Many new mums aren’t too sure about this mother’s group thing – you’ve just had a baby and now you need to go and sit in a room with a bunch of strangers at your local Early Childhood Health Centre? It’s no wonder some of us are a bit hesitant.
For a lot of women mother’s group is an absolute godsend and they don’t know what they would have done without it. For others, the experience is a vastly different – even negative – experience. So how do you know if it is worth giving it a go?
The good stuff
There are many pros in favour of joining a mother’s group; after all they exist for one very positive reason – to help mums transition into life with a new baby. Here’s a quick rundown:
1. You get expert information and guidance
To begin with the centre will arm you with a bunch of useful info you need to know about caring for a baby and even offer classes on things like breastfeeding. You can also call them at any point without having to attend meetings.
2. You meet other mums who live near you
This can really come in handy for playdates, baby advice, loaning items, babysitting, emotional support and even group fitness sessions, where you take turns looking after the babies. These women are experiencing the exact same things as you and because they’re strangers you might feel more inclined to open up to them about what challenges you’re facing. Many mums even end up gaining life long friends from their mother’s group.
3. It gets you out and about
Being a new parent is hard and the thought of leaving the house in those early months can be truly daunting for some. Having a mother’s group meeting or a casual coffee catch up will force you to get out of the house and can be a real sanity saver. Breathe in some fresh air, enjoy the sunshine – which is great for wellbeing – and because everyone is local you probably won’t even have to drive.
4. Your child can make friends
Even babies love interacting with other children, but many mother’s groups continue well beyond the early months and your child will grow up with other children the same age who are local – perfect for when they start school.
The not so good parts
Every mother’s group is different and so is the experience mums have with them. This is certainly not the case each time, but here are some of the negative things that some women MIGHT come across.
Unfortunately some bullies never grow out of their nasty, manipulative streak and can show up in your mother’s group. They might create a divide in the group, exclude some mums from activities, be openly judgemental and more; which can be extremely upsetting for a new mum who is sleep deprived, emotional and desperately in need of support – especially if they’re experiencing post-natal depression or other challenges.
2. Comparison and competitiveness
Seeing a bunch of mums looking amazing with babies that are sleeping through the night at three weeks can be super deflating for those who haven’t showered for a few days and are getting NO sleep. There are also some mums who stoop to bragging about their excellence at parenthood and life in general – even if you suspect it’s lies, it’s not nice to be made to feel bad about your own situation.
You might have a little one who is incredibly active and not great in cafes or at parks with no fences, when all the other children are happy to sit quietly with a few toys. So the choice of venue for mother’s group catch-ups might not suit you. The days and times might also be an issue, especially if you’ve gone back to work part-time and no one else has, or your baby is on a different sleep schedule.
Alternatives to mother’s group
If you don’t want to try mother’s group, or have had a bad experience with one, don’t worry! There are plenty of other alternatives for you which can be just as great.
1. Try a new mother’s group
Often there’s more than one Early Childhood Health Centre that’s near you, so even if it’s a bit further away you could give it a try as there might be more people you click with there. Another option is to ask to join a friend’s mother’s group – perhaps their children are a bit older but maybe they’re more your squad? Most mums wouldn’t have any issues with this.
2. Join a playgroup
Most local communities have playgroups you can join where you’ll meet loads of other mums and children. Often they meet at community halls with playgrounds so it’s nice and close. Libraries also have free mum and baby reading classes where you can meet other mothers.
3. Find a support group online
Most regions in Australia have a Facebook support group that you have to request to join, but then allows you to interact with hundreds or even thousands of mums in your area. You can post questions about anything from tips on handling a tricky sleeper to requests for cafe catch-ups or reliable babysitters.
4. Get other online support
There are lots of great mum and parenting sites out there now – like Babyology! Get tips and advice from the online articles, post comments and questions to other mums via the social media sites, attend events and more.
5. Turn to friends and family
Often we forget about our old friends and family members when we’re stuck in the newborn bubble and not venturing out too far. Your own mother, sisters, other family members, or old school friends will be there for you when you need them so make sure you ask! Even if they don’t have children themselves, they can support you in many other ways.
So whatever you decide, just remember you’re not alone! There is always a form of support for new mothers out there so make sure you reach out.