DISCLAIMER: Caroline Corcoran would like to make it clear that she has never once snogged a new mum friend at a bus stop...
The other day, I was sat in a cafe with someone I barely knew, trying to balance being an interesting and funny human with eating a large cake and wheeling out one of my top five stories (the time I had dinner with Peter Stringfellow. Tweet me; I’ll tell you all about it) when it hit me. This was like a date! This was so like a date! Except it was actually a coffee with a new mum friend and wasn’t in any way a date. But here’s what the two things have in common...
1. You try and mix it up but just end up in the pub
Let’s all go to the zoo! How about we try buggy fit? Has anyone booked onto the baby pilates with the meditation section at the end and oh my god are the dates out for baby sensory yet? Then, about six months in, someone will crack on the WhatsApp group and utter these magic words: ‘How about we wait until the babies are in bed and go to the pub?’ YES! MY PEOPLE! And normal life has resumed.
2. You love it when you get the next-day text
She probably won’t message, she’s clearly got loads of other mum friends on the go, she did mention that one girl from antenatal class who’s an actress and sounded way cooler than you etc etc and then: she messages and you wouldn’t say it was butterflies exactly but - oh sod it, it was butterflies.
3. Sometimes, through no fault of anyone’s, it’s just not there
You meet, you order the obligatory coffee, you make what is now acceptable small talk about the colour of poo and the texture of your nipple but then you go in with some non-baby chat (last night’s Love Island, as an example that is in no way my own personal favourite and just one I plucked at random) and it just sort of... dies. Like dating, you aren’t going to click with everyone so don’t worry about it. And file them under ‘at least in this instance I don’t have to swerve an awkward goodbye snog from a man who drinks Malibu and coke unironically’.
4. You’ll even wear a fancy top
Maternity leave is joyous in many, many ways but a fashion pinnacle it is not. There was a high point for me, sure, when I heard leggings had come back but then it turned out my slightly baggy H&M basics weren’t exactly the kind of thing Sunday Times Style was referencing so that was the end of that. Anyway the point is that you will look for any excuse to wheel out something decent and meeting up with a mum friend is a cracking excuse. You’ll stand in front of that mirror slicking that lipstick on and parting ways with the leggings and feel a tiny bit like that old you that used to go on dates.
5. At the beginning, you’ll spend a fortune
When dating, large amounts of cash will go on back-to-back Tom Collins’ at pop-ups and fancy meals at that new Thai place on the high street. With mum friends, you’ll drain your maternity pay on an inordinate amount of hot drinks and enough sugar to mean you can still hold a reasonable conversation at 3pm, thus funding your local coffee shop which is the reason the owner pretends he doesn’t mind helping you with the pram every bloody time.
6. In the early days, you get a little obsessive
“Emily is so funny, she just said the funniest thing, she is HILARIOUS,” is a sentence I may have uttered a few times in the early days of maternity leave about a new mate of mine in much the same blinkered way I would have talked about a new man back in the now very distant dating days. Rose-tinted glasses plus heavy sleep deprivation are a powerful, heady combination.
7. Sometimes you’ll forget who you said what to
Maternity leave is a classic time for this because a. You are shattered and b. Your days are filled with new people, all of whom you’re trying to make a connection with. It’s the reason I was never good at the whole multiple dating thing because I was always worried I would end up repeating my stories to people who had already heard them. Now, did I tell you about the time I had dinner with Peter Stringfellow?
8. Every now and again, things will go wrong and you’ll end up with sick down your front
Sure, the scenario is different - you get nervous, skip dinner and neck too much Pinot Grigio/ your enthusiastic post-milk bouncing ends in a projectile baby vomit but the end result is the same: swift exit, 60 degree wash, an effusive apology text.