Motherhood. And The Demise of Friendships.

I’ve read so many articles, written by moms, where they profess massive apologetic outbursts for ‘losing themselves’ in the first year of their child’s life and for being ‘bad friends’ during that time. And every single time I read something like that I get more and more pissed off. Because I call bullshit. Because – and it took me a while to realise this – but the demise of a friendship after one of you becomes a parent is in fact (gasp) not always the new moms fault.

When Carter was born, and in fact during my pregnancy, I tried my hardest to prove that I hadn’t changed as a person. I became the martyr of “normal-dom” and insisted on being at all the dinners and events. I sipped my alcohol free beer and sparking water and made chit chat until the last guests had left, even though many times I as so dog tired I wanted to cry. I had dinners and arranged get togethers and had people visit my home and watched them get drunk and silly and had fun while doing it.

The night after my son was born I had (non mom) friends visit with fancy red wine and cheese and we giggled in my hospital room until the nurses kicked them out.

When he was a tiny week old infant we had friends for diner and we drank champagne and I burnt the food and it didn’t matter because we were doing this. We were being parents and friends and adults and functioning members of society.

When he was a few weeks old I went back to gym – with him in tow – and met people for lunch – with him in tow again – and enjoyed every last second of my maternity leave while I could.

When he was 3 months old I went on my annual girls trip – willingly – and loved every second of it – despite my overweight body and leaking breasts.

We’ve been to friends houses for lunch and ended up staying until early hours of the next morning – with our son sleeping on a duvet nest in the room next door. We’ve gone away and strapped his car to game vehicles using cable ties and a prayer. We’ve traveled overseas with him, rocked him to sleep in fancy restaurants and bathed him in sinks and basins and Jacuzzis at braais.

And now he’s almost two, and I’ve barely dropped the ball. I’ve yet to use him as an excuse for not participating, and on the few instances I’ve left a function early to put him to sleep or arrived a little bit late because he has a routine I’ve chosen to ignore the comments and eye rolls. In fact, the reason I sometimes do decline an invite is because I’m working too hard. Which when you are child-less is heroic, but when you’re a mom is an excuse.

But I’ve also come to a realisation that some friendships have changed – friendships that I thought were rock solid. And I have spent the better part of nearly two years trying harder and making more effort and saying ‘yes’ to girls nights. And the more I tried the more disconnected I’ve felt and it’s taken all of this time to realize that I have actually done nothing wrong. And that sometimes people with no kids do not want to spend time with people with kids. And that is actually OK.

I haven’t been invited to some friends houses since the day Carter was born. I haven’t cracked the nod for an after work glass of wine or a holiday or a movie or been called for advice. Because I think that some people think that we change, and they immediately assume we will have no time for them. And perhaps we don’t, all the time, but we do some of the time, and even though my life is more structured and more-often-than-not revolves around a school run, a bath time, a feeding or a nap, and I cant just do a lot of the things I used to do pre-baby, on a whim anymore, I’m still here, and available. Even if I’m sometimes I’m only available with a plus one. And I can promise you this much, if you need me, when you need me, I will always be there. Because I am still the good same person that you fell in friendship love with all those years ago.

So to the new friends with kids who just understand broken conversation, broken sleep and broken wine glasses at dinner parties, but who welcome us anyway, I say thank you. To the friends with no kids who totally get that sometimes I just cant get out, but who come to me with wine and pizza and who bath my child while I pour more booze, I say thank you. And to the friends with no kids who don’t come to me, or let me in, or invite me over please know that I haven’t changed. I still drink as much Merlot (if not more), I still talk shit and love being social, I have interests and careers and things to talk about that I can promise you are not even close to baby related, I still need your advice and and shoulder to lean on and to bitch about husbands and work and finances. I just now have a small human, who I call my son, who is now the best part of my life. And I hope one day you will see me not just as another mom, but also as Kate, your friend.

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The Magic Of Mom Groups

About a year ago I wrote this blog post on Mommy groups, and the absolute drama that generally accompanies them. Although I was referring 99% to Mommy groups on Facebook, I still alluded to WhatsApp groups. And I now need to retract a little bit of that article.

You see, for the past 8 months, I’ve been a part of a mommy Whatsapp group that has completely changed my previous perception.

At first, I was skeptical. The constant videos and posts chewed through my precious data and I confess – sometimes annoyed me. So I changed my download-over-wifi-settings and adjusted my mindset and watched as these ladies on this group turned into friends, confidantes and trusted advisors.

When you have a child, things shift. Friendships will alter. What you once had in common (last minute after work drinks, spontaneous Saturday braais and long lazy brunches) become less and less so. I often hear child-less friends talk about friends with kids and moan about how they’ve changed and how the friendship is different. And I totally get that. But there’s also a little bit of blame that needs to be placed on the friends without kids, because they – without realising it – do pull away. I have best friends who’s house I haven’t been invited to since Carter was born, friends who don’t even think of inviting us out because they assume we will say no, and friends who just don’t understand that I’m now a permanent +1. And that’s OK. I was that friend once too, and no matter how hard you try and try, the empathy can never be there until you are there.

So the slight shifting (albeit temporarily) of one friendship means there’s room for another – and I’ve found that in a group of moms who I tell my deepest darker secrets and fears to. Some of these ladies I’ve never met. Some are younger than me, older than me, some have 1 kid, some have 3. But the one thing we all have in common? Our children. We are a group of moms who – simply by having kids at the same school – have formed the most incredible bond. These are the people who check in daily about things, remember job interviews and dietician check ups. They were the first people to jump on board and support me when I took up photography as a serious hobby and who talked me off a ledge when I sent screenshot after screenshot of before and after photos. These are the ladies who are the first to offer help and food when your baby gets sick, who cheer on your child’s milestones and who have your back when you’re going through a rough time. These ladies know more about my son than friends of 25 years do. They share recipes and milestones charts, photos of cellulite and memes on motherhood. They smuggle Pick n Pay animal cards into your sons backpack and scour the shelves for swimming nappies for everyone an hour before the lesson is about to begin.

I’ve spent the last 2 days in hospital with a very sick baby, and the hourly messages of support and gestures from these ladies have meant the world. We laugh over post baby vaginas and cry over virtual glasses of wine whilst we share out lives through a smartphone screen. They have become an invaluable part of my life, and I’m forever grateful for the empathy and love they show not only me and my son, but each other as well.

So, whilst I treasure each and every friendship I have, it’s these ladies who have seen me through a few bumpy patches lately and I couldn’t be more grateful.

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The Sisterhood Of The Travelling Mates

I have strep throat. Which is actually a good thing, as strep throat always means I’ve gone away with the girls. There have been some deviations to the strep – such as the plague like rash that covered my legs in Zanzibar, or the double bronchitis and laryngitis that rendered me to the sick bay in Dullstroom.

This weekend marked another year of what we’ve fondly labeled ‘Team Vino’. An annual getaway with the girls to a (generally) local destination in SA. I don’t know why, but this trip has been my favourite one so far. It might have something to do with the 40+ bottles of wine consumed over the space of 48 hours, or the ‘only 2 hour ‘cos I’m hungover’ hike which turned into a 6 hour trek through some of the finest countryside South Africa has to offer. It may have something to do with the box of grape cigarettes bought, when none of us is a smoker, the cheese and biscuits for breakfast, the 4 pm pizza and champagne or the very flamboyant ‘special friend’ Johann who we met at the local backpackers for shots of Potency and red lipstick.

I suspect however, that this girls weekend was my favourite because in-between the drunken karaoke, the debate over the decline in bobby pins, or the hysterical laughter upon finding out that the UFO we were all convinced was floating on the horizon was in fact a far away mountain fire, this weekend was all about 8 very close friends, spending 2 very special days together.

It was about 3 hours in to the mountain hike when one friend commented (look, it could be due to dehydration, but go with me) “we are all so smart, and great, and clever, and nice”. And she’s right. The 8 of us, some friends from high school and some picked up along the way, are some of the most creative, smart, savvy, intelligent and funny people that I have the privilege of calling my friends. There’s Alison, who I have been friends with for 27 years. Alison is the smartest chick I know. She’s the one who’s trying to convince me to start a podcast on the blog. She’s a terrific hugger, and she doesn’t give a shit about your personal space issues. She’s also the only person I know who hair is always ‘blowing in the wind’ perfect in photographs. When I grow up I want to be like Allison.

There’s Ilona. I met Ilona through a series of circumstances which weren’t terribly pleasant – but like the light at the end of the tunnel, there she was. All bronzed legs, boobs and loud laughter. Ilona is always up for anything. She’s my go to person when I’m in desperate need of a glass of wine. Or a shot of tequila. She’s the first person to get involved. She’s also a terrific dancer, a bloody genius and has a daughter who is going to rule the world one day. Ilona doesn’t give a shit about most things, but she gives a whole lot for her friends. Ilona was the witness at our wedding. That’s how much I trust her.

Amy is my sister from another Mister. It’s sometimes hard to explain the relationship we have. Other girls are loud ‘squeals and ohmigodss’ and hugs. Amy and I are tinned soup and Pick n Pay vests. We know what the other person is thinking and tend to communicate in silence a lot of the time. Amy is revoltingly skinny. She borrows my clothes and looks magnificent in them. Amy ‘bought’ me a cleaner as a housewarming, that’s the kind of person she is. Amy too, is bloody smart, and she’ll Web MD your ass in a nano second. Funny rash? Amy will tell you what it is before it has a chance to itch.

If it does begin to itch, then Candice will have the cream for it. Candles, as I fondly refer to her, came into my life like a rocket ship. It’s hard to picture time before her. If you ever need a motivational pep talk, or someone to talk you down from a ledge, call Candice. She will throw profanities like confetti, but man alive it’s a treat. Candice always looks amazing. Dolled up, dressed down, no makeup or dressed in a burlap sack, she pulls it off.

“Hey Candles, where did you get that burlap sack”

“The burlap sack store”

Speaking of clothes, I’ve resolved to never ask Kerith where she ‘got those great leggings from’ because the answer is always something along the lines of ‘The South of France’. Possibly the most well travelled person I know, Kerith and I share a strong love for makeup and sarcasm. Kerith will also always tell you about things that you have no interest in hearing, but she doesn’t care, and tells you anyway. Just this weekend she went on for about 25 minutes about a local dam and its history. It’s a bloody good thing I like you, Kerith.

Remember I told you that Candice will always have that cream for that rash? Lauren is the one who makes sure that there is sufficient cream left in the tub. My favourite A typer, Lauren and I met when we each had broken wings. We nursed ourselves back to full flight on a diet of quiche, Greys Anatomy and Red Wine. Lauren says I saved her, I say she saved me. Either way, we found ach other and rely heavily on our conversations of what gym programme to do on a certain day, what tagine is right for which curry and when the best time to plant a seasonal vegetable is.

Have you ever seen a close up of the sun? That’s pretty much how bright Shannons smile is. She is possible the most radiant soul I have ever met. Almost as well traveled as Kerith, and as up for anything as Ilona, Shannon is the biggest sport of them all. Just last year she took up triathlon, and I’m pretty certain next year she’s going to be winning them. If one ever needs a glass of wine, Shannon will be there with the corkscrew. She’s also flipping clever. And attractive. An all rounder really.

So there you have it, just 7 of my closest friends. There are more, so many more, and in each of them I have found a friend soul mate.

There’s just something about spending time with those you love the most, and the busier our lives get, the harder it is to do. We’ve already planned next years trip – ideas of Botswana, Namibia, Seychelles and Mauritius are doing the rounds. I don’t care. As long as I end up with these girls by my side, a couple of bottles of wine and some lifelong memories, I’ll be happy.

Even if it means more strep throat.

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"The One With 5 Steaks and An EggPlant"

Do you remember this episode of FRIENDS? The one where they all go out for dinner, and end up splitting the bill even though 3 of the 5 ordered the bare minimum off the menu to save some bucks? 

That was me yesterday. Not with regards to the food thing – I’m quite a splurger when it comes to my grub – but I felt like the ‘Phoebe’ of the group at our girls dinner last night when the conversation turned to holidays. It went a little something like this:

Guys, let’s do another girls trip!

Yes! Keen, November?

Me: “Sorry? November, as in TWENTY FOURTEEN? (Secretly hoping that somewhere like Magaliesberg would be on the list of choices)

Alas, the destinations that cropped up were closer to Prague, Amsterdam, Greece and Brazil, and with every new country that was thrown out my heart sunk a little bit further into my chest. Knowing full well I could never afford an overseas holiday that soon, let alone anytime in the next year.

The conversation went on, and on with each person delegated a task of researching certain destinations, while I avoided eye contact and tried not to cry into my Chenin Blanc. 

How do they do it, I asked myself – why, when we all work hard am I the one who is (seemingly) constantly worried about money. This of course then turns into a self hating spiral of despair. You’re not as thin as someone, not as talented, not as good an athlete. Your car isn’t as nice, your home isn’t as big, your partner not as generous. I bet people never complicate you behind your back. I bet they never consider you to be amazing. 

STOP. 

Needless to say a gorgeous evening out with my incredible mates left me feeling really sad – and the only person to blame was myself. 

It’s so hard to not compare yourself with others. And it’s also very dangerous too. I need to stop. I don’t want to be the Phoebe anymore. 

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DIY for Party Planners

Ive had the honour (see what I did there?) of being a bridesmaid for several of my lovely friends – and one of the best things about that is knowing that with each bash comes new opportunities to make fun DIY items for the celebration.

I’ve put together large affairs and very intimate ones, and waned to share a few fun DIY craft tips, for anyone looking to throw a bit of a celebration for a bride to be. (Or any celebration really)

(Tip: If you aren’t Photoshop adept, find a designer fined like I did with my colleague Kim, big help!)

Make your own photo booth by pasting wallpaper or wrapping paper on a large flat wall. The one I used below was for a 1950’s inspired party hence the red polka dots. I borrowed the frame from an art gallery and bought props from China Town (budget!). I also supplied a chalk board and chalk for people to write their own messaging.(Board and props not pictured in the image).

DIY Backdrop
DIY Backdrop

For the same party we labelled the various cheeses with wedding themed names (Bridesmaids Brie, Garter Gouda… you get the picture). I also labelled all the wine glasses with fun sayings from the ’50s and the definition. This also helped with people knowing which glass belonged to them. 22 bottles of wine later however, no-one really cared.

Say Cheese!
Say Cheese!
Handmade Wine Labels
Handmade Wine Labels

If you are hosting a smaller gathering, instead of using name tags for the table use a photo of the (insert guest of honour) and all her guests, then prop these on the table using a frame or crocodile clips. What I did with these was add a section on the photo and asked each guest to write a message. The bride-to-be got to take these home as a momento from the night.

Personalised Place Cards
Personalised Place Cards

A fun idea if you are hosting a baby shower is to ask all the guests to bring a baby photo of themselves. The mom-to-be then needs to guess who is who. This can also be used for birthdays or bridal showers. If using it for a birthday – ask the guests to bring a photo of themselves at the age they have known the birthday girl for. She then needs to guess who is in the pic. Failure to do so results in a tequila fine (Really, my favourite party trick!)

Who's the baby?
Who’s the baby?

 

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Vegetable soup

Really you ask. Veg soup is the topic of this post?

Let me tell you, dear friends about the unsung hero that is veggie soup. Never has a dish so versatile been found. This food can cure the common cold, encourage weight loss and take the chill out of a cold winter night. Also, having just come back from a rather pleasurable evening with my beastie and her fiancé and after having drunk several bottles of red and devouring a bowl of home made veggie soup, I thought it would be fitting to pay homage to this simple yet classic dish.

Kate’s veg soup :

Chop as many veggies as you can get your hands on – paying special attention to celery, carrots and beans.
Sautéed onions in olive oil until transparent, then add a few tablespoons of paprika and sautée for a minute more.
Add various vegetables until you think it’s time to add water ( relax, its almost impossible to cock up up veg soup)
Add a tin of tomatoes or a small tin of tomato paste
Add a stock cube or stock pot. If you don’t have these, a tablespoon of marmite or a dash of worstershire sauce does the trick.
Salt and pepper to taste
Chilli to taste
Make sure you add in whole celery leaves – these add great flavor and can be scooped put before serving.
Simmer
(I often add in red kidney beans or potatoes/pasta shells/ brown rice for starch. It it’s completely up to you)

Simmer for a few hours and enjoy (soup can also be frozen and is about 99% cheaper than your local quality grocery store. (No names mentioned, but rhymes with FullBirths).

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A 1950’s affair!

Last weekend we hosted a rather unusual bachelorette for my bestie Amy. This was no ordinary bachelorette in that the amount of time it took for us to come up with an idea that wasn’t kitsch, cliched or (god forbid) club orientated was extraordinary. Amy has unique taste, and a style surpassed by none, so trust me, had we draped her in phallic objects and stuck a set of Playboy bunny ears on her head, we would have been fired form bridesmaids duty, and possibly never spoken to again. Thankfully I had a lightbulb moment (yes, it happens) and decided that a 1950s ‘un-perfect housewife’ theme would be fairly fitting for the bride-to-be. Thanks to Google, some talented designer friends, talented seamstress friends, talented ideas friends (you get the picture) a very patient boyfriend, some equally handy fellow bridesmaids and my skills with a tube of Pritt and some scissors, the day (and night) turned out to be a roaring success. Even Amy says so.Just ask her.

For the evening part of the event we all hopped into a taxi and went to a beautiful champagne bar and restaurant called ‘Amis’ (completely planned, of course!) With 19502 movies playing on the wall, gorgeous decor and a retro theme, it was just perfect. We ate too much, drank delicious bubbly and ended the day off on a perfect note.

Bring on the wedding!

Here are a few pics from the event, and some ideas if you’re ever planning a good old fashioned do.

Homemade party favours with a personalised poem made by Amys sister

I Googled ’50s images and strung them on ribbon with clothes pegs. Very effective!

Not everyone loved the photobooth props!

Again, I printed 50’s signs and glued them to skewer sticks, which I then placed all over the venue.

Red and white striped lollipops and 50’s slang wine glass tags. Amy got ‘Circled’ which back in the day meant ‘Getting Hitched’.

Thanks to some ingenious blogs I found these cool photo booth templates which I printed and cut out

Amy doing a ‘down down’ the old fashioned way

I found this amazing old school wedding photo which I used as cheese labels. My best was ‘Something old something new something borrowed something blue‘ Get it?

Completely co-incidental that Amy’s dress (made by our very talented friend Ilona) matched the photo booth backdrop. FYI I bought a huge roll of wrapping paper and simply stuck it to the wall to make the backdrop.

Aren’t these signs the cutest?

The Bridesmaids

All the guests signed a pottery bowl which we will glaze for Amy

My parents garden provided the perfect setting for a day of 1950s good ol’ fashioned fun!

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