Time and time again this last week the word ‘community’ has popped up in my daily life.
For instance, the Vegan Supper Club I went to was held in a community building; an old building that would have been knocked down or left derelict had someone not decided to put the time in and make it a community cafe. The school we visited this week to have a look at for Beg is a community school which means it is open to various clubs like football and Tae Kwon Do after school hours – I didn’t even know there were such things as community schools. This word keeps cropping up and it got me thinking about the community of women I became a part of when I became a mum.
My relationship with my own mum has always been ‘unique’. Have you ever seen goats on the side of a mountain? They scale sheer rock faces – with hooves not claws- and make it look easy. It seems if they stopped to think about it they would probably fall off. That is just the conditions they are used to and that is kind of the best way I can concisely explain my relationship with my mum. I try to honour her especially for Beg’s sake. Point being I don’t have the luxury of the close knit support that a lot of my friends seem to have with their mum’s. Now before you get the violins out, it’s really fine, remember the goats? This is my normal. BUT it came to be that I had to seek out my own forms of female peer support which is why this post is actually going to be very positive.
When my girl was born 6yrs ago I went to approximately 102 baby groups. Happy hands & twinkly toes, tots play, baby massage, ti-a-fi (that’s a welsh language baby group called you and me *I think*) my local breastfeeding support group (where I did the breastfeeding peer support course) and my local La Leche League group to name a few off the top of my head. Beg had a very busy social schedule. But I didn’t get it. I would go to these groups but not make an effort with any of the other mums. I told myself I was there for Beg’s development and socialisation and the rest of it didn’t matter. I met a few other mums through these groups that I am still friends with now (yay for mummy friends) but it was more through their effort than mine (thank you!).
When my baby boy came along, I knew things were going to be different. In hindsight I realised I got so much out of all those little groups, most of them entirely run by volunteers, that I was excited to join them again this time around. I didn’t sign up for ante-natal classes with Beb’s pregnancy so instead I got in touch with other friends who were pregnant too. That was great because we had a right old moan about our differing pregnancy ailments! Not only that, I hired a doula who was a great source of support for me throughout my pregnancy and during Beb’s traumatic birth. My doula invited me to the home-birth meet she facilitates where I met other mums who were planning a home-birth and through that I also met a lady who hires slings and I hired one which helped no end with Beb’s silent reflux. My doula also helped me tap into my ready and waiting support network-my friends- by organising a Blessingway. The work of a doula is often referred to as ‘mothering the mother’ which is exactly what I needed.
Now Beb is here and at home I am still consciously seeking out woman to woman support. I realise the importance of hearing other mums’ experiences and being able to share mine if I want to. The La Leche League is my top favourite group for this. I am really fortunate that my local LLL group has been run by the same leaders for years so when I went back recently, they remembered me. The leaders happen to be very well regarded locally having each done lots of training, however, the emphasis is that the group is ‘mother to mother support’ and the leaders are there as mums to support other mums. I love that we’re all there to help each other brand new or 5 kids in; I love the whole ethos of mums helping other mums. There’s definitely a power in it when women support each other so open heartedly.
You may assume that actively seeking out support means I have been buzzing about meeting lots of people at different groups, but actually I have been a lot more selective this time round. I know which groups are likely to be most beneficial to me personally and so have prioritised getting to those ones over other things. For me this has included prayer meet at church (even though I’ve only made it once so far). Not just as some consumer type person who turns up gets what they need and leaves but also contributing my experiences and a listening ear to other mums there too. Some days I might be having a difficult day and don’t have much to say, some times I might not make it because I didn’t make it out of the house, but that’s OK too.
I have also accepted (and asked for) help a lot more this time from hubby’s family, which they are happy to give 🙂 When I had a tummy bug, my mother in law did 3 or 4 school runs that week. When I couldn’t face Beb’s first injections my sister in law came with me and took him in for me.
There is support out there but you have to be brave and go and actively seek it! Most groups have facebook pages now so you could introduce yourself on there first. I sent one message that said “I’m visiting your group on my own for the first time today please do say hello!” It feels funny to do but we’ve all been there and most of us know what it’s like to be a bit nervous going to a group for the first time.
I find these days I’m much more social and will chat to other mums wherever I am. I feel like we all have our different challenges and parenting styles but essentially we’re in the same kind of life stage. I might not know your story and you might not know mine but a smile to say we’re doing it, we’re here in Tesco, doing the stuff that needs doing, can make all the difference in a day.
Wondering about hiring a Doula? Check out Doula UK
Breastfeeding? Any age…check out La Leche League to find your local group.