Mothers’ Group can be a daunting experience, especially if your baby is a colicky screamer. Jen Lester shares her top 5 tips for not only surviving mothers’ group, but for making the most of it.
I vividly remember dreading my first mothers’ group. Why? Because my gorgeous little baby was a screamer- he suffered dreadfully from colic… and he’s got powerful lungs that will stand him in great stead as an opera singer when he grows up.
We’re not talking cute little grizzles here, we’re talking full-blown screams you can hear from the next street… Can you imagine how much I feared those screams in a room full of other newborns who were lying peacefully on laps, gazing up at their mummies, whilst gurgling and cooing?
One thing most mums have in common is the importance of being a ‘good’ mum and the worry that you might make mistakes.
In the early days of motherhood, whilst you’re still gaining confidence and finding your feet, it is common to be a little concerned about what mothers’ group will be like.
So I thought I’d share my top 5 tips for making the most of the experience. After all, if I could survive it with my gorgeous little screamer – then you can too!
1. Let go of the need to be ‘perfect’:
Its important to recognise that being a good mum doesn’t require getting it right all the time and in fact that’s pretty much impossible with a new baby. All babies (even the ones that don’t have colic) are going to cry and be fussy sometimes, and its important to make peace with that. Remind yourself that’s its normal and nothing to be embarrassed about.
2. Be real – Share your experiences:
Mums who didn’t enjoy their mother’s group often describe a feeling of needing to ‘keep up appearances’. By contrast mums who love their groups say that they have a supportive group who are honest and open about what its really like being a new parent.
Now group dynamics can happen ‘by accident’, but it is also something that you can influence. Building a group dynamic of trust takes time, but if you have the courage to be honest about both the joys and the challenges of life with a newborn, its much more likely that others will follow your lead. In my case, our colic challenges were blindingly obvious, so my act of courage was to keep turning up. Now I’m glad I pushed through the embarrassment, because my group is full of really fun and supportive mums who have enriched my life.
3. Remember that everybody has different challenges:
The chances are that there will have been some confronting and upsetting experiences for many in the group. Everybody’s challenges are different: it may have been a difficult birth or one that didn’t go according to their expectations, problems with breastfeeding, settling, sleep, family dramas or medical concerns for the babies or the mums. Nerves might be particularly raw, so its worth going the extra mile to be diplomatic, understanding and avoid judging other mum’s choices or circumstances.
4. Just aim for one good conversation per meeting:
Having a conversation with a baby is a whole new experience – part of your mind is always monitoring what’s going on with the baby. Its surprising how much harder it is than in your pre-baby life to focus on a conversation with someone. The mum you’re talking to will be similarly distracted. Add a room full of new people, and double the number of names to remember, and it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. So I used to set myself a goal of having at least one good conversation, making just one connection where I remembered the mum, their baby and listened to what their experience had been. Sure I often had more than that, but I found that by setting the bar at a manageable level, I felt more relaxed.
5. Set up a “group” on Facebook:
One of the best things my mothers’ group did was set up a group on Facebook. It’s a really easy way to share information, ideas, arrange meeting times and generally stay in touch. For my group, its has fostered a culture of inclusion, because even if people were away or their baby was sick or going through a tough time, they were able to stay in touch and then re-join group activities or catch-ups when it suited them.
What was your mothers’ group experience like? Do you have any tips for making the most of it?
For more information about colic and what you can do about it check out the Survivor’s Guide to Colic.