women in a new mom group holding their babies
New Mom Parenthood Postpartum

Mom Groups: Heaven or Hell?

By Amy Morrison

I’m not a joiner. I don’t like crap where I feel trapped in a place for a set amount of time with strangers, so the idea of joining the mom group organized by the Public Health nurse in my area made my ass itch. It didn’t start until my baby was 6-weeks old so I figured I had time to back out of it if I wanted to (and I was too tired to think of a nice way to say no) so I agreed to try it.

I was all set to cancel but my friend (who is also not much of a joiner) said it was the best thing she ever did and essentially forced me to go. Long story short, it was a great thing to do and here is my list of the pros and cons based on my limited experience:

Pros of Mom Groups:

You’re not alone. Once my baby was born, and the visitors left, everything was back to the same old, same old and I felt very isolated because it wasn’t the same-old-same-old because I was at home by myself caring for a whole person. It’s nice to be surrounded by women who are in the same boat as you are.

Poo Talk. It feels so good to unleash the poo obsession with people who are just as excited as you are to discuss it. I’ve decided that suppressing a new mother’s “poo talk” is just as bad as suppressing poo and it needs to happen somewhere. I’m sure that the other people in your life would appreciate you sharing the frequency, consistency and colour of your baby’s poo with other “poo talkers” as well.

Birth Stories. Women’s birth stories are like men’s war stories and I would be fascinated to know what women that have gone to war AND given birth revel in more. Nothing is like a friendly round of “if you think that was bad then…”

Baby Measuring Stick. You’re never *quite* sure the first time around just how much a baby cries, poos, spits up, wakes up in the night or eats and it’s nice to be able to get an idea of what the average is and if you should change things up or if it’s just par for the course.

The near future. It’s nice to be around moms who are a month or even a few weeks further down the road than you are so they can share the light at the end of each dark tunnel. I have never been so happy to hear a woman in my group say her baby slept through the night the first time because I knew I couldn’t be far off for me (it turned out mine didn’t come for another 2 years but that’s beside the point). It gave me hope dammit!

Cons of Mom Groups:

You’re not all there. I personally found it really hard to hold an intelligent conversation for the first year of my child’s life, so I hated that I was constantly looking like a tired, doughy, asshat and these women had never known me any other way. I’m sure they felt the exact same way but I was too sleep deprived to realize that logic at the time.

One Upsmanship. There is always one Perfect Penny in the bunch that just *has* to be better than everybody. Everybody thinks their baby is awesome and most women do a pretty good job at graciously giving equal billing to all the other mothers in the group (even though they know their baby rocks it like a pizza pocket), but there’s always one broad that you want to beat with a bag of hammers because she won’t shut up about how brilliant her baby is. Well, let’s just hope her baby reads social cues better than she did because I’d had 7 minutes of collective sleep and I could tell everyone in the room was sick of her shit.

Baby Measuring Stick. Yep, it’s in pros too but the worst thing ever is when EVERY baby in the room is eating fine or sleeping through the night and your baby is the only hold out. I find pregnancy and early motherhood is very similar to your teen years and you don’t want to veer too far away from the average. Even if it’s seemingly a good thing like not crying too much you’ll start wondering “Why doesn’t she cry as much as the other babies? What’s wrong?” Sadly, it’s a vicious shit spiral and, even though it’s impossible to avoid, I find it’s exacerbated in a group of new mothers.

Different Parenting Styles. You will find that there is a gamut of parenting styles even from the get go. I liked to group them into Hippies and Hitlers and everything in between. Within my group, I found I had hippy leanings but in another, I’m sure I’d be viewed as a Hitler. There was one woman in my mom group who decided to let her two-month-old cry all night in her cold vomit in an effort to “sleep train” her. I have no doubt that little girl is a wonderful, well adjusted little kid but even as I type this, my eyes are starting to well up because the idea of letting a hungry, little baby cry like that just breaks my heart. I’m a suck.

A newborn is the only thing you have in common. One woman in the group asked the public health nurse what kind of immunization, if any, her baby would need because they were missionaries and were leaving for Papua New Guinea in a month. Wow. I hadn’t even ventured to the grocery store at that point because I hadn’t figured out the logistics of getting the baby in the cart, and this woman was flying across the world in a month. She was a lovely woman and I tried talking to her a few times but we were so completely different. The only thing we had in common was that we were too tired to figure out chit chat that appealed to the other one so we just gave up. She didn’t even get my “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again” reference I made when she gave me hand cream one time. There was no hope for us.

So there it is.

Love ’em or hate ’em, there will always be bands of new mothers that try to huddle together in the most wonderful/worst time of their lives – I’ll call it worsterful. Hopefully they lean on each other for support rather than lash out at each other in some kind of vulnerable, primal defence, but it will probably always be somewhere in the middle.

Be sure to say “hi” to Perfect Penny for me as she tells you how she just can’t find sleepers for her son because he’s in the 450th percentile for height and doesn’t stop rolling over to recite Chaucer. Give her a nice, perfect punch in the mouth then tell her how lucky she is.

How about you? What was your experience with mom groups?

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