This morning the lovely nanny (as opposed to evil ex-nanny) tripped off down the road, gaily pushing the buggy and clinging onto my four-year-old's hand. But despite making a beautiful tableau, there was no way I wanted to join them because they were off to a new playgroup.
Now I am a journalist by trade, which means I have to talk to people I don't know all the time, from interviewing the great, the good and the downright dull, to picking my through thronging press parties, schmoozing with PRs and making new friends on far flung junkets. In short I am not usually socially inadequate when it comes to meeting new people, that is unless they are other, unknown, mums. And where else is a more seething hotbed of this hostile species than the playgroup?
When I had son number one I thought that the playgroup would be the natural extension to the antenatal groups were we mums-to-be had bonded over our bumps and copious amounts of biscuits. I imagined that I would find myself amidst women cast adrift in the same boat of lonely new motherhood as me. That I would make new friends and that instead of wandering aimlessly around the park with nothing but a sleeping baby for company, suddenly I would be initiated into that garrulous society of happy looking mums who populated the local cafes and parks.
Little did I know that the last place you will make new friends is at playgroup. Instead the more savvy mums know that this is a vicious place with more exclusive cliques than any school playground, and woe betide the mum who doesn't turn up armoured to the hilt with her own friends. You should never travel alone to a playgroup, instead you must travel as a pack in order to fit in.
The first outing I made with baby number one I sat for the entire two hours of the group watching him sleep through the whole thing, while not one mother spoke to me. I tried to smile warmly at the women I had naively assumed would be my new best buddies, but all they did was give me a pitying glance before returning to the intimate conversation they had previously been conducting with their own cabal.
I swiftly learnt that playgroups aren't really worth the time of day until your child is old enough to whizz off and wreak havoc with the other pre-schoolers. At least that way you can bury yourself in a good book for a couple of hours, only rousing yourself from the plot when your little darlings' screams threaten to reach a pitch that could pique social services' attention.
So no, I really didn't envy my poor nanny having to walk into a room of women who would not give her the time of day even if their lives depended on it, and would probably only deign to speak to her to berate her should if one of my children dare to steal a toy from one of their precious poppets. A cardinal playgroup crime and one punishable by an extra layer of ice settling over the cold shoulder treatment.
Still she is fortunate to be an entirely separate entity to the mums, because as a nanny no one expects to become her friend, apart from the other nannies, who always seemed quite nice to me, and a whole lot more laid back than all those uptight, unfriendly mummies.
The only thing worse than a new playgroup is a music group, when the ostracising reaches ever higher levels as mums are happy to conduct entire conversations over you and your baby while you struggle to stop him eating the instruments. And there is the added humiliation of having to tunelessly sing along and inelegantly dance about while hefting your unwilling child along with you. Even worse, there aren't even tea and biscuits to make the outing even vaguely worthwhile.
Perhaps it's no surprise that I have yet to go to a single class or group with the twins, and have no intention of breaking my duck. I justify my antisocial parenting technique by comforting myself that in a family of four boys they have more than enough toys to fight over and rowdy children to jostle with in their own home, without the need to venture out and seek further child-induced chaos.