During my pregnancy, I wasn’t really part of the “Instagram” movement, or Twitter for that matter. I wasn’t aware of the so-called “The Motherhood” or phrases such as “Ain’t no hood like Motherhood” or even hashtags such as #themotherhoodisreal. If you’d asked me about them, I’d probably have uttered a sarcastic remark about reliance on social media or clever marketing trickery. A way to get you to join some parenting scheme or club, for a fee, to make friends. A way to get hooks into you to be able to send you endless junk emails or mail drops through the post telling you about all the best ways to be a parent.
However, having made it through 16 months of this parenting “lark” I am confidently able to say that the Motherhood IS real. Well, the PARENTHood really!
I was delighted to have fallen pregnant. My husband and I had been married for 2 years, we’d just bought our first house and we were over the moon to know that we were expecting (incidentally it was 2 years ago TODAY that we found out we were pregnant!). I quickly realised though that the vast majority of my friends were geographically spread quite far away from where I lived… and nearly of them were child-free… and those that DID have children had older children, not newborn babies. This was, at the time, a terrifying realisation that I would be quite alone in the journey of motherhood. Cue joining an NCT group, about 25% of my reasoning was to actually prepare for birth and the process of caring for/bringing up a child and the remaining 75% was essentially paying for “Mum” friends. And what a bunch they are!
The picture above is 86% of our group… one set are missing from the second First Birthday celebration of our “squad”… and I can honestly say these ladies are amazing. We are quite a mixed group of personalities, we’ve all got different careers and backgrounds but we all seem to get on very well. We try to get together with the dads involved too when we can so that they can also have a good vent/chat about their own parenting experiences too.
I can honestly say I don’t know how I would have coped in the early months and during my maternity leave without a group of people who knew what I was going through and were able to fully sympathise because they were going through it too. It’s hard to get sympathy from a child-free friend at 2am during the night feed… I’m not sure I’d cope NOW without them either in all honesty!
BG was the first of the “squad” to be born and I remember when the 2nd of the squad arrived I felt that ‘finally’ I had someone who would be there in the middle of the night. I also remember posting something on Facebook in the early hours of the morning during a particularly fraught night where my Husband was on nights and BG was having a particularly angry evening and then getting a WhatsApp message along the lines of “Just seen your Facebook… are you awake too?” – and instantly you’ve got relief from the loneliness that can occur during motherhood.
Being a parent is great – most of the time – but it can also be stressful and, dare I say it, a little lonely at times. No one quite prepares you for how isolated you can feel during those first few months of motherhood, or in fact your whole maternity leave – however long that may be. It’s vital, in my opinion, that you build some form of network to counteract these feelings of isolation.vvIt’s vital to have our mum friends – and not just the pre-children ones we used to go clubbing with until dawn.
Having friends who are also mothers can make a bad day so much more bearable because they ‘get it’. Share the moans, groans and proud moments and relish in the fact you will never be judged because there’s always someone who thinks they’re doing a shit job too!
Everyone is in the same boat as a first time mum… everyone is learning as they go and working out how to keep this new small human alive, happy and well whilst simultaneously maintaining some kind of personal hygiene and keeping a house relatively clean and tidy. We all have our bad days and there’s nothing like venting with a mum friend. We all need to blow off steam and there’s nothing better than doing it with someone who understands where we’re coming from. Everyone struggles and you can all have a good bitch and moan about what minor incident has pissed you off so much that day that you are incandescent with rage – there will always be someone who will shout back “Me too!” and instantly, you’ve got relief… relief from the feeling that you’re doing a crappy job, that everyone else must be doing better. You might well be ‘rubbish’ at it, but everyone else is too – so it’s ok!
Parenting can be a lonely business – even when we are rushed off our feet. Baby rhyme time at the local toddler group may not sound too exciting but it’s a great way of getting out of the house and may lead to lifetime friendships. A simple “who fancies a coffee/cake/prosecco” message to the mum group can instantly give you a reason to get out of the house, to get some fresh air, to socialise, to take a break from the 4 walls that seem to creep closer and closer to you when you’re at home. It’s also an opportunity to just be yourself again (albeit with a bit of crusty baby-sick on your shoulder!). Whilst the babies sleep in their prams you can have a chat to people about things OTHER THAN the baby!
Having friends who are mums means there is also a constant stream of tips, advice and general support… “Anyone else’s child suddenly got really clingy?”, “Anyone else going through sleep-regression?”, “Anyone found a magic fix for teething pain?” – you’re all in it together! It also means that nothing is off limits! Who else can you talk to about green poo, cracked nipples, being covered in sick, poonamis – no subject is too gross to tackle because we’ve all been there!
New motherhood can be a very lonely and isolating time and not enough people talk about it (probably because they don’t want to add to the list of worries that mums-to-be already have!). Andrea Mara writes a great post about the loneliness of first-time motherhood here https://www.eumom.ie/my-life/tell-your-story/honest-mom/the-loneliness-of-first-time-motherhood – she closes her article with:
“I wish I’d known to get out there and join those groups, join those classes. As I did on subsequent maternity leaves. I wish I’d known that the extra effort of getting up and out by 9am would pay off in unimaginable ways – the value of company and conversation. Coffee and cake with people going through exactly the same learning curve as I was. Hindsight.
And that’s not to say that everyone should join groups and classes. And it’s definitely not the case that everyone will be lonely, quite the opposite. But I wish I’d known that motherhood could be lonely. So that instead of feeling confused and guilty about it, I could have done something about it. Hindsight.”
And I think I would echo this sentiment – although not from a hindsight point of view, but more from a “been there, done that” point of view. I would be lost without my “Motherhood”. Lost or completely mad. Or maybe a combination of both!
Are you a first time mum reading this saying (or perhaps shouting) “Me Too”? Share your thoughts, opinions and experiences – you never know, perhaps you’ll help another mum out of a pit of sick encrusted loneliness too!