There are many surprising things about becoming a new dad and, as Luke Edwards is discovering, a whole new friendship group is one of the unexpected bonuses. And they’ll even laugh at your poonami jokes.
It turns out babies don’t arrive in your life alone. And that’s a very good thing. We thought our little addition to the household was a solo act – but babies bring with them the potential for a lot more newcomers.
I’m talking about parent friends. Not the type you imagine making while standing around at the school gates. These friends are more like those made by men at war, forming lifetime bonds with their comrades in arms. Except with less violence and more gore of the human waste variety.
These are people also going through the life-warping experience of new parenthood. They come in many forms, like friends due around the same time, of which there can be a surprising number. But then there are those you meet in the build-up at groups like NCT antenatal classes, which is where our new network formed. It’s amazing how quickly you can get close to new people when you’re all going through the same – well – trauma.
Can I be your friend, please?
The hardest part is the first meeting where you make these new friends. We turned up to an NCT class to learn about pregnancy, birth and child rearing along with others all due at roughly the same time. It was awkward. We sat in a circle introducing ourselves and saying something about us. I could feel my heart racing faster and faster as it came around to my turn to talk. I genuinely wanted to run out. I’m glad I didn’t. It only got better. I ended up actually having a laugh in the classes, and during one mums-only class the dads came along anyway and went to the pub for a beery bonding session. No complaints, then.
We left as a unit with a WhatsApp group for the mums and another for the dads that have armed us for the experiences that are to follow. While us dads get to send puerile poop jokes, plan pub meet-ups and dish out laughable problem stories, masking our real pains, the mum’s messages are more open.
My wife’s WhatsApp group has proved invaluable. These mums have all shared their birth stories, exchanged messages late at night when awake with a crying baby or dealt out tips on surviving issues such as breastfeeding troubles and baby illness.
All this seems to make the mums feel less alone when travelling this new path, which can sometimes feel scary when taken solo. I say solo, it’s as a couple, but when you’re both lost you might as well be called alone.
Another positive of these new parent friends is we’re all local. So for the mums, who are now off work full-time, they meet up regularly. This is ideal for getting out of the house, sharing their stories and generally changing the scene. My wife comes back from their walks /coffees/wine meetings with a new energy. It’s like a restart button for the weary.
"...us dads get to send puerile poop jokes, plan pub meet-ups and dish out laughable problem stories, masking our real pains, the mum’s messages are more open."
It’s just like the prehistoric era
Psychologists theorise that women have better communication and empathy skills developed from humanity’s cave-dwelling past. The men would go off to hunt while the women stayed behind to look after their young. They would need to get along and even pool resources to survive. Even nowadays, when my wife and new-mum-mates are at a coffee meet-up, they’ll look after each other’s babies so toilet breaks aren’t such a rigmarole. OK, not quite a survival skill then. They also emotionally prop each other up when one has had a worse night’s sleep than the others. The result is a supported group that can take on motherhood with more confidence knowing they have back-up.
If nothing else, these groups give us parents a place to vent baby pics – leaving our social network feeds and mate’s phones free from all the baby photos that need to be sent somewhere. Got a funny story about your baby you just have to tell? Send it to your parent pals and get a genuine response, as opposed to sending to mates whose eyes glaze over as they search for the appropriate standard response to another gushing parent.
Entering parenthood is taking steps into a new world. That could be a scary thing. But going with others makes it exciting instead. Of all the parenting advice we got, very few people told us to make new-parent pals. It’s invaluable, so get out of your comfort zone and start welcoming your new extended family.
Luke Edwards is a writer who specialises in technology, he’s looking forward to buying his new daughter lots of gadgets.