The importance of community as a new mum
It is often said that it takes a village to raise a child. For a large number of Aussie families, friends, neighbours, and even colleagues have played an important role in the personal development of their children. For many years, this kind of network has been indispensable in helping new mums adjust to their routines after the birth of their little ones. However, this kind of support is by no means assured for the modern Aussie family.
Nowadays, Aussie parents move homes, jobs, and countries at a faster rate than ever before. This high degree of change makes it increasingly difficult for young families to create a network of mutual support in their local area. With the traditional notion of “taking a village to raise a child” under threat, it is important to remind ourselves of the importance of establishing a strong, personal community of support during those early years of childhood development. Without the help of friends, new and old, new mums have less opportunity to share their parenting concerns, learn from the experiences of others, and feel socially connected during a time of potential isolation.
Before giving birth, many first-time mums will try to learn as much as they can about the challenges that motherhood brings. While this knowledge can help to manage their expectations, it cannot prepare them fully for the countless surprises that lie ahead.
Every baby is unique, with a different temperament, preferences, and manner of communicating with their parents. When your baby deviates from the “standard”, displaying behaviour that you can’t find in a parenting book, you may begin to feel concerned that you’re doing something wrong. With no way of knowing what is “normal” at your little one’s age and stage, these concerns can grow into more serious fears.
Accordingly, being able to share your concerns and questions with other mums is one of the most important aspects of being part of a parenting community. Mothers who have recently been through similar experiences can relate to your concerns around crying, feeding, and connecting with your baby. More importantly, they can give you advice on how they coped with a similar set of problems. By sharing your everyday ups and downs with a community that understands what you’re going through, you can develop more confidence in your interactions with your little one.
In addition to easing your immediate concerns, developing strong connections with a community of mums will allow you to learn from their ideas and mistakes. From helpful hints and tips on how to breastfeed without pain, to comparing notes on how to maximise the amount of time you’re able to sleep at night, consulting other mums can help you get through the steeper end of the learning curve when it comes to caring for your baby.
Parenting tips aside, mums in your local community are well informed when it comes to spending time outside your home. From the best kid-friendly restaurants, to the nicest parks and beaches, a well-established network of mums can connect you a wealth of knowledge and experience. When it comes to looking for childcare options, personal recommendations from the mothers in your network will help you fit the best fit for your schedule and budget.
Tried and tested advice on the best products, apps, and services for juggling your parenting responsibilities is often spread through word of mouth. By connecting with a community of knowledgeable mums, you will be able to learn from their experiences and feel more confident in the choices you’re making for your family.
One of the most difficult aspects of becoming a new mum is the social isolation that follows the birth of your little one. Having replaced your previous routine with a schedule that revolves around the changing needs of your newborn, it can be hard to find the time and energy to see your old friends if you are the only one in your position.
By connecting with a community of mothers who share your time and energy concerns, you can improve your opportunities to socialise with people outside your immediate family.
In addition to the social benefits you will gain from joining a community of new mums, your baby will also profit from interacting with other children once he/her reaches a certain stage of development. The stimulation of having other babies playing in parallel can provide your little one with a high level of entertainment while you relax with the other mums. The establishment of regular play-dates within your mothers’ network can provide a constant source of support during the early years of motherhood. By connecting with a community of Aussie mums, you will be able to help minimise your feelings of social isolation as a new mother.
Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.