Whether you are a newly-minted mom, new to your community, or feeling isolated for another reason, you may wonder how to connect with other moms. Parenting in isolation without moral support is lonely and emotionally debilitating. One of the most important ways to take care of yourself (and by extension, your family) is to maintain a thriving social network that provides a healthy dose of physical, mental, and emotional support.
Editor’s Note: We know that things can be just as tough and isolating for stay-at-home dads or other full-time caregivers. Many of the the tips in this article will be helpful for you, too. There are an increasing number of social circles and classes meant just for dads in Calgary; visit familiesmatter.ca for more information.
Why support matters. According to a recent Gallup poll, stay-at-home moms are at greater risk for depression than mothers who work. And, PostPartum Support International reports that 1 in 8 women suffers from postpartum depression. Isolation can contribute to feelings of depression. Just a short burst of time spent with friends can boost a woman’s oxytocin levels, a natural hormone that decreases stress and anxiety.
Join a mothers’group. In the Better Mom, Better World research study commissioned on behalf of Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) International by the Barna Group in 2010, researchers found that mothers believe they are more optimistic and resilient to life’s daily stresses and occasional crises when surrounded by a community of support.
Moms’ groups come in a variety of sizes, philosophies, and commitment levels. From faith-based organizations and moms of multiples’ clubs to attachment parenting and stay-at-home-only groups, options abound! Shop around to find a group that fits your personality and parenting style. Then visit the group as a guest.
Ask the membership director questions like:
Schedule activities. Losing yourself in the day-to-day rotation of feedings, naps, baths and playtime may be fine for a while. However, injecting your calendar with a sprinkling of activities throughout the week for both you and your child will energize you, give you something to look forward to and help you feel connected to the world outside your home.
Not sure where to begin? Check with your local library for story hours and seek out ‘Mommy and Me’ groups which run the gamut from physical activities to musical education. (And be sure to check out the many wonderful local businesses that offer parenting groups and activities who advertise in this publication.) If you work full-time, talk to other working moms about meeting up at the park or at an indoor play area for a short weekend playdate.
Click into social media. Still in your pajamas at 3:30 in the afternoon after being up all night with your colicky baby or a sick child? During the toughest times of parenthood, we can find comfort knowing that others can relate and we aren’t alone. Thanks to social media like Facebook, Pinterest, meetup.com, and parenting blogs, you can click into the land of the living without feeling the need to put clean clothes on or even brush your teeth first!
Get active. Schedule time for an exercise class when your spouse is home or go to a recreation centre that offers quality childcare. Not only are fitness classes a fun way to get in shape, you’ll feel mentally refreshed, more patient, and more positive in general. And the more you go, the more you’ll get to know the other participants, which will make you feel more accountable about showing up.
To connect with other moms at a lower cost, find a friend or two to walk with a few times a week either around a park, your neighborhood, or at a mall on inclement-weather days. As your children grow older, schedule time during or at the end of the walk for them to play at a park or at an indoor play area.
Share your talents. You may feel tempted to push your personal interests aside due to overwhelming family demands. Negotiate time with your spouse to pursue your hobbies and other interests. Share your interests by inviting friends to join you for a gardening or cooking class, or start a book club.
Create a calendar. You write everyone else’s appointments on your calendar; take yourself seriously, too. Honor your personal needs by making appointments with yourself, including fitness classes, walks with friends, moms’ meetings, dinner with a friend, classes you’ve signed up for, and so on. Sure, sometimes a sick child will throw a wrench into your plans, but isn’t flexibility one of the first lessons moms learn? When necessary, share your appointments with your spouse so they
aren’t caught off-guard.
While social support and a healthy lifestyle contribute to overall happiness and well-being, depression is a serious illness requiring medical intervention. Seek help immediately if you have suicidal thoughts or if you experience chronic symptoms of depression.
Christa is a freelance journalist, mom of two, and author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.
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