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Women’s voices: Social supports

We listen to mothers talking about social supports after giving birth.
A woman and her mother looking at her baby on a changing table.
© Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

After having your baby, much of your focus will be on adjusting to life with a new baby while continuing to manage other responsibilities, like caring for your other children, running a household or even returning to work.

Your own physical and mental wellbeing can quickly take a backseat to juggling all of the other ‘more important’ things that demand your attention. Sometimes mothers can feel guilty, or even selfish, for taking any time to rest, relax or do something that they enjoy, and many feel that they should be giving all their time and energy to caring for their baby and others.

The women in the MAMMI study talked to us quite a lot, and they told us how feeling the need to be the ‘perfect’ mother and being responsible for meeting every demand of motherhood left them feeling overwhelmed, stressed and worn out.

  • Women talked about feeling isolated and invisible in motherhood, even though they had partners, family and professionals around them.
  • Many women said it was difficult for them to acknowledge that they could reach out, ask for and accept help.
  • For many women, the realisation that they needed to invest in their own health and wellbeing came about slowly, sometimes after several months or even longer.

It can be a struggle to find the time or an opportunity to do anything for yourself and you own physical and mental health and wellbeing needs. This is why identifying who your social supports, making use of, and relying on, the people around you to support and help you, are the key to looking after yourself in motherhood.

Help and support can come from different people in different ways;

  • Asking for and accepting practical help with everyday responsibilities from a partner, friend or family member, not only in the weeks and early months postpartum, but also throughout motherhood, allows you to rest, have time for social activities or pursue your interests and goals.

  • Getting help with practical tasks means you can seek out your emotional supports, this may be through counselling or therapy, spending time with your partner as a couple, or having a chat with someone you trust – someone who really listens to you and understands you, and can give you advice and encouragement.

  • Some women talked about finding their ‘peer group’ – people in similar situations with whom they could talk about their experiences. Often women feel they are struggling alone as the tougher aspects of motherhood aren’t discussed as openly or at all. Joining mother and baby groups, online parenting platforms or just making new friends with other mothers helped them to see that others were struggling with the same issues and this made them feel less alone.

Let’s take a moment to listen to Moira and Blathnaid, and how important strong practical, emotional and social support from their partners, families, friends, peers and professionals was for them.

Moira is the mother of a three young children. Click here to listen to her experiences of social supports after giving birth (3 minutes and 42seconds).
Blathnaid is the mother of a young baby. Click here to listen to her experiences of social supports after giving birth (2 minutes and 29 seconds).

If you can’t hear these files, we have included a transcript in the Downloads section below for you to read.

Blathnaid mentions in her account that she thinks that “it takes a village to raise a child”.

  • Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why?
© Trinity College Dublin
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Women’s Health After Motherhood

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