Find your tribe: An ode to Mum’s Groups

Zoe De Pass @dresslikeamum

Sorry, gang. I wish there was a catchier title. “Mother’s Group” sounds so daggy. But that’s what it’s called when you are thrust into it with a tender newborn by your side, so that’s what the majority of us have stuck with. And let me tell you… at that particular stage of your parenting journey, the name is the least of your worries.

What is it?

It all depends on where you live. In Victoria, I have access to the Maternal and Child Health Service – a free service that’s available to all families with children. When you have a baby, the hospital alerts your local Maternal and Child Health Centre (MCHC) and they get in touch to arrange a home visit. It all happens without you even knowing, like a lovely blanket of support that gets draped around your tired, overwhelmed shoulders.

Your MCHC will ask if you’d like to join a Mother’s Group to meet other new mums in your area. It consists of  weekly sessions (around 5 or 6 from memory) run by the Maternal and Child Health Nurse (MCHN), covering topics like breastfeeding, bathing etc. It’s all pretty casual, and (hopefully) becomes a relaxing, safe space where you can chat, vent, bitch freely about your partner and yep – sometimes even cry..

The first time

When I became a mum, I had a grand total of zero friends with newborns. I was excited to head off to my first Mother’s Group, but nervous as well. What would I wear? What if my baby cried the whole time? What if she did a massive poo? What if I had to breastfeed? WHAT WOULD I WEAR?

Often, in these sorts of high-pressure situations, I’ve been known to flake out and do a no-show. But I summoned up all my courage, popped on a bra and wandered down to the local MCHC (so many abbreviations).

My group was fairly small; about 10 women (and one partner) who looked as shell-shocked as I was. Some babies cried, most slept, a few mums wandered over to the change table to deal with exploding nappies and we cracked a few nervous jokes to break the ice. Everyone must have felt as relieved and welcomed as I did, because we all returned the following week.

What next?

Beck and Esme sharing snacks with Isobel and Felix
Beck and Esme sharing snacks with Isobel and Felix

Once the sessions at our local centre had finished, a few of us were keen to keep meeting up. So we swapped email addresses and began hanging out each week at the library/park/cafe/someone’s house.

It’s now been three years, and we are still going strong. Three of the girls have had their second babies, and two of us are pregnant at the same time. We organise monthly dinners without the kids; we’ve arranged group outings to the train station and outdoor family events, and even had a few barbecues so our partners can meet one another.

The beauty of Mother’s Group is that there are no preconceived notions about who you are, what you do for a living, where you live, the state of your house or the state of your wardrobe. It’s a group of people who are thrust together for one reason: we share a postcode and popped out a baby at the same time.

We’ve all heard the horror stories about judgemental mums, nasty cliques, feelings of isolation and low self-esteem and competitiveness that can arise in these types of situations. However, in my experience, being part of a Mother’s Group has enriched my life (and that of my daughter) in ways I could never imagine.

The lucky ones

Our kids: Pippa, Vienna, Felix, Esme, Eddie and Charlotte
Our kids: Pippa, Vienna, Felix, Esme, Eddie and Charlotte

Despite living in the same area, I would probably have never crossed paths with these girls BC (Before Child). They know nothing about the person I used to be, and yet they know more about the person I’ve become than a lot of my other friends.

We’ve been invited into each other’s homes, baked goodies for one another, shared our toddler’s snacks and nappies. They’ve held my daughter while she screamed so I could run to the toilet; listened to me bitch about my partner and given me advice about my sore boobs. We’ve also laughed until we literally all wet ourselves #mumlife.

It’s not all sunshine and roses. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. But you’ll never know what your Mother’s Group will be like unless you give it a try. So don’t overthink it, and definitely don’t stress if you and/or your baby are having a bad day. Be brave and take those first tentative steps towards your local Mother’s Group. Bra optional.

Finding a group near you

If your hospital or local area health service hasn’t been in touch, there are plenty of other ways to get in touch with mums in your area:

Feature image: Zoe De Pass @dresslikeamum