Monday, 14 July 2014

Lesson 22: Everyone does it (NCT that is)

NCT groups represent everything I used to imagine life as a parent would be. Largely because they are so very middle class. I don't think that's a sweeping statement (you'll tell me if it is) - NCT groups bring together middle class strangers and plonk them together at summer picnics on Cath Kidston blankets, in John Lewis caf├ęs with rows of iCandys parked up... 

Perhaps the last bit is a slight generalisation, but I feel I am liberty to comment because if I could afford it, this would be my life too

Everyone does NCT. My sister, my best friend, my work colleagues. It is what you do. To me, prior to having Boy One two years ago, NCT was how mums made friends. I planned to sign up straight away. 

Except when I fell pregnant first time around my nearest NCT 'hub' was over 35 miles away. So I decided to go it alone.

Effectively, I decided not to buy myself a new friendship group. I hope that doesn't get taken the wrong way - if anything, at the time I would have paid good money for a guaranteed Mummy Wolf Pack.

But it wasn't to be. And instead, I had to make friends the old fashioned way. I had to force myself to go to  antenatal classes, coffee mornings and Bouncing Baby groups (really not my scene) with other parents. There was no circulation of group contact details, no new network of similar due dates, no automatic organisation of a Group Reunion. 

I had to strike up relationships with strangers who had their own friendship groups, ask them for their numbers, and initiate play dates. I had to make eye contact and small talk and hope a glimmer of common ground would blossom into a friendship, when sometimes all I really wanted was to stay on the sofa and watch Homes Under The Hammer. It was bloody hard work. 

The realisation of having to face Bumps and Babies again.

I have spent two years wondering if I missed out. When my sister/best friend/colleagues/world and his fucking wife describe their NCT Friends, it all seems so easy. You go to the antenatal classes (posher than the 'bog standard' NHS ones an NCT Attendee informed me), and then BOOM, you become a network, you wait for each other to drop a baby and then you become friends for life. 

I'm well aware it doesn't work out this way for all groups. I occasionally hear of 'nightmare NCT friends' and 'the odd one from our NCT group', but above all else I have witnessed (with some jealousy) endless schedules of happy NCT gatherings, birthday parties and all round good support. Whilst I plodded off to another random group in the hope I would find some pals. 

And pals I did find. Not a ready-made group, but a very select number (okay two pals if you must know), who I clicked with straight away. My sort of people. Not people I wanted to like because I would have to meet them monthly and force my husband to bond with their husbands. People I genuinely did LIKE. A harder journey but I have no doubt that we will be friends for life. 

Now preggers for the second (and final) time, I have since moved to an NCT area (not too far away but unfortunately quite far from those special friends) so I am back to square one and have again been faced with the NCT conundrum. 

I don't really need the posh classes this time. I've already passed a small human out of my body and Expressed With The Best Through These Holes in My Chest (god love the Fiat advert). So I put my name down for an NCT Refresher Course. 3 evenings, and the Holy Grail of a reunion (and allocated network) post-birth. To be honest, with a toddler in tow, I could do with the Rent-A-Friend service. Anything to not have to start running again on the making friends treadmill. 

And then I got the email. Bang smack in the middle of a nightmare week of our car going wrong, the kitchen ceiling leaking and the death of my uninsured iPhone via a 40 degree spin cycle, I received registration instructions. And a bill for over £100 (£140 I think it was, there or thereabouts). 

I won't bore you with our financial situation, but in a nutshell whilst this is completely unaffordable for us at the moment we do not qualify for any 'help' with fees. On paper, we have an almost respectable income. In reality, we now buy the thin toilet paper that scratches your arse and the shampoo that looks interchangeable with washing up liquid. 

So I phoned the nice NCT lady and told her she could take me off the list. Farewell Mid-September Exeter baby friends. It was nice almost knowing you.

Hubby has been brilliant. He said we could work something out if it is really important that I do these classes. But it just doesn't sit right with me. 

I don't even want to do the sodding classes. I would be paying £140 or so purely for a new group of friends. Whichever way you look at it, this is expensive for Forced Friendship Fun.

Last week at work, an NCT advocate casually expressed the following when I explained I wouldn't be signing up: 'Such a shame, at least with NCT you know the sorts of Mums and Dads you will be mixing with, if you know what I mean!' 

Well I do know what she means. And despite longing for a network of buddies I don't want to be a part of The Elite. Variety is the spice of life, and I will happily take my chances sharing classes with the other sorts of mums. Some of whom may not be with the Dads. Some of whom may buy substandard toilet roll. Some of whom may just become genuine friends for life. 

So wish me luck as I plod on with my non-NCT journey for the second time. I'm sure I will envy the odd NCT group BBQ or Country Farm Park outing stumbled across on Facebook. I'm sure I will have to drag myself to breast feeding groups (if they keep calling it nursing I'm leaving). I'm sure sometimes I will fail to tear myself away from Homes Under The Hammer. But mostly, I'm sure I will be just fine. 

The Unmumsy Mum


  1. I'm in exactly the same situation and against have decided we just can't stretch to the NCT fees , it does worry me that I won't find friends in my local area - we've moved since having D - but I guess I'll too have to work a bit harder and be a bit braver. I'm due in September as well so we can tweet while both hiding out watching homes under the hammer!

    1. It's so hard isn't it?! But we will be just fine. Lovely to hear from another September Due Date - hope all is going well and yes please do keep in touch :-)

  2. I hadn't even heard of NCT - possibly because I don't look for them anyway - but it sounds crap!!!
    I'd much rather approach the park with my kiddies in tow and have a conversation, much rather make friends at play groups held in churches, schools & scout halls that are already a blended part of the community and don't cost the earth.

    Good Luck - not that you need it :-)
    Ella x

  3. And that is why I love you! Big high fives :-) xxxx

  4. I have an almost 3 year old and a 6 week old. I'm catching up on your fantastic blog (during the dreaded night feeds), can I just ask...... What the frig is NCT??

  5. You missed that unless you have done nct classes they will not talk to you either!