hopes of talking with another adult for an hour of the day? It’s hard, let me tell you. It can be brutal.
Trying to worm your way into an established group of Mum’s, all sat with one t*t out, babe attached, is like a scene from Mean Girls. It’s savage.
I have attempted it, and hated it, every single time. Not the playgroup itself, the playing part is fine and I love to see my babies playing with others but the adult part makes me cringe. I’m too shy to make a grand introduction. Instead I go for the ‘quiet lurk at the edge of the pack’, approach, having fleeting conversations but never gaining entrance into the inner circle.
Luckily, I have friends and do not rely on those interactions, they are just something to do for an hour. But not everybody feels the same. There are those parents out there who have nobody and desperately need a bit of adult company but get shunned every time. My heart breaks for them. Parenting can be hard enough without suffering from crippling loneliness and feeling like the playground reject.
That is why I recently started a new (ad)venture, The Manc Mums. A club for Mum’s and their small ones. It’s not a playgroup. There are always toys for the little ones, but the emphasis is on Mum’s getting an hour or two of companionship, airing some stresses and taking a breath. I attend every meet up to make introductions, get people talking, help out with the little ones (so Mum can enjoy a cuppa), and ensure that nobody is sat alone, feeling unwanted and foolish.
The Manc Mums meet two mornings a month, with a night out (‘Free The Mutha’) every three months at the moment (while I’m finding my feet with it and balancing life with a 1 & 3 year old) but as time goes on that may increase if the need is there. So far, the mornings are going great and it is so nice to see these gorgeous girls turning up and meeting new people, potentially making good friends. It is so good to be able to talk without running after a baby/toddler, because they are in a safe and chaos free environment for a change.
Our first night out, two weeks ago, was a huge success. I worried for days beforehand about playing hostess and keeping people chatting – I’m awful at idle chat. I worried too that nobody would turn up and I’d be sat there looking like someone whose date stood them up. When I daydreamed this scenario, it was of course in black and white, and I looked like Miss Havisham from Great Expectations. Not that I have an overactive imagination, you understand.
I shouldn’t have wasted time fretting. People came. Around 15 Mum’s in total. Nearly all strangers. I sat by the door to make sure I was the first face people saw when they arrived and made introductions so that everybody felt comfortable. It was very brave for me (I’m socially awkward and my stomach was doing sommersaults) but it was totally worth it. The conversations didn’t stop until we finally got kicked out at closing time. Any onlooker would have thought we were a group of close friends, not strangers doing a bit of Mum-Mating.
It was the bit of breathing space we all needed, I think. I know I certainly did. It’s great to remember that not only are you a parent, but an adult who likes doing adult things too. And by ‘adult things’, I mean getting drunk like a 19 year old again. Not paying the mortgage or picking out funeral plans and pensions, that’s just what I like to call ‘doing life stuff’.
It is my hope that over the next 12 months, The Manc Mums will reach as many parents in the region as possible. There’s no need for loneliness on my watch, just come and hang with us. There are no mean girls here, just friendly faces. It’s the first rule of The Manc Mums and one that will never change.
The second rule is be brave, because you never know what might happen if you take a chance. My life has certainly improved since I started to build this awesome little community and it gives me great satisfaction to know that it is helping others.
The third rule is what happens on our ‘Free The Mutha’ nights out, stays on the night out.
That’s it. That’s really all there is to being part of our gang. Just say hi. You won’t regret it, I promise.
My name is Ella, you’re always welcome to come and sit with us.
Grab a seat.