Having a baby changes everything, but it really redefines your social life. Suddenly, leaving the house requires a runsheet and when you do it’s for parks, libraries or the Westfield play area rather than sample sales, Pilates or dinner. Hot new bars get swapped for cafes with highchairs, and even if the stars align and you leave a happy baby with a sitter and make Friday night drinks, it’s hard to switch out of mum mode.
It can feel isolating, trying to find the new you. Which is what inspired Lauren Kozica to start The Ring Around, “I found that I was either lurking around playgrounds talking pumpkin puree and nap schedules, or I was drinking 10 margaritas in a dark, loud restaurant, deliberately avoiding kid chat. I wanted to create an environment where I could still be Lauren, mum of two boys, sleep deprived and a little anxious, and connect with other parents and engage in an activity that didn't relate to raising mini humans.”
The Ring Around holds events for mums (and soon, dads) where they get to reconnect with their kid-free self and not feel guilty about it. “Through meet-ups and workshops, each Ring Around event sheds new light on relatable topics while engaging in a fun activity, an informative talk and plenty of wine.”
As the ringleader of new parents finding their new social butterfly wings, we asked Lauren to share a wise word or two on getting out of the house, booking the babysitters and making new parent friends.
It’s never too soon for some alone time
“In my opinion, having some time to yourself is the most important thing a new parent can do. I remember getting home from the hospital when Teddy (my first) was born and I insisted on walking over to my local coffee shop. I threw on a massive maternity pad and waddled across the street. It was a 12 minute round trip on my own and that little feeling of independence was so good. Everyone needs time out, especially mums,” says Lauren.
Grocery shopping doesn’t count
While popping into Harris Farm sans baby is a liberating flashback to freer times, it doesn’t count as you time. Start slow, “I would say a blow dry or mani-pedi are great first outings, because you literally just sit there,” says Lauren. “Once you're a bit more mobile I would suggest going out for dinner and sitting at the bar. My partner and I have done that everytime we go out since we had our first son, there's something about sitting up at the bar that makes you feel young and sexy again (even if you secretly prefer a chair with a back on it).”
It’s OK to miss your old life
“Oh I miss my pre-mum life every day, but I also miss being 26 and single, galavanting around the world with no responsibilities,” says Lauren. “I think you have to put it into perspective. Sure there's some really hard and shitty days and life before kids sometimes seems a lot easier, but then you didn't have your kids right?! When you’re really feeling it, I would suggest doing something that reminds you of your old life. If you're lucky enough to have some eager grandparents close by, drop the kids off for a sleepover one Saturday night and go out and drink vodka sodas until midnight. I promise you'll wake up at 6am with a throbbing headache and end up scrolling through your phone looking at photos of your kids.”
It’s OK to only want to talk babies
“There's no denying that parenthood, especially in the early years is completely consuming and sometimes it actually is all you want to talk about!” says Lauren. Don’t feel guilty about it, and when you want to talk about other things, steer the conversation. There’s nothing wrong with interrupting a mum’s brunch with “OK, five more minutes on weening and then we’re done with baby talk. We need to discuss the new season of Sabrina.” You’re a mum, time is short. Be direct.
Build the village
“There's nothing better than raising kids with a good mate, especially in those early days when everything is new,” says Lauren, but it’s not always the case that your bestie is making that life step at the same time as you. You need someone new. “I found making new parent friends strange at times, like you would be sitting at a cafe talking about your formula choices and then realise besides kids, you have absolutely nothing else in common!” Lauren advises not to despair if that’s the case. Different friends for different things. “It's sort of like dating, sometimes you click and can connect on other levels, but sometimes you're just happy to be out of the house sharing an experience with someone and that's ok, you don't have to marry them!” Remember that everyone’s experience is different, “Teddy was born in New York City, and while he screamed the house down for the better part of three months, I was always on the go with him. I had an incredible group of mum mates from all over the world and the whole experience was a lot of fun,” says Lauren. “Walter was harder, while he was a perfect baby, I found being a mum in Sydney with a newborn and a 20-month-old quite isolating and hard. I was more housebound with two different sleep schedules and I didn't have a good support network established.” Part of building a mum network is being there for other mums too. Give and take. You’ll find both roles equally rewarding.
Appreciate the mum and the non-mum friends
Your mum friends will be sources of comfort, information and understanding — and they won’t judge when your conversation is seriously lacking due to sleep deprivation. But your non-mum friends have the time to ask about you, be fascinated and dote on your little person, and remind you that you are someone other than “mum”. Enjoy the gifts of both.