And baby makes eight…
Becoming a mum changes a woman’s life irrevocably, and a new research report out today highlights a massive change which is often overlooked – how friendships alter to fit the new mum status.
The Friendship Report, commissioned by the leading Child Trust Fund provider, The Children’s Mutual, found that women with children make eight more lifetime friends as a direct result of becoming a parent.
The report, conducted by the Consumer Analysis Group, found that if mums attended every parental group, from fertility clinic to primary school, they would make an average of 21 new friends along the way.
Taking a child to primary school was the most likely route to friendship, with mums making on average five new friends at the school gates. A third of mums (31 per cent) say that meeting people through primary school produces the best friends, who are also the most supportive and helpful.
Partners don’t tend to fare as well in the friendship stakes – if they were to attend all the possible parental groups with mum, they would only make six new friends.
Most mums (70 per cent) say that the friendships they make through children tend to be more supportive and more likely to offer help and advice than their other friendships. A third (31 per cent) cherish the friends they’ve made as a result of being a mum above all others, saying friends made through children become stronger friendships than any others they make in their lifetime.
Celebrity mum, Anna Ryder Richardson said: “I made more than half a dozen new friends through being a mother and it has proved to be one of the most pleasurable and unexpected parts of having children. I have made some great friends as a mum and I genuinely don’t know what I would do without the support network that I have built up. The chats on the school run, the essential advice they offer, the last minute baby sitting request they grant! Having people you can rely on and who can rely on you, is a fantastic part of being mum.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly most mums (72 per cent) say friends made through children are easier to socialise with because both sets of parents can bring their children along.
Making friends through children had lead to other activities for many mums, including going shopping together (54 per cent); shared babysitting (36 per cent); and exercising (30 percent).
David White, Chief Executive of The Children’s Mutual said: “Becoming a parent can be daunting, but having the support of friends who are going through similar experiences can really help.
“Our research tells us that friendships made through becoming a parent are very valuable, and the advice that parents bestow on each other has a long term impact – whether they’re discussing their children’s health, education or how to prepare financially for the future.”
Supporting quote from Dr Will Reader, friendship expert at Sheffield Hallam University,
“Although many of us will still be close to childhood friends, it is a fact of life that friendships change over time. Psychological research informs us that one of the most important characteristics of friends is that they are similar to one another: we like people who are like us. Why this should be is not generally agreed upon, but it does seem to be a genuine preference rather than mere serendipity.
“As our priorities change, so do our criteria for what makes a good friend and one of the most dramatic changes that occurs in most people’s lives is becoming a parent. These changing interests lead to a not necessarily conscious desire to form friendships with people who are similar to the ‘new you’ – parents with children of similar age. If the respondents’ pre-children friends are not parents, then it is possible that they will share very little in common with their new post-children friends. People frequently keep different friends separate and even present subtly different identities to the different friendship groups as much as they can; many mums and dads doubtless relish the opportunity to go out from time to time with old friends and NOT talk about the children.”
Consumer Analysis Group
Consumer Analysis Group interviewed 1001 women with a first child aged 10 or under, from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Via lengthy telephone interviews, each discussed their experiences of making friends through that first child. The fieldwork was conducted in March 2008.