The Friendship Report, commissioned by leading Child Trust Fund provider in the UK, The Children’s Mutual, reveals that if mums attended every parental group, from ante-natal class to primary school, they would make an average 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. With research suggesting that a network of good friends helps you live longer in older age, it’s good news all round for mums.
Psychological research shows that one of the most important characteristics of friends is that they are similar to one another: we like people who are like us. As our priorities change, so does our criteria for what makes a good friend and one of the most dramatic changes that occurs in many 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 mum’s 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 parents enjoy going out from time to time with old friends and NOT talking about the children.
Other key findings from The Friendship Report:
- The majority of 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.
- 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 has lead to other activities for many mums, including going shopping together (54 per cent); shared babysitting (36 per cent); and exercising (30 percent).
- Partners don’t take make nearly as many friends because of their children – if they were to attend all the possible parental groups with the mum, they would only make six new friends – about a third the number made by mums.