Those first few trips out of the house with my baby, just me and him, when my husband had gone back to work, will stay with me forever.
It’s nearly two and a half years ago now, but I remember walking with the pram to meet some friends for lunch, feeling like I was nailing this whole new mum thing, and then being crippled by fear when I realised an underpass involving steep steps separated me from the café we were meeting in (in the end my best friend – a mum of two, so a total pro who’d travelled across London to see me with her own newborn strapped to her – bounded through and grabbed the other end of the pram, because I wasn’t quite ready to ask a stranger for help).
And there was the fact that my little boy was born in a heatwave, and the pram hood didn’t quite keep the sun out of his face, so a short walk to Tesco Express two minutes from our house involved me crossing the road multiple times to keep him as shaded as possible.
The time I manoeuvred him into the sling for what should’ve been a simple ten minute stroll to the breastfeeding support group, but took more like half an hour because his silly little baby socks kept slipping off his tiny feet, so I kept having to go back to retrieve them.
Getting on the train to go one stop to sort out his birth certificate at the registry office, and freaking out about the gap between the train and platform, the gap I’d never really noticed during years of commuting.
Going to the big supermarket, and feeling proud that I’d mastered the car seat by myself, but then panicking because I had no idea which trolley I was supposed to use.
Within a few weeks, I realised that I was much happier out of the house, so any brief logistical stress was worth it to avoid feeling isolated and to stop the days from dragging quite so much. Soon, regular trips to baby cinema, meet-ups with other friends on maternity leave and various bits of baby admin were filling my time, and I made sure I left the house every day, even if it was just to pop to the shop to buy yet more Hob Nobs. The outside world kept me sane (ish). So did the Hob Nobs.
But that puts me in the minority: according to research we’ve just carried out at Mush, only 16% of new mums make it out every day, with the majority – 51% – leaving the house less than twice a week. In fact, almost half of these leave the house less than weekly. While some mums enjoy hunkering down with their baby and closing themselves off from the outside world, the overwhelming majority put it down to anxiety about their new, baby-dominated existence.
A whopping 33% of new mums said they were worried about “EVERYTHING!” on their first trips out of the house with their baby, while 16% said breastfeeding in public, 16% said their baby crying in public, 9% said driving with their baby and 4% said using public transport made them the most nervous. The remaining 22% cited other reasons including fear of their baby being kidnapped, road safety issues, worries about their baby catching germs, finding nappy changing facilities and the logistics of making up a baby bottle while out and about.
It’s amazing how the most confident of women can find motherhood so socially crippling – the vast majority said it took them up to six months to find their stride. And six months is a long time to feel nervous about leaving the house. If someone childless said similarly, we would assume they suffered from extreme anxiety, and yet for new mums, it seems to be the norm; it’s no surprise, then, that 80% of mums say they sometimes feel lonely.
Here at Mush, the free app that’s all about empowering parents to make real-life connections and find their local mum community, we’re working hard to change that, which is why we’re declaring Monday 20th November “Mumday”. On Mumday, we’ve got more than 200 mums all over the country hosting events, meaning that thousands of mums will be getting out of the house and making new friends.
Currently, a quarter of new mums say it’s meeting up with mum friends that ultimately gave them more confidence to get out and about, but we want to quadruple this figure and show that forming new connections with likeminded locals can be truly transformative to the challenges of motherhood. We want to take all the anxiety out of getting out and about by giving every mum – whether they have a needy newborn, a tantrum-prone toddler, little darlings at school or all of the above – a warm welcome in a friendly environment where everyone’s in the same boat.
Even mums who are well-known for their confidence can struggle with their post-baby identity, which is why Mumday will climax with an evening event called Bunk Off Bedtime, where some fantastic high-profile mums (blogger Susie Verrill, Heat supremo Lucie Cave, food writer Mallika Basu and single mum dating columnist Amy Nickell) will be talking about what motherhood has done to their sense of identity. Profits are going to the amazing Bloody Good Period, and you can find out more and buy tickets here.
I’m currently seven months pregnant with baby number two, and already plotting how I’ll fill my days when I’m on maternity leave. I’m assuming that second time round it will all feel much easier, although since this time I’ll have a newborn in the thick of winter instead of a summer baby, perhaps I’ll actually want to hunker down at home more too.
When you have a new baby, for probably the first time in your life you’re never truly alone, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Cheesy as it might sound, I know that whatever happens, finding friends in the same boat, to moan about sleep deprivation and eat those Hob Nobs with, will make all the difference to the long days.