It is hard to admit, staying home with a baby can be a lonely time. It is ironic that, on one hand, you have a baby that needs you all.the.time, and yet we can still feel alone. Sarah shares some great ideas in this feature. As doulas, we can work to create space for new moms to make friendships, and we can offer support for their changing emotional needs. As moms and women, we can look for opportunities to build and nurture friendships. And it's all good for growing families.
So you find yourself sitting at home, looking at your new baby who has finally settled into a sleep after feeding for what might seem like the last six hours continually. Your home might be a little untidier than usual, the washing is piling up, you have given up on the idea of bothering to iron anything (flat clothes are slightly over-rated anyway!) and you can’t remember the last time you got to have twenty minutes of “down time”.
Your partner is spending long hours at work (still trying to catch up on the backlog from his paternity leave) and the influx of visitors that wanted to greet the baby have slowed to zero as everyone else returns to their day to day lives.
And here you are… coming to terms with your new “normal”.
During Birthability coffee mornings we always try and have a “topic” of conversation which people can dip in and out of as they wish. We have always been so humbled that our mums don’t “play pretend” with each other. They don’t sit there and dress up their weeks to show off how brilliant parenting is. Instead they are brutally honest and share their experiences openly, offering a realistic perspective that sometimes it is hard to cope, and gain solace that they aren’t the only ones feeling that way.
One week I asked the mums to share how they felt emotionally. Of course a few people said they loved being with their baby. A couple of mums felt that they would take time to adjust to their new roles, and were wondering if they could ever accept that this was “the future” for them. But worryingly, the most common feedback was that our mums felt “lonely”.
Lonely despite always being in contact with another human (albeit a baby!)
Lonely despite seeing their partners every day and often seeing pre-baby friends on a weekly basis.
Lonely despite being part of a new network of hundreds of other mums that have recently gone through their experiences .
And Lonely despite visiting coffee mornings each week.
Since we set up our weekly Bumps and Newborn support sessions, we have had many mums telling us that we provided the most important service that they accessed. Mums feel that we provide an “anchor point” in the week – and if they can just make it through to that day then they can come along, chat through any issues, sit down and be waited on with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and feel like an individual again, rather than just “babies mum”. Don’t get me wrong – our small team loves to coo over their babies as they come in – but actually we are really more interested in offering the mums a listening ear and hearing about their week. Our group has organically grown into a peer support session, where new mums are always identified, welcomed and introduced to another set of mums with the same age baby. We often choose a “buddy” mum that we know is comfortable chatting with new mums and able to help them feel part of the group quickly. In truth we don’t know how we achieve a “non cliquey” group – but somehow we do!!
So, we could pat ourselves on the back for running a great session – But what happens at the end of a coffee morning? Well, the mums pack their stuff up – put their babies back in their car seats – and drive back home where some of them will feel lonely again until next week.
So as I stand watching my mums sitting around the room and freely chatting, I have to wonder why it is that women are often unable to continue those friendships with strangers outside the room, and it strikes me that we are pretty useless at being forward! How easy would it be to say to another woman that you have met at a coffee morning “Hey, you know its been great to chat with you, it feels like someone else really understands my perspective – would you like to meet up during the week for a coffee?”
Scouting has a wonderful motto – “A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met before”
So, if you are feeling lonely, afraid, overwhelmed or just a little bit bored by the monotony of parenting, why not look into your local groups? When you go in just ask to speak to the leader and explain that you don’t know anyone and would really appreciate it if they could introduce you to a couple of mums.
I can tell you that a number of our mums joined us like that – and have gone on to form lasting firm friendships.
Some of our more experienced mums invite new people to join them after in the pub for a quick lunch – and a couple of them have even grabbed unsuspecting mums walking past the venue with a new baby in a pram and said “Hey, why don’t you come in and join us for coffee? It’s a great group and they would love to meet you!”.
Women need to start loving each other. We all have lonely days. Be brave and reach out to “strangers” around you – it could be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Sarah is a co-owner of Birthability. She has been teaching antenatal courses in Warwickshire, England for over 7 years, and has taught over 3,000 couples across the region. She trained as an NCT birth companion in 2010 and received certified accreditation from the University of Worcester. She loves to meet couples in early pregnancy, watch their journey through labour and birth and offer support at coffee mornings until mum is feeling confident enough to move on. Sarah has 4 children, and in her spare time is often running around to Hockey matches with her boys, and walking their dog “Luna”. You can find Birthability on Facebook as well.
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)