'So, can I get your number?' Why making mum friends is a lot like dating

Heidi and her eldest son.
Heidi and her eldest son.  Photo: Supplied

My eldest son just turned five.

And over the last five years, I've learned a thing or two about making mum friends. 

It's pretty universally accepted that you need a couple of parent mates who are deep in the trenches with you, ideally with kids at roughly the same age and stage.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied 

Some like-minded folks to hang out with, laugh with, cry with and moan with - and share this wild ride called parenthood.

These precious souls make maternity leave and those sleep-deprived baby days a lot easier to deal with.

Then suddenly, as those babies morph into toddlers and preschoolers, and you somehow have to juggle work and parenting and low and behold, a second kid - those mama friends become even more precious. 

Because let's face it, rocking up to one of those indoor play centres on a rainy day alone is a fresh kind of hell. 

Being the highly social person that I am, I knew acquiring some solid mama friends would be absolutely critical to my survival. 

And it struck me pretty early on that making mum friends is a lot like dating. 

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After my eldest son was born, I joined my local mother's group and it was all pretty straightforward. They were a lovely group of women. We caught up weekly, usually at the park, set up a Facebook group and I felt pretty secure. 

But I needed more. It was daunting but I decided to actively enter the mama dating (AKA playdating) scene. 

It starts with a 'look'

Even in those hazy newborn days, as I battled no sleep and postnatal depression, I knew I had to venture out of the house at least once a day.

Scouring the local park for potential new mum friends.
Scouring the local park for potential new mum friends. Photo: Supplied

These excursions were for my own sanity as well as my little sidekick's, who also seemed much happier when he was out and about. 

I knew I had to hit up the right venues to raise the odds of meeting potential mum friends. And I had to play my cards just right.

And so I started with the most obvious haunts. I'd mosey up to the park, Rhyme Time or Mums and Bubs Yoga in my vomit-stained active wear - eager to connect with another mum.

Photo: Play it cool, okay guys?
Photo: Play it cool, okay guys?  Photo: Supplied

I'd casually make eye contact from across the room, raise a smile, and strike up some casual banter ... was the spark there? Were they my 'type'?

Was it too soon to suggest we meet again, and um... how do you feel about wine? 

I tried to play it cool, but I'm sure sometimes I appeared a little desperate. 

Then, you exchange numbers 

When my eldest child was 14-months-old, we moved house. And I was heavily pregnant with number two. God help me.

While also a very family-friendly suburb, it was a much quieter area and the ratio of mums with babies was far lower. 

On one of my first outings to the local park - I spotted a mum with a baby and a toddler. Bingo. 

I approached her by the swings and struck up a conversation.

Low-and-behold - this lovely mama lived just one street away. As we chatted away, I found myself on the verge of tears, confiding in her about how much I was struggling with two under two. Oh god, had I overshared? Too much, too soon?  

Julia gave me a huge reassuring smile, squeezed my hand and told me I was doing such a great job to even be out of the house. She was so sweet. So genuine. And sure enough, there it was. Those familiar butterflies in my stomach. 

That evening I gushed about our exchange to my husband. "Why didn't you ask for her number, Heidi?" 

Good point. Massive oversight. Truth be told, I was so anxious and sleep-deprived, I was terrified of coming on too strong.

However, I knew her name and it had been noted we had a mutual friend. Would it be too crazy to stalk her on Facebook and dare I even... add her as a friend?

As I mulled over my next move, the decision was taken out of my hands. The following week, double pram in tow, I ran into her at the local shops. Seizing the moment, I took a deep breath and asked Julia she'd like to exchange numbers and meet at the park some time. 

"Of course", she said. "I meant to ask you last week!" 

Later that night, I wept tears of joy. 

In desperation, you turn to dating apps 

One can never have too many good mama friends.

And so it was, I decided to start dabbling in a 'mum matching' app called 'mush'. Yes, basically Tinder for mums. Horrifying, I know.

I initiated a few 'chats' with mums in my area with 'similar interests', but sadly, things didn't really go anywhere. 

I even got stood up once. It was humiliating, but apparently she didn't want to wake her unsettled baby from a nap, so I could hardly begrudge the poor woman. 

One mama who also had two-under-two, declared she had an amazing rumpus room, 'perfect for the kids to bounce around in', and lived just a few streets away.

Oh the potential. So much promise!  

Then silence. Ghosted again. 

I was beginning to lose hope about getting lucky online... when all of a sudden I got a message from 'Gemma' who was 'keen to connect'.

She suggested we meet up for a walk with our prams. We immediately hit it off. We walked, talked and laughed. It was bliss. Towards the end of our stroll, she said we should catch up again soon and that I was very welcome to come along to her mother's group. Any time. 

One date and she was already asking me to meet her friends! Things were moving quickly. I was thrilled. 

Photo: Gemma and Heidi basically met on Tinder for mums

Photo: Gemma and Heidi basically met on Tinder for mums. Supplied

However, as I waited for her to text me the details about the next meeting, I started doubting our chemistry.  Will she really message? She's clearly got loads of other mum friends, maybe I should give her some space? 

Sure enough, Gemma sent me a text. And I crashed her mother's group. They were awesome. And we hung out all the time. 

And it turns out, they liked drinking wine , too. 

Needless to say, Gemma and I are firm mama friends to this day. 

Sometimes, it's all about timing

"Stop looking so hard, Heidi."

Remember that old chestnut? And that guy who broke your heart in your early 20s?

You had something special, you really did, but then he stopped calling and moved interstate.  And your little heart broke into a million pieces.. but you promised yourself that if its meant to be, you'd find each other down the track and live happily ever after.

Sometimes, its all about timing.. and some of your best mum friends literally fall into your lap. 

While I always kept in touch with my beautiful friend Kate, who I worked with over 15 years ago, by some incredible twist of fate, she ended up with two little boys the same age as mine. And lives just a few suburbs away. And we even have the same day off work mid-week.

That's a bit of mum friend magic right there. 

How lucky I am to have her. And the rest of my tribe.

Photo: Kate and Heidi - pre and post babies.

Photo: Kate and Heidi - pre and post babies. Supplied

My eldest son starts school next year and I'm about to embark on a whole new range of 'mum friend' experiences. 

I feel nervous all over again. 

If you're a new mama, here is the most important thing I've learned in the last five years - don't be shy. I know it's hard. I really do. 

But chances are, that mama across the room feels exactly like you.