Parenthood can be a lonely time, but since March 2020, many of us have known isolation like we never could have expected. You don’t need us to tell you how much the Covid pandemic shook up everything we knew and affected everyone. You lived it too. For those who rely on support networks to survive, like parents, the last 16 months have been particularly difficult. All that said, finding ways to connect with other Mums can be difficult too.
But as the world starts opening up again and as we get more comfortable with the idea of meeting other people, there’s something appealing about the idea of spending time with other parents. After all, there are only so many hours you can stare at a sleeping baby (we’re pretty sure) or sing nursery rhymes on repeat. There comes a time in every new parent’s life when the urge to speak to another grown adult becomes too strong to ignore.
The truth is, even without having spent months cooped up avoiding the outside for fear of contracting a virus that is sweeping the globe, remembering how to mix with other people in the early days after having a baby can be tricky. Sometimes we forget what is socially acceptable. How much poo talk is too much poo talk? How much of what’s going through our head is it appropriate to say out loud? What happens if the baby cries the entire time we are with other people? The time comes when all of these fears must be faced and we have to be brave and connect with other mums, for our own sanity as much as anything.
Benefits of connecting with other mums
Social support is essential for all humans. As much as some of us wouldn’t like to admit it, we crave other people’s company. For parents, other parents, i.e people who have been where you are before, are a wealth of knowledge and support. They’re the people you can call on when your little one does something surprising, they’re the people who can appease your worries, they’re the people who can say “yeah, I see you. I remember that too”. These friends are a lifeline for our post-baby mental health, happiness and a great tool for feelings of isolation. There are other benefits too. Connecting with other mums will help you:
- get social support that can help you manage stress
- increase your self-esteem and confidence by being part of a group
- share information and make decisions about key parenting issues
- feel like you are ‘not alone’ which can help you cope when things get tough
- find someone you can call and say “I need a glass of wine. Today was sh*t”
Ways to meet other mums
We know online dating has somehow got a bit of a bad rep, but the parenting equivalent can be an absolute game changer. Think Tinder, but for those responsible for kids. This list from Mother and Baby highlights all the top social media apps for parents. Meeting people online can be a really good way to ease yourself back into socialising if you’ve been apprehensive about it in the past. You can find people with similar interests, arrange play dates, or just find someone to talk to about the wild, wonderful and sometimes overwhelming world of parenthood.
Much like online dating, social media has got a bit of a bad rep too, but for parents, when used in the right way, it can be a fantastic way to connect with other mums. The first thing to say (and we know you’ve heard it before but we’d be remiss not to say it again), like with everything else, parenting social media isn’t parenting real life, and what you’re seeing is only a snapshot.
When you keep that in mind, knowing that there’s a place you can post at 3am when your child is cluster feeding and there’ll be someone, somewhere on the other end of a phone in the same boat, is super comforting. Facebook groups, like our Happy Mum Happy Baby group, are a great place to start if you’re looking to connect with other mums. And best of all, you can drop in and out whenever works for you.
Loads of people find antenatal groups really useful as a tool for connecting with other mums, but not everyone has that option. If you weren’t able to go to antenatal classes, don’t worry. Postnatal groups could be a good option to explore (your health visitor will have details of what’s available in your area), but breastfeeding groups, baby groups such as swimming, signing, baby massage are also likely to be available near you. Turning up at these groups can be anxiety inducing, especially after the last year or so, but remember there are likely to be a lot of other Mamas feeling the same.
While this might not be a way to connect with other mums in real life, it’s a great way for you to be reminded that you are not alone. We’ve just launched S8 of Happy Mum Happy Baby, but there’s a backlog of almost 100 episodes to trawl through. Our friends Mother Pukka (not currently making new episodes) and Scummy Mummies have their own, while Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place features tonnes of parents speaking about their experiences.
Things to do with other mums
- Day trip. We know these words might strike fear into your heart, but a day trip can be a great way to spend time with another parent or family. Two sets of hands are better than one and your kids can entertain each other. Getting a change of scenery can be a lovely way to reset too.
- Ready, steady, cook. Got a couple of Mum friends? Take the cooking load off each other and have each mum bring enough ingredients to make one puree in bulk to share. At the end of the day, you’ll each head home with a variety of purees to feed your child and you won’t need to puree for at least a couple of weeks. Works for dinners for the grown ups in the house too.
- Movie time. We cannot rave about Parents and Baby movie hour enough. Most cinemas now offer special screenings for those with babes in arms or toddlers to attend so if your little one starts bawling half way through the film, you’ll be in the company of those who get it. Judgemental side-eye be gone!
- Picnic at the park. Food. Space to run around. A chance to sit back and relax (ish). No space restrictions. The only thing that might hold you back is the Great British weather but as long as it isn’t absolutely pelting it down, there’s nothing to stop you from spending time in nature with others who get where you are. Ask everyone to bring a dish and make a pot luck out of it.
- Mums Fit Club. This maybe sounds more stressful than it needs to but for folks who are keen to maintain their fitness once their babes have been born, having accountability buddies can be a great way to connect with other mums and stay active. It doesn’t have to be a terrifying bootcamp, just a date once a week to move in a way that works for you is enough.
- Mums Night Out. Does exactly what it says on the tin. Take the night off, leave the kids with a responsible adult and go let your hair down. You deserve it. And your babies? They’ll be absolutely fine with that responsible adult for a couple of hours. Trust us.
If you find meeting new people tough…
We get it. We’ve all been that new person in a room who feels awkward and edgy and like they want to run away, but it really is worth persevering. Even just finding one person who makes you feel less isolated can go a long way to supporting your mental health.
Oh, and when it comes to other parents, we’re pretty sure there’s no such thing as too much poo talk, so there’s absolutely no need to worry on that score.