29 June 2017

Mummy groups aren't for me

I'm one of those awkward people who is difficult to become friends with. I've always been this way, throughout my entire education from primary school through to University, in jobs and workplaces; I'm just not the most approachable person. I have a small number of friends who I value tremendously, but having had some very turbulent friendships in the past and always being the friend that gets let down, I find it hard to let people come into my life. 

When I found out I was pregnant and had a million leaflets thrust at me by health professionals about antenatal classes and baby groups, I panicked. Did I have to go to these groups and make mummy friends? Because I'll be honest, mummy groups really aren't for me.

Local mummy and baby groups


We were encouraged to join NCT and attend their antenatal classes, but the idea of spending hours with people I didn't know and the only common interest we had is that we were expectant parents, didn't entice me to spend an extortionate amount on the course. We were told there would be free antenatal classes available to us at our hospital, which seemed less personal and less of a way to force us into making friendships, but they never came to fruition (lack of funding)

We did attend a breastfeeding workshop run by a local group of volunteers, who I found very approachable as an organisation, but other parents on the night we attended were already in their 'friendship groups' and there wasn't much room for trying to talk to anyone.

When Willow was born we were given even more information about local baby groups and were lucky enough to, at the time, live right near our local Sure Start Centre who had a whole list of baby and toddler groups advertised. We made an effort to go along, only to find out funding had been cut and every single group had been cancelled - the only baby and toddler groups available in our town were now at the other end of our town, and as non-drivers, these groups weren't realistic for us. 

I decided to turn to Google, searching out any local groups that weren't Government funded and found quite a few were available in our town centre; all held at churches and with a lot of focus on religion and becoming part of the church. As an atheist, this completely ruled those groups out for me; I have no issue with any faith/religion, but I wasn't prepared to fake an interest just so Willow could play with some toys. 

Then we moved to another part of our town and our local community centre informed me they held 'Stay and Play' groups, so we went along to one of the sessions, but with Willow only being 7 months old at the time and not very mobile (she didn't start crawling until around 9 months), these groups were better for older babies and toddlers, in fact, there were only toddlers above the age of 18 months there. This is a group I'd like to return to, but have found that they are never guaranteed, and often you can turn up and find out after making the trip there, that the group isn't on that week after all.

Sometimes I worry, that by not going to baby and toddler groups, I am doing Willow a disservice; she doesn't attend nursery and is home with me every day. Although we do go out, we have fun days out at farm parks and local Countryside beauty spots, we have playdates with friends at ours or theirs, days out at the park, she attends weekly swimming lessons and of course, all the boring things like taking her shopping with me, whenever I see pictures of babies at baby groups? I worry that I'm not being a good mum, by not taking her to any groups myself. 

Does it make me a bad mum?

Then I see her, interacting with other people, with other babies and children, adults of all ages, you name it. No matter what age or gender, she adores being around people. She'll talk to them, tickle them, play with them, she'll sit down for people to read her books - even complete strangers who are visiting for the first time, she just loves people. She'll share any of her toys with babies and children of all ages, and she's so eager for them to play and engage with her. To be honest, she spends most of her time around other people in fits of utterly hysterical laughter, it's like being around people gives her this intense happiness. 

Even when she's not directly engaging with another person, say when we're out shopping or strolling around on a day out, we have complete strangers approach us and say what an absolute delight she is. How happy and smiley she is, how well behaved she is and what a 'good little girl' she is. On holiday we had families come up to us and say how nice it was to see a baby being so happy and enjoying themselves and when we go out for meals we have people at tables all around us giggling away at her as she beams with happiness and chats away. She is a very happy baby toddler is our Willow, she's always smiling and giggling and talking away.

So I wonder, am I really a bad mama for not liking mummy groups? People (that coincidently, go to baby groups several times a week) tell me it'll negatively affect Willow's social skills and development - yet she seems to be doing perfectly fine to me. She is walking and talking and playing and learning and developing every single day, and her interaction with others is far above anything I imagined for our little girl.  Maybe we'll give baby groups ago again when she's older, but for now, I'm happy to have our days out and adventures at home. 

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