There’s nothing more heartening to me than to hear a room full of parents howl with laughter over a shared foible. A universal truth about the flawed nature of parenting. Not that parenting children isn’t fun, exhilarating – liberating, in fact, if you call transcending the pain of love a form of freedom. One could even say parenting young children is the ultimate manifestation of Stockholm syndrome – where you are bound by love to your captor, with the power imbalance reversed. If you know what I mean. If you are reading this and nodding slowly to yourself, I think you do!

That’s where the laughter comes into it. You have to laugh; otherwise you could drown in a sea of indignation, frustration and sheer shock as to how the Peoples Republic of Parenthood works. You know how it feels when the seams in a pant labelled one size fits all rip gently at the crotch before you’ve left the fitting room? It’s the same horror recognition that motherhood is NOT a one size fits all experience. Not all mums are the same. Not all mums react the same. Not all mums experience the same. And not all mums behave the same. Not just to the kids…but to each OTHER. That’s why we need Mummy Manners. It’s like a universal code, akin to road rules. Nobody needs a license, we’ve all realised that. But you can garner demerit points with the other mums if you insist on running a few emotional red lights.

For about 5 years now, I’ve been popping into schools doing humour infused shows for the parents – no kids allowed – delivering the messianic message that making friends with other mums is the key to a successful sing-a-long in the bumpy road travelled by the Motherhood Bus. Who else is going to pretend to listen endlessly to the frustrations of family life and remember parts of it for a follow up conversation – and not just so they can have a go at downloading too? It’s your mummy friend, that’s who. It’s your mummy friend who will spend afternoons at a park with you whilst the kids swing endlessly, filing half-finished conversations away to be revisited later just a like a favourite lolly pop. It’s your mummy friend who will store that secret gripe you have with your nearest and dearest, never to hold it against either of you when they see you together again, unless required.

Nicole, a beautiful New Zealandish woman who lived two doors up when our kids were small, taught me about ‘the Mummy Manners’. When we moved in with our 2-year-old son, she was there, within the week, introducing us to her two sons and husband and showing me the ropes of how families living up the street help each other out. Play dates. Cleaning up the poo at play dates if her kids had missed the toilet bowl. Teaching me how to make pancakes from scratch. Minding for an hour or two so I could exercise, sleep, read a book, make a sibling. Which we did. Thank you, Nicole.

Nicole found me one day, in the driveway, howling, because I’d just had a row with my one true mummy friend, the one I’d bonded with at mothers’ group because she’d been the only one who hadn’t tried to tell me about how versatile her vagina had been during childbirth.

Inadvertently I’d given her son a piece of chocolate. Or rather, it was with full awareness, I just hadn’t disclosed it to her. Or well I’d actually asked him not to tell her. But that was because I was torn between the notion of sharing with him what MY son had found in my purse on pick up from child care – that was four pieces of chocolate wrapped in foil – and knowing that she always went mad when her partner gave her son chocolate. I chose to share the chocolate and asked a three-year-old to keep a secret from his mother. Well, you would think it worthy of a Royal Commission. Fully castigated, I crawled home, wounded that not only had I lost a friend, but my son had too. Nicole rescued me from the foetal position in the drive way. She encouraged me to eat the rest of the said block of chocolate all by myself and to calm down, convinced it would sort itself out. It did. Nicole was brilliant. She reminded me I was still there, inside the Mothers Hood.

There’s nothing that needs dismantling more than the notion that once you are a Mum you stop being you. You don’t. You need women around you that see you as you more than ever, and it’s handy if the kids get along as well. If they don’t, just pop them on the swing. Eat some chocolate. And most importantly, get together and have a laugh, without the kids. If you need help, just call.

@Libbi_Gorr presents Weekend Breakfast Saturday 6-10am and Sundays 10-12 noon on ABC Radio Melbourne & Victoria.