Jen Auerbach is the cofounder of Clary Collection, a line of all-natural skincare products, and a member of Peanut, the app for modern mums to make new friends, chat, and be a part of a community of supportive, like-minded women. This content was created in partnership with Peanut.
I found out I was pregnant during a hectic time in my life. I had just become a stepmum to a 5-year-old daughter. I had moved to a town that I had never heard of, and my husband, Dan, a musician, was on tour. My family lived in Australia and London, and I was all alone in the Nashville area. I had never felt more isolated. This time that was meant to be happy was actually very lonely.
As a child, I lived in three countries and went to 14 different schools and never once struggled to make friends. Before I met my husband, I worked for a nonprofit delivering aid to children who lived on trash sites in the developing world. My job took me all around the world to some of the most isolated locations, like East Timor, but somehow I felt my most lonely in Nashville. I found myself pregnant for the first time and with no friends.
During my pregnancy, I met my future Clary Collection partner, Adriel, who I credit for helping me not lose my mind. Adriel had recently had a baby boy, Rhodes, and aside from bonding over that first-trimester feeling — when you feel like you could actually fall asleep standing up and eat dry crackers for breakfast to avoid morning sickness — we were fixated on finding alternative safe skin care for our pregnancies and new babies and talked a lot about how we kept coming up short. We spent the duration of my pregnancy in our kitchens formulating our new skincare line.
After I delivered my son, Early, I tried to put myself out there and make more friends, but it didn't come any easier than during pregnancy. When my son was born, I did not glow. My hair fell out in chunks, and I did not feel very happy. Instead, I cried — a lot.
If I'm at the park, I'm preoccupied with making sure my son hasn't taken off his pants in public . . . I'm not really in the mindset to chat up another mum.
After those first few weeks, living in a cloud of disorientation, I remember being so desperate for adult interaction that I took my baby to a music group. Let me tell you: there's nothing interactive about holding your floppy new baby, who is crying because he is gassy, while you try to talk to the mum next to you, only to have the 65-year-old music teacher shh you and tell you to toot your horn and shake your invisible tambourine.
The places where we have the most interaction with other parents are also the places where we take our kids and are most wrapped up in being with them and keeping them safe. If I'm at the park, library, or children's gym, I'm preoccupied with making sure my son hasn't taken off his pants in public, sworn at another kid for taking his truck, or standing in front of the slide. I'm not really in the mindset to chat up another mum.
It's also hard to find other things in common with new mums in these settings besides being mums. There is only so much you can talk about that concerns the kids before you get bored. I don't care that Sally is 315.5 days old today or that the local market doesn't stock goat milk. What I really wanted to tell these mums I was meeting was, "Wow, this motherhood sh*t is tough. How are your nipples? Do you pee a little bit when you bend over?" But I felt shy, nervous, awkward. I gave up.
During another cloudy day of motherhood, sleep- and food-deprived, way over-caffeinated, and not showered, I went to the park. I sat hunched, drinking my tea, when a bird flew down and stood next to me. I started sharing my son's snack bar with it; he was sleeping and I figured this bird was the best company I was going to find during another lonely trip to the park. I said, "Hey, buddy, want to be friends?" And then I heard a laugh behind me.
Another mum sitting nearby had heard me, and we both started laughing. I remember she put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Babe, it will get easier." I responded, "I think I've hit my all-time low befriending animals," and that was it. We spent the next two hours sitting there getting to know each other, and this woman is one of my closest friends today. All it took was one nice gesture from a stranger to create a connection.
I don't like the term "mum friends" because it seems to say our friendship exists solely because of our common role as mothers.
I don't like the term "mum friends" because it seems to say our friendship exists solely because of our common role as mothers. It's like we traded our personalities, freedom, and independence, but that shouldn't be the case. You are still you; you just took on a really important extra name as mum. That name defines you in a deeper way, but it shouldn't erase the you that you knew before.
Over the past three years, many of my "mum friends" have become real friends. We're past the "getting to know your leaking boobs, diaper rashes, and school applications" stage and have become true friends regardless of our children, because of our personalities as women, not just mums. Being a new mum is hard enough, so you shouldn't let the pressures of mum-ing increase your stress. As soon as I let go and stopped trying to appear perfect or do what I was supposed to do as a new mum, I made lifelong friends. I hope you do, too.