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.
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 one in eight 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 MOTHER’S 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 parent and stay-at-home only groups, options abound. Shop around to find a group that fits your personality and parenting style. Visit the group as a guest.
Ask the membership director questions like:
How often does the group meet?
Does the group schedule moms-only events?
If mom-only activities are scheduled during the day, is childcare provided?
What types of play groups and activities does the group plan?
How does the group support members? (For example, educational speakers? Meals for moms of new babies?)
Losing yourself in the day-to-day rotation of feedings, naps, baths, and playtime may be fine for awhile. 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 and bookstore for story hours and seek out “Mommy and Me” groups, which run the gamut from physical activities to musical education. If you work full-time, talk to other working moms about meeting up at the park or indoor play area for a weekend playdate.
Schedule time for an exercise class when your spouse is home or join a gym 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. (Check with your local Department of Education for tips on finding a gym with reputable childcare.)
If a gym is out of the budget, find a friend or two to walk with a few times a week, either around a park, the neighborhood, or 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 indoor area.
CLICK INTO SOCIAL MEDIA
Still in your pjs 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 others can relate and that we aren’t alone. Thanks to social media like Facebook, Pinterest, MeetUp.com, and mommy blogs, you can click into the land of the living without feeling the need to put clean clothes on or even brush your teeth!
SHARE YOUR TALENTS
You may feel tempted to push your own 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 to 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 he isn’t caught unaware.
NOTE: 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. For a complete list of symptoms, check out the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.