31 January 2015

How to make Mum friends: a guide to play-dating.

Mums need Mumfriends. It's just a given. No matter how much you love your non-Mum friends, no matter how good they are with your kids... If they haven't cried at 4am because their nipples are bleeding or spent 17 straight hours googling colic, they just don't get it. You can't survive the perils of motherhood alone.

Get yourself some Mumfriends. Stat.

"It's not that easy blog-lady" I hear you cry... "You can't just GET friends"

Dude. Yes you can. 

Last year I moved 60 miles away from the security blanket of my antenatal group of friends (10 women I essentially paid to be friends with). I missed them a lot (still do ladies, my new friends weren't there during the long cold tired January of '14. They don't know.).

But after a few weeks (who am I kidding? Days) I cast aside my inhibitions and reeking of desperation, starting forcing people to be my Mumfriends.  I now have 7 1/2* new Mumfriends! And I'm very happy with them. *The 1/2 is a woman who is about to become my friend but doesn't know it yet.  

So having basically set myself up as a friend acquiring expert, I'm here to help with some top Mumfriend dating tips. It's pretty much like normal dating, but easier...

1. Choose your venue.

When looking for a boyfriend you may have lurked in pubs, clubs or the gym (do people do that? I wouldn't know). Those places won't work now. Basically, Mumfriends can be made anywhere but my tips are:
- Soft plays
- Parks
- Children's centres
- Nursery or Preschool gates at pick up time. (It's best if your child attends said preschool or you could be arrested.)

Essentially anywhere with a high number of Mums and their kids. This will likely be everywhere you go so be alert at all times!

2. Choose your target.

Be on the look out for potential mates everywhere. Forget what your "type" was when searching for new boyfs. Mumfriends don't care about height, build or hair colour... 

You're looking for a bit-tired looking, not-too-glamorous woman. You're going on play dates, not actual dates, you don't want to have to dress up for her! 

Most importantly you need a woman in your category. I don't mean your social class, nor your 'level' of attractiveness or intellect. None of that matters. You don't need to connect on any of those levels in these friendships.  

All that matters is the number and age of her kids. 

Ideally you want an exact match in age and number. My jackpot for example is a woman with 2 kids, who are 2 1/2 and 1. I'm happy with 4 and 1, or 2 and a baby, but I do feel an immediate special connection to someone who's been through the '2 under 2' phase and lived to tell the tale.

Having said that, you can't afford to be too fussy in this game. Anyone with a child or children in your age bracket is a potential new person to attend soft play with. A possible future text recipient for when your husband sleeps through the baby waking up again and you just have to tell someone what a w*nker he is. She could be a new beacon of light in your toddler-centric, adult-free days. Be brave people.

3. Across the room flirting

Once you've sussed out your potential new friend, it's time for some initial Mumfriend flirting.

My personal opening facial expressions tend to be:

- the "sorry not sorry my child is a lunatic" eye roll. 
- the encouraging yet sympathetic face for a mum whose toddler is having a meltdown.
- the straight-up "you look as tired as I feel" friendly smile.

If you get a friendly response, you're in! If not, try again. You might need to try a few times to make contact. Mums are often tired, sometimes bored out of their minds and probably daydreaming of reading a good book instead of talking about trains for the last 6 hours with a 3 year old. If they clearly see you and just plain blank you, move on. Not all Mums are worthy of Mumfriend status!

4. Make a move

Smiling across the soft play isn't enough to turn this target into a real life Mumfriend. You've got to make a move. Say hello! Classic openers include:

"I like your (buggy/change bag/child's tights)"

"She/He is so cute/funny/cheeky, how old are they?"

And of course, the age old classic, "do you come here often?" works on any dating scene. 

5. The next step

Small talk at soft play is child's play. Anyone can chit-chat with a tired looking woman, but it takes an iron nerve to take it to the next level.

Ask questions, show an actual interest. Be brave and offer to help in some way.

Hold a baby while she drinks coffee?
Watch her toddler while she nips to the loo?
Pick up the muslin she's dropped on the floor?

Generally, just be slightly over-familiar. 9 times out of 10 (in my experience) Mums are extremely glad of the company and will welcome a slightly odd seeming stranger with open (if yoghurt stained) arms.

A recently acquired friend told me yesterday that I'm stored in her phone as "Amy snack bar" because my opening move was to offer her a fruit snack bar when her toddler was having a hunger related meltdown. Give people snacks guys! It totally works. 

6. Sealing the deal

When the time comes for one of you to leave the soft play/ cafe/ children's centre you've just got to swallow your pride and ask to swap numbers. 
Believe me, it's just as nerve wracking as asking a bloke for his number but try to channel your post-labour lack of inhibitions and go for it. Remember how for weeks after the birth, you'd tell everyone you met about your stitches? Be that person again. The one with no shame.

Top tip: Put their child's name in your phone too. It's always good to remember the child's name, if only to tell your own child who they're going to play with! 

7. Get play-dating!

Play dates are sooo easy compared to real dates! Turn up somewhere, watch the kids play, exchange 7-10 sentences squeezed in between nappy changes, bumped heads and clingy toddlers and everyone goes home happy.

And there you have it! A bonafide new mum friend. You don't even have to get to know the woman that well. I had a Mum friend before we moved with whom I met weekly for several months. I couldn't tell you her surname, what music she likes or her profession before the kids but I knew what snacks her kids weren't allowed, the precise timings of her nap schedule and her son's favourite octonaut. These are the important things now.

Go on. Be brave. Make a new friend today!


  1. I love this post and I am so happy to be one of your 7.5 Mumfriends - AND I did the 2 under 2 things too! woohoo! x

    1. You're not in the 7.5, you were my friend before I moved house :) plus you're in a special category of blog people! But you definitely are a bonafide Mumfriend and our kids do tolerate each other very nicely so we can chat in soft play :) xxxxx

  2. All so true.. That BrummyMummyof2 and I cemented our friendship when my girl one said "what that little boy one called? I want play with him again." Boom. Excuse to drink gin together regularly (hardly ever on play dates..)

    I hear you about the antenatal group. No one will ever understand those first few months like those 5 girls! Love 'em.

    1. Haha I wish I lived closer. Those gin drinking evenings look fun! X

  3. Awesome post! I had lots of mummy friends when my teen and tween were little but with my toddler I have none! Well I have a few but they're all working mums so I only see them about 3 times a year! No idea why I can't do it this time :(

    1. Aww! You can do it! Take the plunge and ask someone to hang out! Xx

  4. Wish I had read this when I had a teething baby boy and moved to Birmingham. I even joined a meet a mum friend group online (that was rubbish). The next step was play group and it took a while but met the best bunch of mum mates ever. Great advice xxx

    1. Thank you! Glad you found your mumfriends eventually! xxx

  5. It's strange how hard it is... I can usually be friendly there but when it comes to leaving.... I'm outta there. .. great post.

    1. Thanks! Bite the bullet next time ;)

  6. When my daughter was two (nearly 16 years ago) we had to move house 90 miles away and sadly leave behind a great circle of ante-natal friends. I went to Mother & Toddler Groups and Tupperware Parties (!) where we quickly made new mum friends...do either of these still exist?

    1. Yes toddler groups still exist, but it can be hard to make the move from chatting at a toddler group to exchanging numbers etc. I have no idea about tupperware parties but I'd LOVE to go to one!

  7. I love this post and completely agree. I had far fewer friends before I had kids, because I was always too shy and worried about whether they felt obliged to say yes to outings or whether they were just being kind or whether they'd judge my house. Once I had kids then I KNEW that no-one gave a shit and that they just wanted to talk to another grown-up while our kids bumped into each other in another room. Having kids has done wonders for my social confidence!

    1. Thank you! Glad you liked it and you're so right. No one cares about the state of your house!!!

  8. Love this! True and hilarious and equal measure!

  9. Fab post! And so true, it's nerve racking! I'm a young mum with a 1 & 3 year old. I go to stay & play groups, but as I'm normally the youngest I find it hard to fit in and make friends :( Wish I had more confidence!

  10. Love these tips. So true about braving it out to get the numbers. You've also inspired my post here: http://2winterest.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/9-ways-to-combat-loneliness-with-small-children/

  11. Don't write off toddler groups. I run a toddler group (have done for three years!) and my main aim is to get mums talking to each other. I introduced people, start conversations, then slip away...it's been very effective, I have a ton of friends myself but I notice that people come back again and again and slowly form solid friendships. If you're a bit shy it can be a good way of slowly easing into talking to people as you'll likely see roughly the same group every week, so there isn't the same pressure as there is in soft play - you can start with a few hellos and then move onto the more friendly stuff at a later stage!

  12. Love this post. You're right, you barely have to know another mum to be mum friends with her. Play dates rarely consist of more than 7 sentences in between nose wiping, nappy changing and breaking up 'play' fights. Easy!

  13. So funny and so true! When I first swapped numbers with my antenatal friends I out their husband's names in brackets, then as we all gave birth he husband's names made way for the babies names haha xx