You’ve got a friend
There is nothing more life-changing than becoming a mum. The sleepless nights, the crying babies, the endless diaper changes – how do women get through this new life stage? With the help of other mums, that’s how. We asked our former That Mamas to tell us their secrets to finding a group of other mums who helped them through the hard times (and good times!). We found out that these friendships are not only important, they can be life-saving!
A mom squad has to start with your girl squad. Being a mother is just one part of who you are as a person. It defines you but doesn’t have to define you. You need to find a community of women who recognise that and encourage you to still be the woman you were before you had children. As a mother, you face a lot of unnecessary judgement, so having friends who are mums to prop you up is essential. They make you feel less lonely, and can help you maintain your sanity. My experience connecting with other mothers who aren’t friends first hasn’t always been positive. You may find that you’re actually different people with different mothering styles. And, you may find you run out of things to talk about.
When I got pregnant, I was also just starting my business so it meant I didn’t have much time to attend meet ups. I joined the GeoBaby due date club on Facebook, and I remember seeing these mamas meeting up every Friday at 3pm for tea and cake. I thought, “Who the hell has time to work and have tea and cake at 3pm?” Well, as I carried on into my last trimester, I was slowing down a little, and made that Friday 3pm slot for tea and cake at Cafe 8! It was my weekly reminder to just enjoy and put my feet up. Cafe 8 is a great spot to meet up, it supports people with special needs, it’s delicious and the afternoon tea is only $68! The only other group I joined was Annerley’s Best of Both package, which brought together five other couples who were all due within three months of each other. We have become a lifeline for each other. Not all groups grow so tight, but I got really lucky with mine, and 18 months on, they are still my go-to group when something changes with Mya.
I became a mother a little over seven years ago. I immediately noticed everyone was trying to do it ‘right’ or be ‘best’, or have opinions that were golden. It became a little overwhelming, and I ended up somehow sticking with friends who weren’t judging me as a mother. To build a solid mothering community I think the key most important factor is acceptance of your fellow mums. Maybe one is a stay-a-home mum who is pretty well off and lives a lavish life, another may be a workaholic (whether or not it’s because she has no choice but to provide) and another may be somewhere in between. The way I see it is: are they happy? Are the kids happy? In order to be a strong mother community we don’t need to be judgmental and instead be supportive when needed. And, always open our hearts and doors, and be kind. We are all doing the best we can with the tools we have. The mums we choose to be in our tribe must be the foundations of what holds us together at times of strife, but also accepts us for who we are, no matter what.
My “Mum Squad” has turned out to be a mix of old friends who also happen to have kids now, and friends I’ve met through Jemima and work. It’s interesting how you bond with another mum – whether it’s over gin & tonics after playgroup, laughing over shared “splattered with sh*t stories” or just having empathy when they burst into tears arriving late and flustered at baby massage class! I constantly marvel at how we can all have such different approaches to child rearing, yet find such common bonding ground – and don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t have my squad available on WhatsApp at all hours of the day and night (one unexpected bonus when our dear friends/mum squad members leave our fine city for other lands). As they say, it does “take a village!”
Having a mum squad is vital to your mental health, especially as a new mum. You need to be able to tell the endless – and sometimes seemingly pointless – stories to someone without feeling like they’re getting bored senseless! More importantly, you just need someone who understands what you’re experiencing and how tough it can be at times. If you’re having trouble connecting, I recommend simply plucking up the courage to talk to that mum you keep seeing in your favourite cafe, or reaching out to people via playgroups. I was lucky enough to have an amazing network of mum friends in both Sydney and Hong Kong – as well as my ultimate mum squad, my Mum and my sister, Eliza. When Harry was first born I was completely clueless, and having the support and welcomed guidance from these women, who had been there before, made my experience so much easier.
I honestly don’t know how parents did what they did without smartphones! Group chats can be a blessing and a curse. There is always someone who will answer (even at 4am!) but that is also the reason why your phone battery needs to be charged so often! I have found though, that the older my children get, the more confident I am in my own parenting skills and the less I run to the chat for help. However, it is a great way to keep in touch. I find Instagram to have such a wonderful mommy community, and maybe I’ve been extremely lucky, but I have not had any issues with people dispensing too much info. In fact, I get a lot of DM’s after posting certain things with parents (mothers AND fathers alike!) chiming in with their, “ME, TOO!”s.
Just say yes! If a pregnant friend, contact or trusted pregnancy group (such as Sassy Mama!) asks if you would like to join a group of pregnant women with a similar due date, don’t overthink it. Within typical social norms, you may be interested in knowing whether these women have similar interests, values, careers, or the many other criteria we normally use as a filter for who will be in your squad. In the case of moms-to-be, the similarities far outweigh the differences, and you can find common ground with just about anyone. Forming the group by the last trimester is key, as new moms don’t typically have time or energy to join a group, so it’s best to get acquainted early. Once you’ve established a baseline of trust within your group, open up and ask your wildest questions. You’ll find their insights and support far more meaningful than sifting through countless links on Google. Set up a WhatsApp group and meet as often as you can (pre-babies), and then continue socialising when you have your babies. As I did with mine, you will lean on your mom group more than you anticipated, and you will be happy you said yes. Lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of finding women within a narrow band of due dates. Outside of three months apart, moms feel like they’re in another and long forgotten chapter, so stick close and ride out the firsts alongside each other.