“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” – Former United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
There are two types of women in this world – those who love and support their fellow sisters and, by stark contrast, those who view other women as a competitive threat. And so it is, as a new mum, that you may want to be a tad wary of mothers’ groups.
Let’s face it, you’re no doubt exhausted, emotional and hormonal and in need of a jolly good hug/glass of wine/week’s worth of sleep post-birth – last thing you need is to surround yourself with “mean girls” akin to high school. In fact, when I told several best friends I was intending on joining a mothers’ group post-second baby (I ran out of time and was too shell-shocked with my first), they were incredulous. “What would you do that for?” said one. “That’s hell!”
“Talking about poo and sore boobs all day with bitchy, competitive women, that’s not you?!” said another. Countless others warned me off joining one lest I encounter, as they had, Stepford Wives-esque, robotic women, all proclaiming they had the “perfect baby” who slept all night. I call bullshit!
I was determined to take their advice on board, but go in with an open heart. I thought, at best, I might make new friends with other like-minded women and gain comfort, knowledge and support from other newbie mums.
And I was lucky, I’ve made one cherished friend for life out of my mothers’ group and met many other lovely women, who were perhaps best left as acquaintances, given we didn’t share much more in common than having had babies born at the same time. Here’s my advice on what to look for in, and how to approach, a mothers’ group:
Knowledge is power: Find a mothers’ group with an expert leader. Ours was a child health nurse who cleverly soothed many a stressed mum worried about baby weight, breastfeeding and cradle cap, for example. Many mothers’ groups also offer guest speakers and seminars, just as ours did, on reading to your baby, swimming lessons and how to connect with your little person.
Just be yourself: Be gentle and kind with other mums, while being true to yourself. If you have to stifle your personality and pretend to find talking endlessly and incessantly about different shades of baby poo fascinating, then keep looking for a new group, sister, or be OK with the fact that it’s not for you.
Don’t compete: Everyone’s path is different; every baby journey unique – motherhood is not a race. Just because your baby isn’t sleeping through the night now, like other mums will claim, doesn’t equal disaster. Most babies don’t, in fact! Experts say don’t expect your baby to sleep through most of a night before three to six months. And, even after that time, it’s normal for babies to wake up several times during the night.
Be authentic: You’re not helping yourself, or others, by pretending to be perfect, or by claiming motherhood is a breeze. Be open and honest about the very normal stresses and strains of early motherhood. PND is very common – reach out for help if you need it, or if you’re feeling strong and can offer support to others who may be struggling, do.
Support each other: Finally, this, for me, is key: look for a mothers’ group with a supportive bunch of women, who genuinely seem interested in learning about and helping each other. You shouldn’t walk away from mothers’ group feeling sapped and dispirited, instead you should ideally find it a positive, nourishing and strengthening experience. Ask yourself: “Is this one hour a week helping or hindering my journey as a new mum?”
Image via pixabay.com
By Nicole Carrington-Sima