Humans are social beings and for women particularly, connecting with others after giving birth is really important. New mothers especially, benefit from the emotional support they gather from other mothers who are going through similar experiences. You’ll find you share a common currency, e.g., your babies, which will help you to find other ways to connect with parents.
Just like other times in your life, there may be people you connect with at parent’s group and others you may not.
It can take a couple of tries before finding the right mix of individuals in a new parent’s group. Trust your own judgment about what feels right. It may take a couple of groups to feel comfortable and connect with the other new parents.
Try not to get caught up in comparing you and your own special baby with others. One of the great things about new parent’s group is the reminder that everyone has their own unique experiences. Parent’s groups with a philosophy of inclusiveness and kindness are generally very popular.
5 Benefits of joining a new parent’s group
Many women and men with grown up children have forged long term friendships with others they met in their new parent’s group. If asked if they could have predicted such close connections after so many years, it’s unlikely they would have.
- Support – most of you will be going through the same things. It can be very hard to describe the intensity of feelings when going through a new parent fog. You will find others who truly understand and if they’re the right fit, you won’t need to say much at all.
- Solutions – the solutions for problems often come from the most unlikely sources. Often, the quietest person in the room has the most to say, if only we listen. Be open to suggestions and tips from other parents who are going, and growing, through similar experiences.
- Sharing – stories and personal experiences. Even if you’ve never been a very open person, be prepared to hear yourself talking about all sorts of things which at any other time, you’d have kept to yourself.
- Being entertained – new parent’s groups are a source of much hilarity. If you’re in the right place, you’ll find yourself laughing and perhaps crying as well.
- Learning the art of acceptance – avoid, at all costs, being critical or judgemental or other new mums or dads in your group. Remember that most people do the best they can with what they have. None of us are likely to return to groups where we feel insecure. Be a supportive ‘village’ for each other.
What’s important to look for in a new parent’s group?
You’ll know what’s right for you, but as a general guide consider the following:
- Convenience as a big factor. You don’t want to be driving across town to get to your new parent’s group. Look for somewhere local which doesn’t mean a big investment of travel time.
- Fun, light-heartedness and nothing too serious in the group. Remember, new parent’s group shouldn’t feel like you’re trying to gain a tertiary degree.
- Research the location of the group. A community hall can be ideal because it eliminates the need for taking turns in each other’s houses, e.g., tidying up before and afterwards.
- See if toddlers and older children are welcome as well. This may be important depending on your own circumstances. Parent’s groups can be a good opportunity for toddlers to socialise and learn what’s involved in being around other small children.
- If there’s a cost. A donation to the coffee and cake fund is reasonable; anything more can be a big ask.
- Try not to have too many expectations when you first go. Like other relationships, it can take time to connect with new friends.
What if I really don’t want to meet anyone new?
Many parents go through a period of just wanting to settle in at home when they have a new baby. It’s normal to feel this way, especially if the birth has been difficult and there’s limits on driving for a few weeks.
If you’re keen, investigate ‘on-line’ new parent’s groups, or perhaps just invite a friend over. It’s fine to gradually ease yourself back into socialising.
Bear in mind that a major benefit of joining a new parent’s group is to get out of the house and avoid isolation. Caring for a young baby can be a very lonely process and it’s so important you don’t feel alone.
Although it could take a bit of effort to get organised and pack up yourself and the baby, the return on your investment is likely to be worth it.
Try not to overthink the process. Making the decision and getting to a new parent’s group is impressive, especially in the early weeks after birth. Give yourself some credit for even getting out of the house.
I think I’m the only one whose baby doesn’t sleep
Every new parent is exhausted, that’s just the honest truth. And all babies go through phases of not sleeping and being unsettled. Try not to compare yourself with anyone else. You do you, and just focus on what’s important for you and your baby. Some new parents just want to talk and others to listen.
What not to do in your new parent’s group
There’s a few ‘rules’ when it comes to connecting with any parent’s group:
- Avoid being critical.
- Avoid comparisons, everyone has a right to their own stories.
- Be inclusive, try not to exclude anyone.
- Avoid giving advice, unless it’s asked for. Learn to be a good listener.
- Don’t talk about other parents when they’re not present.
- Aim to be a nice human and be respectful of other people’s experience. None of us can truly know what someone else is going through.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of what you bring to the group. You are no less important than anyone else who’s there.
If you have a sense of being judged or criticised, you’re likely to feel hurt. It can be hard to return to situations where we don’t feel included and it’s understandable if you feel you don’t want to go back.
- It’s worth staying in that particular group. Ask yourself if most of the other parents are supportive and there are overall benefits for you in going.
- You can speak quietly with someone in the group about how you feel. This could be one of the people who you feel is being critical and tell them honestly how you feel. Pick your time, when you’re feeling calm and away from others. You may like to have a support person with you.
- Your own role modelling of inclusiveness may be a reminder to others that they could be a little more accepting. As humans, we all react in different ways.
10 ways to find a new parent’s group
- Ask your friends and family to see if they have any ideas or personal experience.
- Check your social media channels and local Facebook group for what’s close.
- Often, Council libraries have flyers on their noticeboard for what’s nearby.
- Check with your Child Health Nurse to see what they can suggest.
- Ask the person who ran the antenatal class you attended.
- Do a Google search to see what’s close to where you live.
- Check with your local church to see if they hold new parent’s groups.
- Get in contact with your preparing for birth Someone is likely to have some suggestions, or perhaps you can start a group of your own.
- Check with your local breastfeeding counsellor. They’re often ‘in the know’ with what’s happening locally.
- Check with the Playgroup Association in your State or Territory. They have well developed referral pathways.
About the Author:
Written for Nourish Baby by Jane Barry. Jane has qualifications in general, paediatric, immunisation, midwifery and child health nursing. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science (Nursing) and has almost 35 years specialist experience in child health nursing. She is a member of a number of professionally affiliated organisations including AHPRA, The Australasian Medical Writer’s Association and Australian College of Children and Young People’s Nurses.References:
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