The transition into motherhood for most mums can be an isolating and lonely time. Even mums who have worked with babies and children in their careers before motherhood can find it a challenging time. No amount of exposure to babies or knowledge relating to babies can prepare you for the bone tiredness of sleep deprivation with a baby. It doesn’t prepare you for the overwhelming sense of responsibility of being the primary carer of a baby where all the decision-making falls in your lap.
Experts know that the rates of postnatal depression and anxiety are on the rise. Is it because life after the birth of a baby is changing and making it more stressful? Is it because we are more aware of the symptoms and therefore mums are seeking treatment more often? I have a sneaking suspicion that the isolation many mums feel is a huge contributing factor.
Common feelings for mums
- The loneliness and helplessness in the middle of the night when your baby won’t stop crying no matter what settling techniques you try to use.
- You thought breastfeeding was ‘natural’ and would just happen, and when your baby won’t latch you feel like a failure and the only mum experiencing this. Because everyone else seems to breastfeed fine, right?
- Your baby won’t sleep anywhere unless you are holding him or her. You worry your baby is broken, there’s something wrong, you obviously haven’t learned the right way to ‘get your baby to sleep by him/herself’.
- You feel like you are always struggling. You feel really emotional, and cry easily. The sleep deprivation, the constant ‘go go go’ of mothering – breastfeeding/bottle feeding, changing nappies, getting your baby to sleep – never ends. You get NOTHING done around the house. It’s a pigsty and you haven’t eaten a hot meal in one go or had a hot tea or coffee entirely since before your baby was born.
You are not alone. I cannot tell you how many mums feel some or all of the above. Times have changed. Mums didn’t necessarily feel all of this many many decades ago. You know why?
We’ve lost our village.
Imagine back in the days when we all used to live very close by to our extended families. We had our mothers, grandmothers, aunties all nearby to provide practical and emotional support. We all parented one another’s kids. You didn’t have to face much alone because someone was always available within arm’s reach.
As travel increased over the past 70 or so years, families have dispersed around the world. The consequence of this is that new mums often feel really isolated. Many don’t have any family living nearby, nor friends with babies to form their mothers’ village.
In my years of working with mums, about 90% say they are looking for a mothers’ group because they feel lonely and isolated. It is so incredibly common!
How to find your mothers’ village with a baby
- Attend the mothers’ groups at Making Mama!
- Find mothers’ groups through your local child health clinics
- Find mothers’ groups through other businesses for mums – some offer support for mums and some offer activities for babies
- Attend your local library for baby related activities
- Join a local fitness group for mums
- Attend a local breastfeeding group with the Australian Breastfeeding Association
- Attend a local playgroup with Playgroup Australia or likewise
One of the things I’ve realised as my children have grown is that no matter how old they are, we all continue to need a village. I needed mum support when my kids were in primary school AND high school. Children go through so many stages and various challenges and it’s always a wonderful feeling to realise other parents go through similar experiences and that you are not alone.
Ways to form your mothers’ village for older children
- Volunteer for the school tuckshop – it is a great source of information about the school and an opportunity to form lasting friendships with other mothers
- Volunteer as school-based parent helpers – sports carnivals, classroom assistance etc
- Volunteer for the school P&F (or P&C)
- Volunteer for the school fete (if you have one)
- Attend class or year level parent dinners/social events/play dates for kids
It can be a difficult thing to show up to something you haven’t been to before, when you don’t know anyone, and you are feeling less than perfect (about your mothering, about your appearance, about anything really). Most mums feel some level of anxiety walking into a room of strangers, hoping to God you won’t be judged for something. It takes courage and a bit of bravery. Listen to your gut instincts. You will know if it feels right for you. You will know if you feel you connected to the person in charge or other mums. You will know if you feel supported in anything you contribute or say. You will know if you feel safe and accepted.
Look for your village mamas. I promise you that your mothers’ village will see you through the hard days. Whether it’s a text message to another mum in the middle of the night saying ‘this sucks!’ and she says ‘oh I know it!’, whether you seek information about something or just need to hear ‘yep, that’s happening for me too’, it is worth its weight in gold. Ease the isolation. Ease the loneliness. Find your tribe. Find your village of support. You don’t need to do mothering alone.
To find your village through the Making Mama mothers’ groups, click here for more information.