Hey Mums, We Can Do Things Differently & Still Be Friends

When I became a mum, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. Sure, there were the normal surprises, like exactly how many nappies a newborn can go through in a day or how little sleep is actually required to be able to function as the caretaker for a tiny human life. I learned pretty quickly that this whole motherhood thing was going to be a wild ride, so I buckled my seatbelt and got to learning what worked for us. But one of the most surprising things about having a mini is the expectation from mums around you to subscribe to a specific parenting style and be part of that “tribe.” And to tell you straight? I think the whole thing is kind of stupid.

Never in my life have I inhabited a role that is so polarised within its own group. In high school, I was into fashion and boys but spent my weekends babysitting and volunteering. My best friend was in the band and there were no “set” friendship groups. There were kids who were cooler and kids who were dorkier, and a lot of them (like me) just floated. But the small divisions I saw in high school, that I thought would be the last ones I’d ever experience, were just the beginning.

At uni I was a dancer, a feminist and a scholar. On any given night I was just as likely to be spotted hanging with the hippies as I was the sporty types. We learned from each other. Not everyone got along, but there was a blanket understanding that we were unified. My first few years living paycheck-to-paycheck were similar; I was in magazine publishing and my friends all did different things. We didn’t need to have a ton in common other than respect for each other and a love of good times. Surely, this was what my social life in adulthood would be like, right?

Wrong. After a blissful few years navigating office politics and marrying a great man, I got pregnant. And from the moment we breathed a word of the baby-to-be’s existence when she was still just a tiny dot inside of me, I was being branded — and apparently my choices would define my group of friends.

Would I be a breastfeeding, “natural mama?” (If so, it seemed, I’d be cool enough to hang out with my neighbours). Would we be co-sleeping or putting her in a cot? (People on either side of this one felt so strongly about their beliefs, I was shocked they could even stand in the same room together). It went on and on and on. I knew that everyone was mostly just excited that we were expecting a baby, but I couldn’t ignore the feeling that everything I did was being watched.

Of course, as any modern mama knows, it only gets worse once they’re out. I’ve sadly lost friendships over the most irritating disagreements — like the woman who thinks I shouldn’t post photos of my daughter on social media. And after one heated debate with a former friend who is against immunisation, I cried when reading her post script the next morning about the poison I’m willing to have injected in my child. I stand firm in my own convictions, but I couldn’t believe these women I thought were my friends could be so mean and judgmental when it came to my decisions as a mum.

But wherever you come down on the immunisation debate, which is a pretty heated one, this goes so much deeper than that. It’s about discipline styles and food choices. It’s about Pinterest-worthy spreads at play dates or being too cool to care. It’s about every single choice you make as a parent and the fact that someone is looking at you and thinking, “We could never be friends.”

It’s taken me a while to form new friendships with mums who get me, but the coolest part about every single one of them is how different we are from each other. I breastfed my daughter until she was 18 months old, though it was never really my plan to do so. One of my closest friends is all bottle, all the way, and proud of it. Some of them work and some don’t. Some of us are highly organised and others let the chaos swell around them while they make memories in the backyard. Whatever! Attachment, free range? I don’t care what you call yourself. You’re a mum and you’re nice? That’s pretty much all I need to know.

And yet, I see them lining up, grouping up, shutting others out. It happens at the baby yoga classes I had to stop going to because the stress of the cliques wasn’t worth the high fee to be there. It happens at birthday parties when two mums roll their eyes in a corner as a third mum is letting her child have more sugar than they think he should have. It happens at the playground when any one of these stupid mum-rules is ignored by another parent, or when one isn’t.

But you know what? All of these “tribes” of motherhood are just so ridiculous. I’m over it. Can‘t we all just get along? Stop rolling our eyes, judging? I have news for the mums who think everyone can only be friends with their own “kind.” My mum friends and I don’t necessarily agree on everything and some of us don’t do anything similarly at all. But this doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends, hang out together, and listen to each other. At the end of the day, that’s all any of us really need anyway. I say put your parenting style aside and just say hello. Believe me, it would do us all some good.

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