On the weekend I had 12 adults and 14 toddlers through our tiny farmhouse. And it was fabulous.
I love our teeny cosy farmhouse, it is our Goldilocks ‘just right’ for the four bodies it houses, we honestly don’t need more room for our everyday needs, but for entertaining purposes it *ahem* ‘lacks’. Severely. I dream of holding dinner parties or children’s birthday parties or long Sunday lunches, at the moment though it’s a struggle. But because I am me, I threw up my hand with gusto to host my Mother’s Group Christmas gathering here at Brindabella. You can probably hear Matt’s eyeballs rolling back in his head from where you are. “Of course you did”. So with a few prayers sent to the heavens and checking observantly (I won’t say ‘obsessedly’) of the weather radar for the dreaded forecasted rain, shifting our couches around and pulling out the spare crockery from storage in the laundry…we happily welcomed my mama tribe, our motley crew of June ’14 babies (who are not so much babies anymore!) and the subsequent little baby siblings who have inevitably followed…
When I was pregnant with Eleanor I assumed I would join a local Mother’s Group, set up by our local maternal child health nurses. But when Eleanor was born my local centre didn’t have a lot of other babies similar aged, I could wait to join a group but the babies would then obviously be quite spread out in age, not ideal I thought. I told my MCHN (the marvellous Kaye, we miss you Kaye!) I was more than happy to travel to Warragul, in fact I’d take preference to joining a Warragul Mother’s Group. As it happened a girl I went to school with had been in hospital the week I was, having her own first baby girl, mutual school friends who came to met Eleanor in hospital saw Jaynee being discharged and mentioned that she had obviously had a baby possibly a few days apart from me. Jaynee and I had been friends at school but I hadn’t seen her in ten years probably. I sent her a message on Facebook randomly asking her if she had joined a Mother’s Group, she said to definitely come along to their next catch up (their second meeting). I told my MCHN I’d found my own mum’s group thanks very much! The rest is history.
Mother’s Groups are strange beasts. You hear either horror stories or true triumphs. I was well aware of this and tentatively arrived at the first meeting (coffee at the Arts Centre) with my little Eleanor Joy to meet all these other women…who seemed to have similar little bundles like mine…similar bags under their eyes…similar shortness of breath and anxiety that the bundle was about to start screaming…similar fumbling around trying to breastfeed in public…similar nappy bags stocked with the kitchen sink of wipes, breast pads, nappies, nipple cream, 17 jumpsuit changes and spew rags.
Our group, the Warragul June 2014 babies, is a bit of a mixed bag in itself. Which I think is our greatest success. These nine other women are probably not who I would’ve chosen as friends, or crossed paths with otherwise. And that’s the brilliance of our group! Our strength has been that we’re not all first time mum’s in our mid-20’s (although that was me!) There are second and third time mums, mums in their 20’s to 40’s, re-married, newlyweds, step-children, a lot of the mums aren’t from Gippsland, joining a mum’s group to meet new people in the area, we’re an eclectic motley crew and the patchwork fabric of us seems to have been just the perfect recipe. We have woven our stories and lives together through shared experiences with this child raising business. I have no idea why, but it just seems to… work. Simple, seemingly small stuff, is big stuff when you’re a new mum. Navigating it all together, even if you’re not best friends or see each other regularly…it doesn’t matter. These girls are my solid presence, always there, just a Facebook message or very random question away. I can whole heartedly say there is nobody else I have sent a photo of my child’s poo to other than a mum’s group friend! Since the ‘June babies’ have arrived there has been separations, changes in circumstances, shifts away from the area, moving houses, going back to work, not going back to work…but it doesn’t matter where we are or what we are doing, we all have such an intrinsic link – these little babies who are now these big kids. We’ve watched them grow through sleep regressions and teething and hip braces and sleep school and starting solids and learning to navigate their big wide worlds, now toilet training and learning to pedal and counting and kinder and sibling rivalry. Oh boy! One thing is for sure, that we all agree on: the goal posts just keep moving. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out…
We’ve compared notes in the best of ways – people say that mum’s groups are terrible for their constant comparisons of your children, but I think this can be a great thing! It’s all how it is received, and given. In our group there is no competition, every one is equal and nobody is doing a better job than anyone else, nobody’s child is excelling whilst another is left behind, we’re all in this together. It’s been a definite positive for my mothering, the comparing to the other June babies – going to coffee with my other mum friends with little boys and girls Eleanor’s age and seeing that William is running whilst Lola is still sitting happily, Zac isn’t talking much but Aria is on her 15th hair cut. We are all on the same page, there is no one-upmanship, there’s no airs or graces, there is an unspoken ‘knowing’ that we are all just really doing our bloody best. Some days are hard, some are easy, some babies walk around the coffee table at nine months, some sit and observe the world until 18 months (hellooooo Eleanor Joy). It is my fellow mum friends ability to see these differences, recognise them, celebrate them and us on our own unique parenting journeys that make this Mother’s Group a real success.
All of this really hit home to me on the weekend, when I was cleaning our house for the Christmas party before everyone’s arrival…then just stopped. These girls could not care less about the state of my floors or bathroom. They care about me, and Eleanor and Harriet and Matt. We are our own little family. How cool is that? A family we have created just because we happened to have babies in the same town in the same month. I know, without a doubt, that any one of my mama tribe would be ready and willing to help me if ever I needed it. And vice versa. When I was in a really low point with Harriet, my friend Lisa told me under no uncertain circumstances that I had to come over for a coffee and she would rock and rock screaming little tongue tied Harriet whilst Eleanor played with Savannah…and I closed my eyes for more than a few blinks on Lisa’s couch and exhaled deeply.
There doesn’t need to be questions asked, in fact some in my mum’s group I wouldn’t even say I know overly well, but that’s ok. The ok bit is the best bit. Sometimes it’s just a sense of belonging to something that is so important. We have a very different connection to my other friends through mothering small children, heck we can barely string a sentence together over a coffee in the park let alone get to know each other too well. We have ebbed and flowed over the past three and a half years, from regular catch ups to months without seeing people, kids grow up, people get busy, life goes on. Mum’s become working mums, life moves pretty fast. But as we find our feet, especially now with second siblings in toe, we always float back together again at this time of year. Contemplating the year that was, my how our babies have grown, and looking forward to another year ahead watching them learn so much more, you can see the fireworks in those brains! And us, always standing back guiding them, questioning when exactly to catch them and when to let them fall. There’s a lot of love for my mama tribe, but equally so for our ratbag gang of six boys and four girls.
My mama tribe left my kitchen with barely a dish to clean, the playroom looked like the end of any day Eleanor and Harriet had been happily playing in it – a sure sign of so much fun and happiness in our squashy little farmhouse. A beautiful chaotic happy mess. And what’s better than that? Give me a very merry and joy filled Christmasy afternoon filled with toddlers galore and fellow mama bears who totally get it any day. Lucky, loved…and thankful it didn’t pour rain! Thank you my mum-friends, I’m so glad I sent Jaynee that Facebook message in the middle of the night up feeding baby Eleanor. I’d be lost without you, and Mothering my girls would be a very different experience without sharing it with you all.