Before I was a mother I was a Psychology student. Well, I have actually had many roles since I was a student. University seems like it was a lifetime ago. Alas, when I was in school I learned tons of information about personality disorders, brain development, child growth, grief, counselling, and several other topics under the Psychology umbrella. Any former university student knows that there is always one class that is more memorable and has had more of an impact on you than the others. For me, it was a class about human growth through life’s many stages. I had an amazing professor who really cared about the topics and she was great at promoting discussion. It was not a difficult class but I would have to say that I learned many life skills from it. One such skill that I learned is self-care.
Yes, self-care is a learned skill. Many people do not have it in them to care for themselves. We are too busy working, caring for our children, and caring for our elders. Not caring for oneself can lead to increased stress, burnout, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on.
Since I am a smart girl, I knew that I would need to have a plan to maintain my sanity (via self-care) once my baby arrived. I asked around and decided that joining a mommy support group through my local public health care centre would be a great option. Not only would it be free, but I would get to meet other new moms who lived close to me. It would be one afternoon each week that was dedicated to me.
I joined the group in the winter which was perfect, as it was too cold to do anything else. It lasted 6 weeks, over which time I discovered many new things about me and my baby, and I met some really great people. Here is what I learned:
As a new mom, you are not alone. For every confidence-lacking, terrified new mom, there are ten more in the exact same boat. We are all in this together!
Babies grow fast and develop at completely different rates. Over the 6 weeks of my mommy group, I watched all of the babies change, but each baby had different changes take place. Some babies were rolling, and some were teething. Some babies were able to comfortably have “tummy time”, while others hated it. Some babies even tried solid foods for the first time. All of the babies were born within a month of each other, yet they were all a little bit different.
There are many different parenting styles. Not one of them is the correct way, and not one of them is the wrong way. They are just different. It was neat to learn different techniques from the other moms. If my way was not working it was easy to ask around and get new ideas.
Sleeping is a common concern for every mom. If there was one topic that was common among all of us (and during every class), it was that we were all tired beyond belief and we wanted to learn how to get our babies to sleep better. It was nice to know that we had common ground in at least one area.
Women are amazing. I knew this already. But what was fascinating was everyone’s stories. We all endured one of the toughest things we will ever do in life, and we made it out to share our experiences. Everyone came from different cultures, careers, and overall lifestyles. Some were planning to have children and others were surprised to find they were pregnant. Some had children easily and some struggled. No matter what, we all supported each other.
Becoming friends with complete strangers is not hard. Even though the official mommy group ended, we decided to stick with it and plan our own outings. We now meet at cafes, play places, or each others’ homes. When it is warmer we can go for more walks, meet at parks, go to the zoo, etc.
Taking care of yourself will ultimately make you a better mom. I left each class feeling empowered and supported. In turn, I did not feel like I was overwhelmed and I knew that I had many sounding boards just a text message away if I was feeling frustrated, helpless, or if I just needed some quick advice. You cannot overestimate the power of a group.
Overall, I would recommend a mommy support group to any mom, not necessarily new moms. After all, baby number two will come with its own concerns. You can find support groups privately through social networking, or you can call your local health centre like I did. Regardless of which type of group you choose, you will gain knowledge and probably meet some great people. Make sure you take care of yourself! You are useless to your baby if you are overstressed. Cheers!