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Let’s Talk About Lonely

1
When I was on mat leave I became mates with the guy behind the till in Aldi. Well, as good a friend as you can be without knowing someone’s name. And that was for two reasons. Firstly, we were in there every day.  And secondly, whilst off work I became a chit-chatter; a small-talker; a purveyor of “isn’t it hotter than the surface of the sun/colder than the Tundra” (delete as appropriate) bants. I would sidle, nay, scuttle up to other mums in the park, like a hopeful crab, prepared to coo at length at their little ones. I did this in
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supermarkets, coffee shops, everywhere (except on the tube, I drew the line there, I didn’t want to get shanked).

 

Before Bella I wouldn’t talk to a stranger, I wouldn’t even make eye contact, this is LONDON and I am BRITISH after all. But that all changed on mat leave because as well as being one of the best years of my life it was simultaneously one of the most lonely. Suddenly I would talk to anyone, ANYONE, just to hear my own voice. I was used to spending twelve hours a day with other adults, dashing all over London like some kind

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of human pinball. Then overnight all of that stopped and a tiny baby whose only words were “dada” (traitor) and “mama” (punches air) became my constant companion. There were days when my voice went all Mariella-Frostrup-on-40-fags-a-day because I hadn’t spoken actual sentences in hours.

 

And  I think this is worse in London, where your friends are scattered far and wide by the time you get to your mid-late 30s (OK, late). Gone are the flat share days when your besties all lived but a room away; the days of five bottles of pink wine

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on the Ikea sofa before you even leave the house and of guessing if someone has got lucky because there are MEN’S SHOES by the door in the morning. Now my best mates all live in every far-flung corner of London that’s not SW17.

 

So mat leave life was solitary at times. Many a moment was spent trudging round Tooting Common staring at groups of people frolicking with gay abandon and wishing I was one of them. And it was difficult without my normal support group, especially when you think about the monumental changes your body and your mind

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go through having a new baby, and how you need mates there to help orientate your sense of self as everything else shifts. Add into that heady emotional cocktail a regular dose of confidence crisis. Some days I worried whether I was doing ANYTHING right (the days of brushing my own teeth with Sudacrem as Bella cluster-fed like a rabid terrier) which meant I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone for fear of being judged heartily incompetent.

 

However I was saved from becoming a full time street-mutterer by the gorgeous ladies I met through

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6
NCT. We joke that we are the best mates we have ever bought. The course itself served to scare the bejesus out of both Phil and I, specifically with the graphic vertical diagram of the baby coming out of the uterus.  But more than that it gave me friends who have been there day and night for fifteen months. Having mates who are going through EXACTLY the same things at EXACTLY the same time and who live within ten minutes was invaluable. Who else could you text at 1am, 2am, 4am, with WHY IS HER POO GREEN, sometimes complete with photos? We have met up
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also pretty much every week, taking us from inhaling vats of caffeine with our drooling newborns, to chasing our rampant snot-ridden toddlers round fetid soft play areas.

 

Now, as I re-integrate into work, a big part of me still misses mat leave, despite the loneliness. And I must say a massive thank you to my NCT friends for saving me, or as they have now become, just friends. And of course the guy behind the till in Aldi. Maybe tomorrow I might even ask his name.

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Lindsey Jordan

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- 10 Feb 19

When I was on mat leave I became mates with the guy behind the till in Aldi. Well, as good a friend as you can be without knowing someone’s name. And that was for two reasons. Firstly, we were in there every day.  And secondly, whilst off work I became a chit-chatter; a small-talker; a purveyor of “isn’t it hotter than the surface of the sun/colder than the Tundra” (delete as appropriate) bants. I would sidle, nay, scuttle up to other mums in the park, like a hopeful crab, prepared to coo at length at their little ones. I did this in supermarkets, coffee shops, everywhere (except on the tube, I drew the line there, I didn’t want to get shanked).

 

Before Bella I wouldn’t talk to a stranger, I wouldn’t even make eye contact, this is LONDON and I am BRITISH after all. But that all changed on mat leave because as well as being one of the best years of my life it was simultaneously one of the most lonely. Suddenly I would talk to anyone, ANYONE, just to hear my own voice. I was used to spending twelve hours a day with other adults, dashing all over London like some kind of human pinball. Then overnight all of that stopped and a tiny baby whose only words were “dada” (traitor) and “mama” (punches air) became my constant companion. There were days when my voice went all Mariella-Frostrup-on-40-fags-a-day because I hadn’t spoken actual sentences in hours.

 

And  I think this is worse in London, where your friends are scattered far and wide by the time you get to your mid-late 30s (OK, late). Gone are the flat share days when your besties all lived but a room away; the days of five bottles of pink wine on the Ikea sofa before you even leave the house and of guessing if someone has got lucky because there are MEN’S SHOES by the door in the morning. Now my best mates all live in every far-flung corner of London that’s not SW17.

 

So mat leave life was solitary at times. Many a moment was spent trudging round Tooting Common staring at groups of people frolicking with gay abandon and wishing I was one of them. And it was difficult without my normal support group, especially when you think about the monumental changes your body and your mind go through having a new baby, and how you need mates there to help orientate your sense of self as everything else shifts. Add into that heady emotional cocktail a regular dose of confidence crisis. Some days I worried whether I was doing ANYTHING right (the days of brushing my own teeth with Sudacrem as Bella cluster-fed like a rabid terrier) which meant I didn’t feel like I could talk to anyone for fear of being judged heartily incompetent.

 

However I was saved from becoming a full time street-mutterer by the gorgeous ladies I met through NCT. We joke that we are the best mates we have ever bought. The course itself served to scare the bejesus out of both Phil and I, specifically with the graphic vertical diagram of the baby coming out of the uterus.  But more than that it gave me friends who have been there day and night for fifteen months. Having mates who are going through EXACTLY the same things at EXACTLY the same time and who live within ten minutes was invaluable. Who else could you text at 1am, 2am, 4am, with WHY IS HER POO GREEN, sometimes complete with photos? We have met up also pretty much every week, taking us from inhaling vats of caffeine with our drooling newborns, to chasing our rampant snot-ridden toddlers round fetid soft play areas.

 

Now, as I re-integrate into work, a big part of me still misses mat leave, despite the loneliness. And I must say a massive thank you to my NCT friends for saving me, or as they have now become, just friends. And of course the guy behind the till in Aldi. Maybe tomorrow I might even ask his name.

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