Having James in Lithuania, I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t have any mum friends with babies of similar age to James. There wasn’t an English-speaking NCT type class I could attend, and to begin with I didn’t know anyone else that was pregnant. However, I was soon introduced to a girl pregnant with her second, and due a month or so before me. I met up with her regularly and we would share how our pregnancies were going. She was great at helping to prepare me for everything from birth to coping with a newborn.
I also became a member of a UK Facebook group for mums with babies all being born around the same month. This was so helpful to me. Even though I was living in a different country I knew I would be moving back to the UK when James was 4 months old. This group has been so supportive, friendly, non judgemental and full of useful advice. Although I don’t post on it so much these days, I am still a member and know if I ever need advice on something there will be plenty of girls there to help.
Once James was born I responded to a message on a Vilnius Facebook group from a girl looking for someone else with a baby to go on walks with. This was another great friendship where we could share our experiences. We both had babies that weren’t great at sleeping so could easily relate to each other. We spent the winter of 2016 going on cold walks around Vilnius trying to get our little ones to both fall asleep at the same time, so we could go for lunch together and eat it in peace.
I was sad to leave the friends I had made in Vilnius, not just my new-found mum friends, but all of the friends I had there, that had supported me through my pregnancy and the first four months of having James. When you haven’t got your family nearby, your friends become your adoptive family.
Coming back to the UK was quite daunting, although one of my best friends also had a baby of similar age to James, so I knew I had another mum as a friend. She would go back to work at some point though so I was eager to make sure I had other mum friends. Two girls from the Facebook group I belong to live in Cheltenham, so I arranged to meet up with them and attended Baby, Bounce and Rhyme at the local library. This made the transition slightly easier, knowing that there would be other mum friends already in place for me.
I also downloaded the app Mush, which I would describe as a bit like a dating app for mums to meet other mums. It’s great because you can find mums in your area, see how old their babies are and what interests they have. Sometimes it can be hard to strike up conversations at baby groups, so Mush was perfect. I met a wonderful friend on Mush, with a little boy 3 days younger than James. She lives close to me and we end up chatting most days. Our boys are very different but we go through lots of similar issues and are always there to support each other.
When James was younger it was harder to talk to other mums at groups because he would cling to me so much and need more attention. Now he is older I am able to talk to more people and make new friends as he happily goes off and plays. I frequently meet people I haven’t seen in years, and now they have children too. Sometimes going to these groups can be a bit like a school reunion. I’ve also made some fantastic new friends and have really enjoyed talking to them and learning about their experiences with their little ones.
Living abroad definitely taught me to be more sociable, helping me to be more confident and enabling me to make new friends. I formed strong friendships in a short period of time and found it fascinating hearing about these people’s different experiences. This has definitely helped me make new friends. We are lucky that these days there are lots of ways to make friends, whether it be online or face to face. I love my mum friends and they really make a difference to life when you are bringing up a toddler.