Just before my son’s first birthday my husband and I decided to up and move to Northern Vermont, where we knew no one….literally no one. We had just sold our thirty acre family farm in Virginia, and my brother headed to California, my mom headed to more modern house in a city near the farm, and I headed 800 miles away with my husband and son. The first couple of months were mild weather and the excitement of unpacking the new house was keeping me busy, but then November arrived. The days were drab, the pretty leaves of fall were long gone, and the snow had yet to fall. I decided to make wellness appointments for myself and my son to meet our new primary care providers, and at my first appointment my nurse practitioner told me something shocking.
Essentially she said she doubted that I would thrive here, yes, maybe I could survive but likely not more than three years. She talked to me about Post-partum depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and social isolation. She gave me handouts to read and her gloomy outlook left me confused and little bit ticked off. I explained to her that I did not have any of those three issues (and I wanted to say, what right do you have to put that crap into my head?). I promptly went home and fumed about it with my husband, and then did the logical thing and searched the internet: “how to avoid social isolation when you live far from your support network and your PCP sucks”.
From my research I determined that step one was to meet real life friends who had similar aged children for at least once a week meet ups. I was delighted to find that there was a community playgroup less than a mile away from my house, and so twice a week, I had a reason to get up and out of the house by 9 a.m. to interact with other moms, and oh yeah, for my son to interact with other kids. This routine was a God-send because cabin-fever was setting in fast, and meeting new people in winter was hard. Through my other errands I would force myself to talk to other moms in the grocery store, or sign up for free events through the recreation department, but nothing worked its’ charm like the weekly playgroup. The young staff members had less early childhood education than me, but their kind words, enthusiastic energy, and parenting tips were just what I needed as I found my way in being the best mom I could be for my son.
I jokingly say that I went to that playgroup for three years straight, and they must have been exhausted seeing me. Playgroup though was a lifeline in figuring out how live in a new town, be a new mom, and it forced me to meet new mom-friends. The nurse practitioner was right in bringing my awareness to things that were not yet a problem, and I know her preventive approach helped me be a better mom. Though I would like to add that I have been here for twelve years, most of which have been days that I thrive, and just a handful of days that I felt I was just “surviving”.
If you are a new mom, find at least one mom friend who you can meet weekly. Maybe for a weekly cup of coffee…or stroller walk.
If you know a new mom encourage her to try playgroup. And if one doesn’t exist in your town, start one, because moms from all walks of life feel socially isolated or lonely. You too deserve the support you need in order to thrive!