I love my circle of mums

Without a circle of mums & friends, a circle of teddies was the
next best thing for Mr 18 in 1995 - yes, Mr Premmie was tiny!
I've never been a part of a mothers' group.

When my eldest son was born in 1995 he was two months premature arriving at 31 weeks, spending the first month of his life in the hospital, and the following months attending regular checkups at the hospital and local medical centre. As a result, we were never introduced to our local mothers' group.

Aged 23 at the time, I was also the first of our circle of friends to have a child - most of them wouldn't start for at least another decade, so we also didn't really have a parenting network. None of our parents or siblings live in Sydney so we also didn't have our parents or in-laws telling us with all good and loving intentions that we were doing everything wrong (actually, they were very supportive, just long distance). 

Then I went back to full time work when our son was a year old so his dad, between acting jobs, and family day care took care of playgroup, library story time visits and provided a peer group of toilet-trainees. Starting primary school meant our son formed a great new group of friends, but I was still working full time with increasing work responsibilities and about to get divorced, so found it difficult to form friendships with the new school mums. Our son was in before and after-school care so I didn't make playground connections. To be honest, I didn't even know that these playground-cliques which resulted in mums'-nights-out existed until recent years.

With mine & Mr Guide's (new heart) sons born in 2005 and 2008, we weren't given contacts for local mothers' groups (which the hospital didn't provide for subsequent children) but weren't concerned as our circle of friends now seemed to be perpetually pregnant. Our group dining habits very quickly changed from 8pm dining to 10am picnicking.

When I look back to 18 years ago, I am astonished at how naive I was about parenting, and how completely oblivious I was to services that may have been available to help me connect with my community, ask questions about day-to-day parenting and share experiences with other parents. Yes, my son has turned out OK, but at the expense of early stress and many tears on my part.

Getting organised has never been an issue for me, being a lover of lists and routines, but I wonder what I would have done differently if I had a little support from the start in the form of a mothers' group, a parents-of-premmies network or if I'd known about and enrolled in a parenting course. 

Children can be introduced to and learn from their communities right from birth. There are so many different groups which support and encourage new parents and children through all stages, interests and education. New parents can have anxieties and uncertainties reduced with qualified information and support available 24 hours a day, all year through. If I'd known that 18 years ago, perhaps I would have been a little less stressed during my pregnancy taking it to term, and relaxed more in my mid-20's.

Home help and childcare is something we've always utilised with demanding jobs and no immediate family nearby, and we've used everything from family day care, long day care centres and nannies.

As I'm researching for Children's Guide I'm finding so many contacts, for mums and dads, who I'm contacting now and soon will be adding to the Nurtured section of the website which I've now finished setting up.

Socialising and community networks can be established early through mothers' groups, playgroups, community groups and online, meeting like-minded parents, introducing your children to their peers and establishing new friendships of your own.

As your children grow and develop you can support their growing creative interests, and as you select the type of  schooling you want for your children, you can help them make the most of their learning and education.

Throughout all their stages, interests, rates of development and their own personal direction, as well as your own personal, professional and parenting situation, help is always available to reduce stress and nurture your children.

Just don't be afraid to seek it - the stress just isn't worth it when you can be enjoying your children's individual growth as well as being happy yourself.

My closest circle of girlfriends has now become my closest circle of mums. While not every conversation is about our kids, we've been there for each other for support, lots of laughs and especially those embarrassing questions you can't ask anyone else! Thank you my loves!! xo

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