If, for whatever reason, I found myself in need of a new mum friend tomorrow I would probably follow the oft-repeated advice in parenting magazines to look for other mums “in the same boat”, so that we would be able to understand and sympathise with each other, to speak the same language and wear the same uniform (sailor-suitable Breton stripes naturally).
The various vessels I drift around in include the “stay at home mum” boat, the “husband works away” boat and the (particularly noisy) “mum of boys” boat. So my new friend should be another non working, sometimes solo, creator of mini men. By that measure Helen, my friend and fellow founder of Little Bubba Boxes, would not be an ideal match and I should probably swipe left and keep looking…..yet Helen is the very best sort of mum friend and in doing so I would be massively missing out.
We are only mum friends because, having been good chums since meeting as colleagues in the early noughties, we happened to have our first babies just eight months apart. Helen has one gorgeous girl to my two beautiful boys, a responsible full time job to my stay at home role and her other half doesn't work away in the week but he does work long unpredictable hours including weekends.
The differences extend beyond our situations to our experiences of parenthood too. One of us revelled in the teeny weeny newborn stage, the other started to relax and enjoy things once those fragile first few weeks had passed. We both successfully breastfed but when it came to expressing one of us sat pathetically pumping for hours to get two measly ounces and the other had surplus supplies that could stock a chest freezer.
The differences don't matter though. That is not to say we don't notice them but that they they are largely irrelevant, in the case of our friendship wholly irrelevant. We would never ever judge one another’s choices because as friends for many years we know that in reality there was very little choice involved and that circumstances and random chance have played a bigger part. Occasionally one of us feels that the other is standing on a patch of grass a brighter shade of green but because we see one another's other's lives close up we see the difficulties we each face too and know that at the end of the day it's just bloody hard work whichever ship you’re sailing.
What our differences do offer is an alternative perspective and useful sense check. We can, and often do, ask: “Do you think she’s acting like this because i’m at work all day?”, “Do you think this has started because they're missing their Dad?”, “Do you think it's because she's on her own?”, “Do you think they're just doing that weird thing because they're boys?” and the reassuring response is usually “NO they are all sometimes difficult/confusing/demanding/weird”.
They are also all brilliant and bonkers and adorable and all-consuming. The utter exasperation and sheer joy we derive from our offspring at the extreme ends of the parenting experience is universal. Boys, girls, one, two, stay-at-home, out-at-work …..it's all extremely hard andincredibly wonderful all at once and we’re all just trying to steer our ship and stay on course as best we can.
We are all in the same boat after all. So we’d better hope it's a big boat with everything we need. A luxury liner with life rafts, kids club and a well stocked gin bar…...