Like kids, mothers groups don’t come with an instruction manual. Maybe they should.
Be real. These are the women who are going through the same things you are. Just be honest with each other. If your baby isn’t sleeping through and you are one night away from losing it, tell them. Someone will be having the same experience you are. Someone might also have a baby that sleeps 12 hours straight, but they will be having their own struggles. I honestly don’t think anybody finds early motherhood a complete breeze.
Talk about things other than your kids. Okay, so they are going to be a pretty big topic of conversation but there is so much more to chat about.
Do not compare. This is a bit tricky – when you are with a group of babies the same age as your own, of course you will fret if your child seems behind. But it helps to remember that the normal range of development for little children is really, really broad. Your baby will catch up.
Own your birth story. It will be amongst the first things you share. I was always slightly embarrassed that I had no dramatic and gory tale to tell. And I know others who were slightly ashamed of having “popped the top”. What’s the point of being ashamed about something that resulted in your beautiful baby?
Make it easy. Do whatever makes sense. Fortnightly catch ups in a set park can be a good way to go. Don’t go places where you are continually going to be uncomfortable with little children. Mothers groups tend to follow this trajectory – meetings in coffee shops with babes under six months, then onto people’s homes when the crawling starts, then out of the houses and into (fenced) parks when the walking happens.
Be interested in children other than your own. Go ahead and tell you friends all the wonderful things about your child. They understand. Just remember it’s a two way street.
Do not pretend. There is no point adding to pressure. Sure, clean your house to perfection before hosting mothers group, but please, please don’t pretend that it always looks that way (unless it really does – then kudos to you). See point one.
Try not to whinge (too much) about partners. It’s tempting but it’s a bit toxic I think.
Check in. There are plenty of reasons why someone might not make it to mothers group. But I think it’s nice to check in and just make sure your friends are okay. It can be easy to get lost when your baby is small.
Offer help. This is your village. Offer help where you can.
Accept help. Don’t be too proud. We are strongest when we can lean on each other.
Be realistic. With your time. With your expectations on other people’s time. And the fact mothers groups as a weekly thing have a limited lifespan.
Let the dads in. There was a short period of time where my husband was the stay at home carer whilst I headed back to work. He headed off to mothers group just as I did and was welcomed with open arms.
Most of all: FIND ONE. My mothers group(s) were one of my biggest support systems when I had my first baby. They remain a source of support and friendship. I think it’s so important to connect with mothers of babies the same age. If your local health clinic doesn’t run mothers groups, try to form one with friends, online due-in groups, mothers you regularly see in the park or people you meet in post-natal exercise classes. There will be other mothers around you with children the same age. If you live in a remote place where that isn’t the case – find support online. Sometimes you have to build your own village.