SINGAPORE - We all collect friends through the years as we move through different phases of our lives.
There are those I've grown up with, such as the primary and secondary school pals who knew me before I was a fully evolved concept. Others I've picked up through a common interest or social circle.
Inevitably, I have formed some of the deepest bonds with friends from the newsroom, since most of my waking hours in my adult years have been spent at work. Even though I switched to a part-time arrangement last year that lets me work from home, they are still the ones with the major updates of my life.
When my son began Primary 1 this year, I found myself another group of buddies - the mums of three of his classmates.
S is a vivacious stay-home mum who can always tell you what's the latest toy or hip hangout. We dub her Santarina, or the Spoil-Market Mum, for her endless supply of treats for the boys, from homemade cupcakes to red-and-white loom bands for National Day.
Hong Kong-born P, also a full-time mum, is the epitome of school-run chic with her casual yet tasteful stealth-wealth designer gear. Struck by her fair, flawless complexion, I couldn't resist asking for the brand of her skincare potions when we first got to know each other.
PC, who teaches art part-time at a junior college, is the gung-ho one who often takes her kids for outdoor activities such as rock-climbing. She runs a tight ship at home despite being the only one among us without a helper.
We started off on hi-bye terms after running into one another nearly every day in the school lobby while waiting to pick our boys up. We clicked from the start, probably because we share similar values and parenting styles. Coincidentally, the four of us also have a younger daughter of around the same age.
Soon, phone numbers were exchanged and a WhatsApp chat group quickly sprang up. This served mainly a practical purpose at first, such as to clarify homework and other school matters.
It was comforting to know that we could turn to one another for instant help and advice as we braved the formal schooling system as mums for the first time.
The group is big enough for us to draw a general consensus on most matters (Is the Maths test weighted? Is there early dismissal tomorrow?), yet small enough for us to voice assorted concerns without worrying about spamming.
As we became familiar with one another, our sharing grew more personal, both on WhatsApp and during the 10 to 15 minutes of chit-chat we snatch each day while waiting for the school dismissal bell.
We share pictures and stories of our kids outside school, exchange ideas for playtime and swop details on shops, products and remedies that cater to our families. On some days, we simply turn to the group to vent or lament about something that has coloured our day.
If my friends at work are clued in on the key events of my life, these mummy pals are au fait with the daily nitty-gritty, such as which member of my family is sick or how my home suffered a power outage recently. After all, they are probably the friends with whom I clock the most face-time these days.
The perks of having a school mummy network are plenty.