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Loneliness of the new parent

An elderly man approached me at the school gates. "I don't think I've spoken to you before," he said.

"I don't think you have," I replied. "It's just I really need someone to talk to," he said.

At last, I thought, a friend at the school gate!

My son joined this small, cosy primary months ago. He was cosseted, invited in for try-out days before his formal start. His progress was monitored and reported back to us. We had long stopped worrying about him. We were worrying about ourselves.

Weeks went and still no one spoke to us during the school-gate vigils. We smiled and looked friendly, patted dogs and babies, but to no avail. People just had more important things to do than look after two lost souls.

It was worse for my partner. Valiantly striving to fulfil his role as a committed, interested father, he felt like a dodgy geezer waiting there surrounded by chattering mums.

"Everyone knows men are just potential rapists," he would grumble before he took to sitting in the car and darting out at the last minute.

Then there were the invites to fund-raising events. Everyone knows that schools prosper when they are supported by parents. But it is hard to turn up to a bingo session or a quiz night when you know no one - especially when you've been standing next to them twice a day for weeks.

And it is even harder to consider joining the parent-teacher association or the school governing body, when no one even knows your name.

Before you conclude that we are pathetic specimens, or that we don't wash, I should add that we have persevered, and we are getting there.

But how much easier it would have been if the head or the governors had organised a simple get-together for new parents.

As for my elderly gent, well, he didn't want to be my friend. He just wanted to talk about the fact that his wife had run off with another man.

But not one she had met at the school gate.

Janet Sims is a parent at a primary school in East Anglia.Feeling aggrieved? Write us a 400-word Sounding Off article and get paid as you grumble. Email your thoughts to susan.young@tes.co.uk

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