I’ve always thought of myself as a confident and chatty person, and in many ways I am. I have no problem making small talk with people I don’t know in unfamiliar surroundings. As a yoga teacher and part-time lecturer, I’m regularly the one at the front of the room with all eyes on her. However, since having children, I genuinely feel I have lost the art of conversation with grown-ups. I don’t mean I “baby talk” to them; it’s just that other than conversations about my children I have no clue what to say to anyone any more.
Most of my socialising these days takes place during the day with other mums. Naturally, conversation is dominated by our little ones as we try to make the most of each other’s knowledge. I can chat for hours about sleep patterns, school catchment areas, double buggies, meal times, teething remedies, and so on. I even hope that as a mum of three I have something useful to say. Not that these conversations ever last very long in any case, as after about four sentences interruption inevitably comes in the form of someone’s child climbing on a table / one of us being dragged off to play on the slide / a little one shouting that they “need a wee right now this minute”. My standard joke is that I never hear the end of a story these days. Perhaps I should add that I never have a conversation that lasts more than five minutes these days, either.
Which is the crux of my problem. Put me in a room away from children or, God help me, a room with non-parents, and I freeze. I genuinely don’t know what to say. I can’t believe I have become a mummy bore, but I truly have.
Try as I might, I just can’t “do” conversation any more. Finances stretched after three maternity leaves and part-time working in between plus limited babysitting services mean I hardly go out these days, so it’s not like I can tell you about a swanky new restaurant I’ve been to or a crazy gig from the band of the moment. I work a lot in the evenings so I’m about two years behind on my television viewing. Everything you’re getting excited about now, I’ll be able to chat to you about in 2017. By which time you’ll have moved on to something else that I’ve yet to hear of and you’ll have forgotten all about the intricacies of whatever Netflix series I am slowly working my way through. As a journalist, I work from home most of the time, so I don’t have office politics to update you with. I often write about being a mum, so the days when I could tell you about the exciting a-list celebs I used to interview are long gone. As most of my friends are conventionally married, with children, living in suburbia, I don’t even have Other People’s Gossip to thrill you with. I try to watch the news to see what is going on in the world but as soon as I do, I can feel my eyelids drooping and before I know it, I’m dozing on the settee and bang goes my dream of impressing people with my insights into the turmoil in whatever country it is this month.
I’ve found a way of getting round this lack of ability to make conversation – asking questions. So if I seem extra nosy or overly interested in your life, it’s not because I’m coming on to you or planning on stalking you: it’s because I genuinely cannot think of a single thing to tell you.
Normal service will resume in about 15-20 years when the children leave home. In the mean time, please remember you used to find me fun and interesting.