Mothers’ Group, it’s got a bad wrap; cat fights, competitiveness, bitchy comments and judgements – but is that really all it is?
Early motherhood is probably THE most vulnerable time we will ever have in our lives; hormones are going nuts, we’re switching personalities like Jekyll & Hyde, we’re super sensitive and we are only ever an inch away from feeling like we should give our children over to the department due to poor parenting —remember that time they cried for two (whole) minutes and I didn’t even pick them up?
Remember when I didn’t have enough breast milk, I couldn’t breastfeed, I co-slept, I didn’t co-sleep, I dropped croissant crumbs on their head, I didn’t spend enough time with my other child, my husband, my dog, on myself (you do not want to see these toenails right now – can anyone say Hulk and Hobbits combined?)
You throw a bunch of women together, who are…… let’s make a list:
– Zombie tired
– Sore in parts we never knew we had
– Feeling isolated
– More challenged than we have possibly felt in our entire lives
– Not wanting to leave the house, yet at the same time, desperately needing to escape the house, like it’s Alcatraz
– Needing to socialise with people who don’t throw food on the floor or try to fondle your boobs.
What are mothers’ groups good for?
I know I desperately needed other people who ‘understood’ what I was doing though, at the same time that I was going through it. When I was going through something, so were they- it was perfection! I remember telling multiple people ‘you don’t understand’. Not to downplay their importance in my life or their attempts to help or be supportive, or be condescending in any way – but I felt they just didn’t get it.
Sara Saunders. Image via Facebook.
Who else could understand the discomfort, the pain, the emotional confusion of the 'Twister' within, that Bill Paxton & Helen Hunt couldn't even understand?
Who else could comprehend the utmost appreciation and respect for what our body has been able to achieve and deliver (without completely breaking) as well as a sadness and longing for the body we had before?
Our bodies were aligned in representing a story, a story of the birth of a child; through such beauty as, stretch marks, saggy bellies, added weight, giant jugs with veins the size of your little finger and those eyes that look like you've just come back from an audition for the next 'The Ring' movie.
There is an awkwardness like the first day of class when you begin mothers group, there are parts of you, that when it's finally time to leave the house and socialise with people, people that actually know who Beyonce and Serena Van der Woodsen are, you get a mix of stage fright and agoraphobia.
Listen: According to a perinatal psychologist, mothers' groups aren't suited to everyone. (Post continues after audio.)
After fighting with yourself for half an hour, you finally drag yourself out of your exquisite combo of Uggs and PJs to enter the world. You find yourself sizing each other up as you enter, as if you may have just accidentally wandered into Fight Club instead of Mothers' Club.
You find a spot for your 500 billion baby items (most of which you will soon find out you don't need), as well as your baby (very important NOT to forget the baby). The babies are placed onto their soft baby blankets as to create some sort of flower shaped modelling shoot. The facilitator begins to do that old round the room intro, where everyone tries to seem like they're not completely freaking out about parenting and having to make 'friends'.
You see the mums who probably aren't going to make it in mothers' group. From day dot you can see that they have never been comfortable making new friends and totally ‘Dr. Phill-ing’ themselves to a group of strangers (fair enough too). The rest of us are in it for the long haul.
What are we even doing here?
The facilitator has a program each week that she follows in order to 'educate' - which is mostly telling mums what they already know. Some topics are interesting, but mostly, you humour the facilitator. She knows we are not really here for her, we are here to feel a sense of belonging and try to find our place in the world - and these women get that, they feel it too - we are all as bloody lost as each other.
In my mothers' group, we barely did the 'learning sessions', most of the time was taken up by talking about how our baby is feeding and sleeping and what others are doing, what's working for them and sharing some bloody ridiculous idea 'that they read in a book once'. Other mums have great ideas, they are tried and tested, not marketed - so you actually know it has worked for them and might be worth a shot.
What are we really doing there?
By the end of the first session, you will probably have decided if you like the mothers' group you've been dealt. More than likely you would have spotted out people you would like to become friends with, due to their personalities, interesting topics covered, but mostly if they'll drink wine with you.
After about a month, my mothers' group members would either meet up for lunch or hang out at each other's houses to chat, but most importantly, there was wine (drunk responsibly of course).
These ladies absolutely saved me. I believe that is the experience of many mothers when they meet their mothers' group posse. These women showed me that I was normal; that every worry was okay, every struggle was peachy keen jelly bean, and I was doing it right.
They were the voice I needed so badly at that exact time, the comradeship of people that absolutely got me in that moment of my life where I desperately needed to be 'gotten'. They reminded me that it was okay to be me! Even if none of us knew what that meant at that time, while we found our new selves as mums.
Get a mums' posse that has the 3Ls:
3/ Loves wine/coffee/raspberry spiders (whatever is your jam) - and most importantly adores YOU!
That’s my advice. It will save your sanity!
Love as always,
Listen to the full episode of our pregnancy podcast, Year One.