02 Jun Find Your Mum Tribe
When you become a mum, new friendships and networks can make all the difference. But where do you find them?
Up Your Street
When Melbourne’s Alice Morell became a mother, she was impressed by mothers’ immense power and contribution, and less than impressed by motherhood’s workload, isolation, low status and missing support. She found a solution outside our front doors – a Street Gang. Try a letterbox-drop to your street to start a ‘gang’, or see if there’s a facebook group already around the corner (there’s about 60 so far). It’s your ready-made village. Swap practical support like school runs, bike pooling, babysitter sharing, bulk cooking, garden tools or IT savvy, and be one another’s emotional sounding board, too.
What Lights Your Fire?
Have you discovered meet ups? Head to Meet Up and pick a group from their smorgasbord, or start your own. In Perth, you may find the support you need in the ‘IVF Friends’ group or the ‘Solo Mums by Choice’ group. Working from home in SA? The ‘Working From Home in Adelaide’ group may be for you. If you’re looking for a strong network that acts like a family, especially if you have no family in Canberra, the ‘Sisterhood ACT’ may be it. In Melbourne, you could soak up the world’s next great novel at the ‘Melbourne books and babies club’. In Brisbane, swap tips on how to give your kids a love of learning and a positive attitude at the ‘Empowered Parents, Confident Kids’ group. Or maybe you’d like to regenerate bushland, turn the soil in a member’s vegie patch or bring life to neglected urban spaces in the ‘Parents’ Weekday Gardening Collective’ for carers with kids under six in Sydney.
In Real Life
Some networks offer face-to-face groups based on your location or interests: Playgroup’s one-size-fits-all option is great, but depending on which state you live in, it also offers filtered groups based on nationality (Assyrian to Thai), parenting style, health issues like postnatal depression or allergy awareness, Montessori or Steiner, and LGBTIQ families.
When she became a mother, counsellor and events organiser Jasmin Lesniak created retreats to help new mothers re-ground, navigate the overwhelm and work through the disconnect many of us find between the fantasy and the reality of motherhood. Motherground offers one and three-day retreats at alluring venues like Continental House in Hepburn Springs, Vic, with a professional nanny to give you time out, counsellors, meals, a massage, yoga, relaxation and visualisation, a workshop on what motherhood means to you, and a judgement-free session in which to ‘unpack’ your birth and mothering experience in a likeminded circle of mothers. A NSW retreat is in the works.
Mother of two, yoga school founder and author of Mother Om, Leonie Percy runs monthly Mindful Parenting retreats at the Billabong Retreat on Sydney’s outskirts. Chill in the bushland setting and enjoy the yoga and gluten-free organic vegetarian food, or take the optional workshops on how to let go of guilt, find time for you, and interact with your kids from a happier place.
Mums’ Exercise Group Australia (MEGA) When mother of baby triplets Jennelle McAppion moved to Canberra in 2014, she found it isolating. “I didn’t want to be by myself in the house, I wanted my kids socialised, and I wanted to be healthy, so I started Canberra Mums’ Exercise Group,” she said. To say it took off is an understatement; it now has thousands of members doing boot camps, lake walks, balance sessions, lap swimming, trampolining, wall climbing and more every week. Sessions are self-organised or led by volunteer trainers, and most are free. “The idea is to exercise with your kids, who might sleep in the pram, or kick a ball around in the field or join in,” said Jennelle. The group went national last month, so look for it in your city.
Ride the Crest
Hit the waves with Surfing Mums. Started by two mothers in Byron Bay, there are now over 30 groups around Australia. Join events like surf coaching and barbecues, and score discounts on surf gear. Membership costs $52. Dads are welcome, and even a few grandparents join in. No need to miss every wave from now on.
Craft led Melbourne mother Felicia Semple to a tribe, and then more tribes, which grew into The Craft Sessions, an annual weekend Yarra Valley retreat where mothers stitch, dye, weave and paint among nature, yoga and wholesome food. Mums attend from all over Australia. Read her blog post about the route she took to her tribe – “I will grow old with them” – and the magic of making things in the company of other women.
The Collective Consciousness
Art therapist and mother Anna Kellerman and her creative mother friends formed a small support group in 2013 to help them through the challenges of creating with young children. That morphed into Mama Creatives, a collective of several hundred mothers in Sydney with monthly evening speaker events by mother filmmakers, artists, photographers and more, morning tea masterclasses (‘Building a Digital Community’, ‘Neuroscience: Are We Wired to Create?’), and school holiday workshops.
Help other mums and forge new friendships at St Kilda Mums. The volunteer mothers get together regularly in the St Kilda warehouse to sort and repair donated prams, change tables, clothing, toys and more for families in need. Lots of mums bring their kids. Droppin any time, or make it a date with a regular group. There are off-shoots in Geelong and Ballarat too.
When Kiren Bigwood realised that not all children get the same good start in life, she and two friends with young kids set up Little Things for Tiny Tots in Perth. Working from their homes in a friendly atmosphere, they sort donated baby goods into starter-kit boxes for distribution to new mothers in need via women’s refuges, government agencies and charities. Anyone is welcome to help sort and pack, including your kids. Their first monthly session was in April, and they may do mid-week sessions as they grow.
Not the Office
Co-working spaces are a great solution to isolation for work-at-home mums. Share office space with parents facing the same challenges, bounce ideas around, collaborate, and separate work from home, with perks like 3D printers, meeting rooms, post boxes, and even regular speakers’ events. And coffee.
Co-working spaces with crèches are still in their infancy (‘scuse the pun) worldwide, but in Australia check out Happy Hubbub in Melbourne, Sass Place in Adelaide. BubDesk opened in Perth’s Northbridge last year with a crèche and breastfeeding room, a mobile masseur, business seminars and loan prams for a walk to the nearby park. CBD and Fremantle outlets are on the way. Bubdesk have also teamed up with established child care centres in Sydney.
If you’re working in your own premises or from home, or have start-up dreams, Founding Mums’ Exchange brings you together with other business-minded mums (and kids) in cafes or other venues to swap ideas, support and inspiration. Groups are active in Newcastle, Brisbane and Adelaide.
Imagine a mothers’ group where a babysitter takes the baby, you take a coffee and mothers talk in a facilitated course of evening sessions over six weeks. That’s the deal at Mothers Network in Wellington, New Zealand, where you can open up about sensitive topics and know you’re not the only one. They run groups for single mums, busy mums, working mums, tertiary student mums and more.
Mix an open-source culture, cool tools, a deliciously creative space in San Francisco Bay Area, on-site childcare and a bunch of ‘make-or-die’ mothers, and you have the Mothership HackerMoms, the world’s first collaborative hacker-space for mums.
Words by Natalie Ritchie