This long-overdue blog post is dedicated to the wonderful women in my mothers group: Alison, Bronwyn, Corinne, Di, Jess, Kate and Lauren. Even though we don’t see each other that often anymore, I am indebted to you for your friendship, advice and support during those first couple of years.
In Praise of Mothers Groups
“Now mums, there’s a right way to poo and I’m guessing you’ve probably been doing it wrong all this time”. I kid you not. These were the words of a guest speaker at one of our first newborn baby sessions who then proceeded to demonstrate the correct posture one should adopt on the toilet. (I still laugh every time I picture that scene). It’s fair to say that my mothers group bonded over shit and have been talking shit ever since.
It was an unforgettable beginning to the creation of our mothers group. We met at the Lambton Baby and Health Centre where we were alternately educated, entertained and shocked by the guest speakers. Even though there were 12 in these four weekly sessions, only seven of us were interested in forming a group afterwards.
And so we did, meeting every Thursday afternoon. My mothers group was a lifeline in that first challenging year when my daughter was born. I can’t thank my group enough for their support during the highs and lows of motherhood. How reassuring to be around other new mums who could both advise and commiserate with the challenges of motherhood such as sleep deprivation, teething, toilet training and just general insecurity about your parenting skills. It was so important to have a weekly meet up especially on those days when it felt like such an ordeal to get out of the house with a baby.
We learned so much from each other including the fact that mothering doesn’t need to be a competitive sport. I loved the fact that every mum in our group was non-judgmental and we could speak honestly about our issues and concerns. Watching all of our babies grow, we discovered that every child is different and they all reach their development milestones according to their own schedule. We found ourselves talking about everything from ourselves, partners and families and of course the babies. There were many discussion about sleep, food, swaddling and all the other discussions that babies entail.
I remember first discussing the idea of The Mummy Project (former name of Newy with Kids) with my mothers group and feeling buoyed by their support. It was a memorable day due to more poo issues with Baby Lizzie’s epic #3 which resulted in the disposal of an entire outfit.
Thursdays could never come around fast enough for me. I knew it would be a fun outing no matter if we were in our usual spot in Lambton Park or had ventured a little further. Looking back, we actually got out quite a bit from meeting in different playgrounds, local pools, indoor play centres, visiting photo exhibitions at Lovett Gallery and as well as going for walks around Lambton Park or along the harbour as well as a few BBQs in Blackbutt. The BBQs were alwways a favourite with each of us bringing a different item and enjoying a yummy sausage sizzle complete with footy chips.
A highlight for me included our Melbourne Cup meet up at Wests Lambton when we are all got dressed up (including the babies) and enjoyed an afternoon of races. Surrounded by oldies, none of them were fussed when the babies howled or tried to crawl into the food court.
They just clucked over them and proclaimed how precious they were! I remember the day vividly as there was an hour in which all seven babies were asleep (fluke) and I managed to win a few hundred dollars by correctly picking the winning trifecta (another fluke). We also arranged some kid-free meetups which were a lovely treat. We managed a mum’s night out to Honeysuckle as well as a decadent day at a local day spa followed by high tea.
It’s these special memories that I treasure when I think of the first couple of years of motherhood.
My friend Kate describes it perfectly:
“Mothers groups are quite simply a gift. Having a sounding board in that first year is invaluable. Getting out of the house with a baby, pram, nappies, bottles, snacks, toys and whatever other paraphernalia is challenge enough. But then trying to keep a baby asleep, awake, happy or quiet long enough to have an outing is the next hurdle. Being with a group of people that are experiencing the same thing as you is comforting and a relief. Knowing that there was another baby out there that pretty much survived on yoghurt or trying to figure out when to switch from two sleeps a day to one or god forbid none is a whole lot easier when you can talk about with a group of people you trust. We celebrated lots of firsts – food, teeth, steps and birthdays but thing I looked forward to the most in my son’s first year was our regular meets. Once a week for a couple of hours there was a park visit, a walk or morning tea to look forward too.”
However unfortunately our regular meetings didn’t last. Some of us went back to work either part-time or full-time or had more beautiful babies or moved far away (We still miss you Di and want you to come back to Australia!). Our meet ups became more infrequent but we still try to catch up every so often.
I have to mention though that I was lucky. I had an amazing mothers group. Not all mums have such a positive experience with their mothers’ groups. A friend of mine mentioned she had nothing in common with her group that she met at the hospital during birthing classes. And that’s understandable. Just because your babies are born around the same time doesn’t mean that you will all get along. People have different interests so find a group of mums that you can talk to.
Another friend told me how her group was ultra competitive about a variety of things from suburb they lived in to the brand of stroller and clothing (the more expensive the better), to comparing babies and their development. This just heightened her anxiety about parenting and her family income and she soon stopped attending that group. If your mothers group isn’t right for you, ditch it and find another group ASAP. A mothers group should be able to support each other during the good times and bad times and offer support, not make you feel anxious, insecure or bored.
And if you don’t belong to a mothers group, that’s fine too. For me as a first time mum, I really needed that structure and support of a group of other newbie mums. But I know plenty of mums who didn’t require it. Some went back to work after their child was born or had family support or just didn’t feel comfortable in a mothers group full of strangers.
But if you’re looking for a mothers group, ask around. Speak to mums at the playground or at local playgroups or ask your friends. Jess joined our mothers group after asking her Pilates instructor if she knew of any groups that would be open to more members. We’re so glad she did as we can’t imagine our group without her. No matter how you find your group, I hope it’s one that brings you comfort and support. Motherhood can be a challenge but with the right support, it can be just that little bit less shitty!
What’s your favourite aspect of belonging to a mothers group?