Send Me A Life Raft

If you were stranded on a desert island as a new mum (unlikely I know but stay with me), what's the one thing you would take besides food and water? Well, I think the answer should be a support network.

Not a bad analogy really likening the early months of motherhood to being on a desert island. That's how it feels sometimes. I see a lot of new mums in my private practice who are finding it hard because they have a limited support network. Often they don't have grandparents nearby or family and friends who are able to help with the children. They also often don't have a wide circle of friends with young children and sometimes their partners are having to work long hours or travel for work. What this means is that these new mums feel like they are largely doing it alone. Which isn't easy and can have an impact on how much they enjoy being a mum. It can also mean they feel they never have a break from the children or that they don't have a sounding board to voice their concerns or fears.

If this is your situation here are a few ways to boost your support network:

Mothers Group

I know many women have mixed feelings about mother's groups. When they work well they are a joy and provide a high level of support. It's a place where everyone is experiencing the same things you are and are (hopefully) willing to share their experiences.

There are some instances when mother's groups don't work. This can happen for instance when the dynamic of the group becomes competitive. You might have experienced this first hand....everyone competing to take the prize for "mother of the year" or the award for the "yummiest mummy with children under 2".

My advice is give mothers group a go. There may be several mums you connect with or maybe just one or two. The relationships are worth fostering and if you can be as real and honest as possible then you might side step the competitive issues.

Mums and Bubs activities

Explore other options for meeting new mums. There are lots of options here, you could join a playgroup or explore other types of activities. There are classes for baby massage, mums and bubs yoga, infant music classes or group exercise classes for new mums. You could always try African drumming for newborns....mmm maybe not!

For the more extroverted among us you could start chatting to other mums at the park, at the check outs or wherever you happen to come across them. Many people are happy to have a chat but don't want to be the first one to break the ice.

Online Buddies

Meeting other mums doesn't have to be confined to face to face contact particularly if you live in a more remote area. There are a number of forums where you can make online contact with other mums and chat about issues to do with raising children. Some of these forums also include request from mums who are wanting to meet other mums in their local area.

Friends with children

This might be a good time to reconnect with your friends with children. It's not uncommon to feel a bit disconnected from friends when they first have children, their lives change dramatically. Often it's not until you have children of your own that you have that "aha" moment and suddenly understand what your friends before you went through. Now might be a good time to reconnect with those old friends as you now have another strong bond in common.

Be big enough to accept help

If you don't have family or close friends to rely on for babysitting consider getting a professional to help now and then. If finances allow, finding a nanny or a babysitter you could trust could give you a break. Often the hardest thing is admitting you need a break and also trusting someone else with your child. If you were able to do it however, then it might make a big difference to your state of mind. Another option might be to set up a swap arrangement with another mum you trust. You mind their baby for a period of time each week and visa versa.

If your budget can stretch a little further you might consider getting some help with the cleaning once a fortnight, at least for the first few months. This can lighten the load so you can concentrate on the baby and yourself.

Support groups for mums

If you feel like you are doing it tough there are a number of support groups for new mums. These groups give you an opportunity to talk about how you are feeling and also to hear other mum's stories. Talk to your early childhood nurse about groups in your area. If you are based on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, contact Mataji to find out details of local groups.

I hope I haven't gone overboard with the above list and left you exhausted. You'll be pleased to know I did restrain myself from suggesting a letterbox drop to all the mums in your postcode! Jokes aside, I don't think the importance of a support network can be underestimated. It really does make an enormous difference to the early days of parenthood and I hope the above helps you find the support you need if it isn't already readily available.

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Posted on 12 May 2010