Online Support (you don't need to feel lonely)
When I was pregnant with my first baby in the UK, I treated it like a whole new University Degree. I am a bit of a research geek (it’s the lawyer in me) and I had read up on the pregnancy and child birth thing, felt I knew all about the different drug options for labour (pros and cons), how many layers to dress my baby in, had highlighted and flagged my parenting book (I’m not kidding!), already done the nursery, and researched and purchased almost every possible product I could need…and some!
All I needed was the baby - he was en route - and to be thrown into the deep end and to gain the on-the job experience. That’s how it works right? There is only so much theory that you can usefully read.
But you can’t do this mothering thing alone without creating your own village of support. I also needed some friend’s with babies. I couldn’t buy them too could I? Yes, I could!! I signed up to NCT classes and met a group of the most wonderful ladies, and their husbands.
Still now, nearly 4 years down the line, we are there for each other and meet up when we can. How lucky is this! That by chance we were thrown together and still are friends. Our little brood has grown in number and we have all experienced so much. We have a Facebook Messenger thread that someone very early on entitled “The Middle of the Night Club” on which we share advice, anecdotes and photos. I fully expect this to still be running well into our babies’ teenage years. Love you ladies, and thank you for the support.
Being a mum can be lonely. Yet you are never alone. You go to baby groups, and then toddler groups, and you may snatch conversations over luke warm cups of tea or coffee, whilst having one eye on your kamikaze child/children who are seemingly tired of living or intent on mischief (well this is my usual experience anyway). I wouldn’t change this for the world, and it’s frankly essential for everyone to get out and about as much as possible. But inevitably, life as a parent isn’t all coffee and cake. It involves time at home, which can be good to get some necessary down-time and we all have to get chores done at some point…. BUT the kids can start to go a bit feral (well mine anyway!).
It is at these times, that my friends online are my everything. My husband is at work, and doesn’t want the updates in the very moment: that I was just wee’d on; that the kids are pushing my limits; that we just baked and it was fun but messy; that my daughter just did her first forward roll; that she vomited all over me and the carrier in the supermarket; a cute conversation with my son; that I feel like I’m shouting too much; the boy constructed something cool; or that I just had a little cry in the toilet. Of course I share these things with my husband, but in summary form when he gets home, when we both talk about our day. But I need the support and solidarity through sharing that I get in the moment.
Messages, Facetime, Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter: they are all my forums for getting contact when I can’t be physically with people. I don’t think I am alone in this. It helps me not feel lonely.
When we moved abroad and I was pregnant again, I was worried that I would not have this support. Surprisingly my NCT mummy friends weren’t up for moving out to Paris too, no matter how many times I emphasised how close to Disney we could all be! So I had to take matters into my own hands.
I like to think when it comes to people that I have good judgment. It is a skill I think I have accumulated up to now (my early teens saw my learning curve for these skills!!). I know this because when I look around at my friends from different stages of my life that have remained loyal - they are a bunch of downright good eggs.
I cannot remember exactly when it was, but I separately met three other girls in my early days of living here. It was through a fabulous Mum’s networking support group on Facebook called “English Speaking Mum’s living in Paris", and it turned out that they all sort of knew each other too. One afternoon I set up a Facebook Messenger group for the 4 of us. I don’t really know why just us 4. We have lots of other mutual lovely friends, who would have meshed with us really well in this forum. And I have some other seriously special friends here that they don’t know, who I actually see more. But it just sort of came about.
They are like my NCT online mums of Paris. We are self referred to as the “The Parisian Unmumsy Mums” and we have shared the good, the bad and the ugly! We have an unspoken pact that what we share confidentially between us stays that way, even from our husbands, and it has provided us with a liberating forum to support each other without judgment.
If one of us has gone quiet for a few days, one or all of us will check they are ok. We meet up, all together maybe, with and without babies and husbands, and sometimes individually. This is lovely, and when we do meet we get on really well, but I particularly cherish what we have online.
It arose from a Mum’s group forum for advice swapping and sounding off, but now it is so much more. It is personal. It is important to me. I know these ladies have got my back, and I theirs. Over 3 years later our lives are at the stage of all going in new directions, as is the expat life. But, for me, our online chats have been a wonderful support, and continue to ensure that I don’t ever feel lonely.
Mum tribes are so very important.