Motherhood & Mental Health: Why Social Connection Matters
Motherhood can be a tough gig. They say it’s the best job in the world - and it is - but not always. A recent study of 2,000 mums revealed that being a parent is the equivalent of working 2.5 full-time jobs, with 14-hour shifts 7 days a week. The never-ending to-do list and mental load can take their toll, so looking after your wellbeing has to be a priority, and social connection is key here.
Isolation can have a very negative impact on a mum’s mental health, contributing to illnesses such as postnatal depression and anxiety, but having a support network of local mums around them has the power to help parents feel less alone.
These mum support groups give mothers the chance to chat and share their experiences and advice with other mothers who're likely to be going through similar joys and struggles. They're also a great motivator to encourage exhausted mums to get out of the house and spend time enjoying a relaxed bonding activity with their baby or toddler.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we spoke to local family support charity Home-Start Shepway to find out more about the organisation and get their insight on all things motherhood and mental health.
Bigjigs Toys Meets Home-Start Shepway
Katie Nutley is kept extremely busy at Home-Start Shepway with a handful of critical roles, including Building Bright Futures Group Worker, Enhanced Domestic Abuse Administrator and Social Media Administrator. Katie is also an Empowering Women Administrator for the organisation (and a mum herself), so we felt she was the perfect person to chat to on the topic of motherhood.
Here, Katie tells us all about the charity and how it provides some much-needed support for new mums and parents with youngsters.
Can you tell us more about what Home-Start Shepway does?
Home-Start Shepway is a voluntary organisation committed to promoting the welfare of families with young children. We’re there for parents when they need us the most, because childhood can’t wait. Volunteers offer support through practical and emotional advice in the home, or by phone / online, for families who are having difficulties managing parenting for a variety of different reasons.
How did you get started working with the charity?
Before I started with Home-Start Shepway I had worked in nurseries for several years, but I really liked the ethos of Home-Start and had a friend who really recommend working with them. When a job came available, I jumped at the chance. I knew straight away it would be perfect for me. Being a mother myself and understanding how much Home-Start does to support parents helped me make the decision to just go for it.
What has been your proudest moment at Home-Start?
Seeing the joy on the children’s faces, when we give them the opportunities they wouldn’t normally be able to have. New toys, days out and so much more.
Tell us about your group events - how do they support local mums?
We run a variety of different groups, including everything from large events like trips out to Chessington, Drusilla’s and theatre shows, to local meet-ups at the beach, park or school halls. We support parents in many ways, not only on outings they may not be able to afford, but with life skills, making new friends and memories, and learning from / talking about their experiences.
How can mums find out about and attend these events?
Mental Health Awareness Week
Run by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week (15th - 21st May) is an annual event that aims to tackle the stigma around mental health. To learn more about how motherhood can affect a woman’s mental wellbeing, we continue our chat with Katie who shares some invaluable insights.
How do you think becoming a mum can impact a woman’s mental health?
When you become a mum it can be a really lonely and isolating time for some women. It’s very easy to lose your identity during the process, which can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Why is it important for mums to socialise with other mums?
It is really important for mums to talk and socialise with each other, as it helps to lessen those feelings of isolation. It also gives them the chance to make new friends with other parents who they have things in common with and may be going through similar situations as they are.
How can social connection positively impact a mother’s mental health?
Mums can experience a dip in self-esteem when they become parents, so getting out of the house and enjoying some time socialising and connecting with other mums is a great way to counteract this and give them a boost in confidence. It can also give mums a sense of belonging, being able to talk through challenging times and bonding with other mums over the wonders and woes of being a parent.
Where are the best places for mums to meet and connect with other mums?
Home-Start Shepway offers free mum and baby groups as well as mum and toddler groups. You’ll also find free baby groups at local children's centres, just search online for ‘free mum and baby groups near me’ to see where your closest group is based.
What are your top tips for mums feeling anxious about getting out there and socialising with other mums?
Take that first step to join a local group. Even though it’s scary, it will give you a great peer support system with other mums and professionals. And reach out for help if you are struggling. There is no shame in asking for support.
Bigjigs Toys Gifts Home-Start Shepway
As a thank you for taking the time to chat with us during Mental Health Awareness Week, we gifted Home-Start Shepway with a bundle of new toys from our award-winning Simply Scandi Range.
These toys are designed to aid childhood development, from strengthening toddlers’ motor skills to boosting their sensory awareness, and were chosen to give the littlens at Home-Start’s group events a bunch of new quality toys to play with and enjoy.