Over the years, since I became a mom and have been getting to know more moms, I find it coming up over and over again : bewilded new moms looking for support and help. Unfortunately, a lot of times, finding none.
Sometimes I think it would be so useful to have a Mommy Buddy System for new moms. There are so many online forum these days but it is just not the same as having someone physically around to buddy you. Besides, not everyone has access to the internet and not everyone is internet savvy.
I guess in our culture, it is assumed that the mother/mother in law of the new mother (ie. grandmas), or even the confinement nanny should be able to provide the support and help. We naturally turn to our nearest, dearest and closest for guidance. A lot of times, we do get the help and support we need from these people. But then there are also so many new moms out there totally lost and mothers/in laws/confinement nannies are of no help. What is worse is that they are the total opposite. Instead of encouragement and building up the confidence of the new mom, they tear down and cast doubts, especially in the area of breastfeeding, and cause confusion by their old wives tales and irrational beliefs, and even their pride. Instead of providing the support to help the new mom ease into her role as a mother, the grannies often allow their own self-interest to conflict with the new mom’s interest. E.g. grannies grumbling about not being able to feed a breastfed baby and therefore, keep pressurising the mother to switch to formula milk just so that they can get their hands on the baby.
Babies don’t come with user manual and the transition into motherhood is sudden (one moment you don’t have a baby and the next moment, your life revolves around one) and can be very overwhelming. To some, it can feel like being suddenly thrown into the deep end of a pool. New moms panic at the slightest thing and it would be such a tremendous help to have an experienced and knowledgeable mom around to provide the security and pass on her experience and knowledge. I have met mothers who get totally distressed by something as simple as baby having wind. They were completely clueless what to do. Actually, I was also one of them myself last time. I got totally stressed up because of my windy baby and all that crying. If only someone was there to just tell me things like using Ruyi Oil, Infacol, etc and saved me the stress and the money paid to the paed who told me the same thing.
Like a doula at delivery, a mommy buddy should be there to provide support and help and hopefully eliminate the common fears and stress that a new mom goes through. Most of the time, the new mom just needs someone to be there to hold her hand and assure her that everything will be ok.
Unfortunately, such a system does not exist and a lot of new moms end up not knowing where they could get help, or who they could ask for help. On top of that, for some reason, sometimes new moms just don’t feel comfortable asking for help. In the end, they end up struggling alone, wondering whether there is something wrong with them for being ‘incompetent’, and feeling guilty that they are not able to bond with their babies, or worse, struggling with post-natal blues.
On the other hand, I am sure there are plenty of experienced moms ready to help but a lot of times, they are afraid of being seen as busybodies. So they just stand at the sideline and wait until the new moms ask for help.
So my advice to all new moms out there is this : start building up your support network while you are still pregnant. Start talking to sisters, cousins, friends, colleagues, neighbours who are already mothers. Make friends with experienced moms. In the process, shortlist at least one whom you trust and you are comfortable with to be your ‘buddy’. She should be someone who is willing to help you and give you the necessary support and encouragement when you finally make the transition into motherhood.
Do not try to be too gungho and think that as an intelligent, educated woman, you can make it on your own, with your elbows sticking out. Motherhood is not just about knowledge and IQ. It involves hormones and emotions as well and these things do get in the way of your intellect. It is not a sign of weakness to seek help. Likewise, there is no expectation for you to make it on your own. So do yourself a favour by building your safety net of support.
Your own mother or mother in law can be a wonderful source of support and help. However, beware that because our mothers may not have the benefit of the education we have, and a lot of their beliefs could be baseless myths, they may not be the best source of information for you. E.g. if you are trying to breastfeed, most of the times, grandmothers are more a bane than a boon because they belong to the formula milk generation and knows nothing about breastfeeding. Furthermore, as I have mentioned before, in our culture, sometimes grandmothers are motivated by their self-interest or pride. Hence, it will be good for you to mentally take note of where to draw the line as far as getting their help and support goes.
What if you can’t find anyone?
These days, there are plenty of online parent support groups that you can join. All you need is internet access. If you are reading this, I assume you do have internet access.
The upside is that this can be very convenient for you. All you need to do is to log on and ask for help. The collective knowledge of all the members can also be a wealth of information for you to tap on. You could even make some wonderful friends online and then take it offline to meet person-to-person. Because the members come from a variety of background, you may have a better chance of finding someone whom you can click with.
The downside to online support groups is that when there are too many people involved, sometimes you get too many conflicting information which may confuse you more. It is also not uncommon for members of an online community to be extremely intolerant towards alternative viewpoints. So you could get into an ugly online flame war for voicing your opinion. The other downside is that sometimes, the help you need may not come to you in a timely manner. It could take hours, and even days, before someone responds to your queries.
Whatever it is, the most important thing is for you to find your source of help, be it online or from your current pool of friends and relatives, hopefully before your baby arrives.
Online Support Groups (Singapore)
Online Support Groups (Malaysia)
Online Support Groups (International)
**There are a lot more than what is listed here. Just google for it.