Attachment, helicopter, free range, authoritarian… what tribe of parenting do you belong to? Oh no,
wait a minute – this isn’t one of those blog posts at all. Sorry.
There are plenty of them about though, if that’s what you’re after; article after article about
parenting styles and how to identify your tribe. The more time I spend being a mum, the more
baffling I find it that there is this need in some quarters to categorise all parents; to divide us (and
conquer?) into opposing factions. Surely we’re all just muddling through, aren’t we? I certainly don’t
look at the parents I see around me and start putting them into subgroups. I’m too busy trying to
recruit more Mum Friends.
There’s something particular about the bond you make with Mum Friends. It’s all a bit Blitz spirit –
when our kids are throwing themselves at the floor and screaming blue murder, mushing Weetabix
into the curtains and drawing on the dog, there’s another Mum Friend who knows what its like;
we’re all in it together. On those days when the clock has finally, agonisingly, dragged itself to 5 clock and
you can’t wait any longer to open the wine, Mum Friends don’t judge, they pass the glasses.
A while ago, I read this article, mocking the “parenting style” trend and listing 10 new fictional ones
– except one of them in particular seemed very real to me. I recognised capybara parenting right
away; chilled-out, non-judgemental mums hanging out together in groups so that the one with the
most energy at any given moment can take the lead on looking after the kids. This principle is at
the very core of my local group of Mum Friends. I literally could not survive without these women.
We met on the edge of a swimming pool, round and awkward in our maternity tankinis, waiting for
our first aquanatal class to start. We were all teachers, all with similar due dates – we swapped
numbers almost immediately. We meet as often as we can to drink tea and try to make each
others’ lives easier by taking it in turns to make sure the kids aren’t doing anything too death-
defying. And when we’re all having One of Those Days at the same time, we’ve got a plan for that,
too – we’ve been known to kick all the children out into the garden whilst we hide at the table,
devouring a whole cake in record time before any of them see it.
These women are magnificent. They have fed my child, cuddled him when he’s been sad, played
with him and given him his first ever friendship group. And they have been there for me too. When I
was moving house and a friend with a van was unexpectedly taken ill so could no longer help, they
turned up en masse with their husbands, invaded my house, grabbed a piece of furniture each and
carried it on foot through the streets to my new home. They filled my empty living room with
happiness and made me feel like everything was going to be ok (and it was).
The thing about my Mum Friends is that we don’t all have to follow the same parenting “rules” to be
able to support one another. Some of us breastfed, some of us formula fed. Some of us co-slept,
some of us couldn’t imagine anything worse. We had different approaches to weaning. All our
children had different attitudes to naps. And absolutely none of this has ever mattered. I’ve never
felt judged by them for any of my choices. Our friendship is a safe space where we can say “wow,
this is really hard and today is awful”, and support will be there; we can also share the amazing
things and the milestones and the pride, knowing that these are people who will be happy with us.
Who doesn’t need more people like this in their life?
I love being a mum, but my god, sometimes it can be lonely. When the only conversations you’ve had all
day have revolved around Batman, poo and what happened at nursery, the need for other adults is
strong. I couldn’t do this without Mum Friends. So no, I don’t care what anyone’s “parenting style”
is, as long as that style is characterised by loving your children, doing what you think is right, and
supporting other parents through this frankly massively bewildering time. All are welcome in my
Mum Friend tribe. Now, it’s 5pm; get the corkscrew, will you?