Mental Health Wellness
Community and social support as self-care for parents
Elizabeth Wellington, The Mom Walk Collective Denver
Self-care has become a buzzword over the past several years. Caring for yourself, physically, emotionally and spiritually, has become more acceptable in our modern culture, if not even trendy! This is a good thing for new parents. The idea that parents must care for themselves in order to care for their children and families has become less unfamiliar, quite unlike the culture of parenting in older generations in which mothers took on a lot of work and it was the norm to put oneself last.
When I became a mom in 2021, I heard a lot of advice from well-intentioned friends and family about how to care for myself while going through this big life transition and learning how to care for a newborn. Sleep when the baby sleeps. Get help with household chores from friends and family. Rest.
While all of these were great practical suggestions, none of them equipped me to deal with my emotional experience as a new mom. My biggest challenge, especially as we transitioned out of the newborn phase and into life as parents, was the intense feelings of isolation and overwhelm. I had a sense that I was not equipped to be a mom and that I must be the only one.
As a therapist who supports pregnant and postpartum people through their journey into parenting, I hear this theme over and over again from new parents. “Am I the only one having a hard time with this transition to parenthood?” “Everyone else seems to be a natural parent…what’s wrong with me?” One in seven pregnant or postpartum mothers experience depression, anxiety, or another perinatal mood disorder. And many more new parents deal with feelings of stress, overwhelm, sadness, and anxious thoughts.
“Am I the only one having a hard time with this transition to parenthood?” “Everyone else seems to be a natural parent…what’s wrong with me?”Elizabeth
While practical self-care is vital and helpful, new parents often lack the most important piece for thriving in parenthood, one that is called out even less: community and social support. We all know the cliché that it takes a village to raise a child, but what does that even mean? Many new parents live far from their own families, away from communities, and are subjected to the daily pressures of social media making it look like every other parent has it all together. Moms and dads do a superhuman job of taking care of their new babies even when they themselves feel terrible, and to the outsider, everything seems just fine. New parenthood often looks like a big charade (put a smile on your face, tell everyone you love being a new mom, and don’t ever tell anyone the scary feelings you have inside). How can a new mom possibly get the genuine connection they desperately need, while also feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, and scared to admit how hard it all is?
Research has shown that social support helps people to be more resilient and able to bounce back from stressful situations. It can alleviate feelings of depression and reduce the body’s physiological responses to stress. Informed by my experience as a perinatal therapist, and my own experience as a new mom, I knew I needed to create more opportunities for new moms in Denver and beyond to find community. Armed with the understanding that for a new parent, any social activity must be low-commitment, easy-to-access, and non-intimidating, I formed The Mom Walk Collective Denver and MFT Mom Social Club, two initiatives that connect moms through activities that are easy, fun, and low-pressure. The moms who regularly attend these community-building events report that they are the single most impactful forms of self-care they have found. It has become their way to find nonjudgmental companions who understand first-hand the ups-and-downs of parenthood, a space where it is normalized to openly talk about both the struggles and the joys, and a priceless opportunity to get out of the house with their kids no matter how they look or feel that day. True community, support, and acceptance.
Join Parents Thrive and the Birth Squad at the next Mom Walk event on June 30, 12:30PM in the Children’s Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
To find out more about community events for new parents in Denver and Colorado, please visit: The Mom Walk Collective Denver.