It Takes A Village
You’ll often hear that it takes a village to raise a child. Many years ago this would have literally been the people living around you – your family & neighbours, the people you have known your whole life. People wouldn’t move far (maybe the next street!) and so the community you grew up in was the community that supported you when you had a baby. These days we’re considered lucky if we have family living nearby. We move away for education, for jobs, for love (or our friends and family do), and we find ourselves on our own.
Technology is wonderful for keeping us connected, but what we really need when we have a baby is someone nearby who can grab us a pint of milk when it’s all we can do to keep our eyes open, and leaving the house isn’t an option. Someone who can look after your little one for half an hour while you pop to the doctor’s. Someone who you can meet for a cuppa and a hug when caffeine is all that is keeping you going.
Our friendship groups change and adapt when we have children. Some people are lucky enough to have babies at the same time as their friends, but for most people it’s a matter of making new friends – something we haven’t done since school or university! The concept can be terrifying! Can you just walk up to another mum and say “I see we both have babies, shall we be friends?”? This is where pregnancy and baby classes come in to their own.
When my eldest son was born 11 years ago there weren’t a lot of groups to go to. There was a new mums group run by the health visiting team, there was a breastfeeding support group once a week, and there were a couple of singing groups. Fast-forward to now and every morning and afternoon could be filled with a group if you wanted. From baby massage and yoga to baby signing, messy playgroups, mummy fitness groups, sling library drop-ins and baby swimming. With more baby groups to attend, the opportunities to make friends and build a community around you increase. It may be that you start bumping into the same few people as you attend different groups through the week, or it may be that you find yourself in a smaller class with the same people every week and that friendships blossom that way.
How Can I Help?
You may attend antenatal classes and start to develop that support group through your pregnancy and beyond. One of the things I have loved about being a Daisy Foundation teacher over the past 9 years is helping to grow those communities. Bringing people together, either in pregnancy or post-natally, and giving them a space where they feel safe to open up, to form those friendships, and build their support groups. I love seeing groups of mums continue those friendships as their babies grow up, celebrating milestones and birthdays along the way. Sometimes, I even welcome them back to classes again when they have their second babies at the same time!
When we first went into lockdown in 2020, meeting people in person suddenly wasn’t an option, so online classes took the place of face-to-face meetings! The classes and workshops I run have been taking place via Zoom, enabling us to still see each other and chat and connect, and get that much needed support. It’s not what anyone imagined when they fell pregnant last year, but it’s working and ensuring we have the human contact we desire and need. Facebook and WhatsApp groups have taken the place of cafés and parks, and people are using them to get the support they would usually get in person. The joy of online communities is that there is almost always somebody else online at the same time as you, meaning you can get answers to your questions or chat whatever time of day (or night) it is.
So if you’re feeling nervous about making that first step, find a group that appeals, take a deep breath and hit ‘join’. You may well end up making friends for life!
It Takes A Village