The other day I was dropping Emma off at nursery and I noticed that a few of the parents in Emma’s class all seemed to know each other quite well. It started to upset me more than I expected as the day went on. Why hadn’t I met another mum at Emma’s nursery? Am I not friendly enough? Or maybe it’s on account of the fact that on some days, I really do look like I’ve clambered out of bed minutes before we leave the house.
It’s only recently that I’ve started to worry about this. Life has been so busy fitting it all in, and my biggest priority was always that Emma was happy at nursery. She absolutely loves it there and I’m so lucky to say that it is like a second home to her. Every time we drive past it over the weekend, she will get all excited to see it. She also chats away to me about the friends she has made at nursery. It seems to be a little group of four girls, who she always mentions. When I ask her at the end of the day, what was her favourite thing today, it’s always seeing these friends.
On that morning, as I watched other parents chat away like they’d known each other for years, I suddenly felt myself thrown into a similar whirlwind of self-doubt and angst as when Emma was two days old. Is it normal that I don’t know anyone? Am I doing okay? Is it weird that I’ve never had the opportunity to bump into them and strike up a conversation? How would I even go about meeting them? I know Emma would love to see her friends outside of nursery – perhaps I’m not doing enough for her to get to know them better. I always imagined it would happen organically but maybe I’ve misjudged it.
So we’ve entered a new stage in the parenthood ride: meeting other parents at the nursery stairgate. I’ve got to admit: I’m not great at this. At baby and toddler groups, I always used to focus on Emma a bit more because of the social awkwardness I feel at not knowing what to say to other mums. “How old is yours?” only gets you so far in the conversation. Plus I know deep down that I’m not the kind of girl who is great company from the get go, but after a bit of effort and time, I’m actually alright. While you wait for her to arrive, you can have an awkward joke and nervous laughter!
I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone, and that’s okay. I’m so thankful to have the support network of girls I met when I was pregnant and while I was worrying about this, I shared with one of them my concerns. I’m usually too proud to do this, even though I know that’s to my detriment. She told me that she feels it too sometimes and I sighed a breath of relief that it’s not just me who feels this odd pressure to fit in. If anything, it’s also a reminder that we’re going through this together and to admit you’re struggling is absolutely fine.
It’s more than fine. Struggling is not confined to when you have a newborn baby in your arms and everything is new. This is something I forget every day. Even though my days with Emma are largely like Groundhog Day…woken up at the same time, bum shuffling down the stairs shortly after, turning on the TV on just in time to see the 6:45am episode of Baby Jake. Just because the days are filled with such similarity, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be thrown off course. It doesn’t mean that you won’t suddenly notice something that questions how you’re doing as a parent. The crazy thing is, that sometimes we’re struggling together and only by being brave to say “this is making me feel like I’m not doing enough”, do we see that, actually, we’re not alone after all.