Picture this. You’ve just moved across the world with two kids, you find out you’re pregnant and it dawns on you that you are on your own. Sure you’re excited to be in a new place and have a new adventure but you have no family nearby. No friends to speak of. No-one in the City. What do you do?
Well, surprise, surprise, that was me. It was 2016 and the amazing online mum-community that had answered my questions and connected me with other women before I got to my new home of Bath shut down just a few months after I arrived. This wonderful resource was just gone from one day to the next.
Although I had thankfully made one friend before the site closed (and we are still great mates to this day) I still felt so very isolated. As we are all well aware, isolation for mums can be very dangerous. I was sure that if I didn’t make some connections soon I’d be in trouble.
Add to that my keen sense of community-mindedness (yep, I’m one of those people) and I felt sure that I had to do something. Part of an ethical lifestyle is firmly rooted in how we treat each other, so there was that. I also strongly believe that I have a duty to give back to the people and places I am connected with – possibly this is out of my family history involving refugees, displacement and social injustices. If we are blessed with the privilege of ‘western’ life, we also carry a great responsibility to share whatever we have to give.
One day it dawned on me that we now have access to powerful social platforms on which it is very easy to connect with others. So being careful not to use the same name as the first mum-site, and with a large ounce of faith and courage, I started a group called Mums in Bath. It started off slow. One or two people joined and then a few more, and a few more. Gradually it grew.
Good vibes only
I set the tone from the beginning that it was a supportive and informative group and carefully moderated it to ensure that those values were maintained. I sought collaborations with whoever seemed to share those values and worked in a similar space. Some wished to compete with me nonetheless and I had to learn not to engage with those people (which was a real challenge at times).
You’re only as good as your support system
Fortunately, I had a top-notch personal support system and was able to carefully navigate the occasional pitfalls of stepping into a highly visible position in this somewhat small community. It was also a cultural learning experience as I wasn’t always across the social norms (being from a similar yet albeit different country).
Over time, it became a very important social and information source for mums living in the picturesque City of Bath. Women with a similar need for unconditional acceptance and simple connection were grateful. It was immensely gratifying.
The times they are a changin’
And then, two-and-half years later, when the Group had grown to number in the thousands, we decide to leave Bath and move back to another picturesque, and somewhat bigger city – my hometown of Sydney.
I’m not going to lie, it was hard to let go of the Group at first. It had become a massive part of my everyday life and I had made a load of wonderful connections as a result of it. However, it honestly was also timely for me to have a break from it. Fortunately, I managed to find a person with similar values who matched my passion for creating mum-networks, and community service, as well as a good measure of business-sense, to take it over.
We met. We talked. And then over a week or two, I handed it over. Just like that, my time as the first and only convener of the Mums in Bath group was over.
Still going strong
Happily for all involved, it still thrives. At the time of writing, there is a great amount of support for my successor and how she has steered the group forward. It now numbers in the even-more thousands and has an associated annual show as well – full credit to Vicky, the new mum-in-charge of Mums in Bath.
Naturally, when I got to the Northern Beaches of Sydney, I continued running this blog but I also started up another local online group for mums.
Interestingly a few months in, I was asked to change the name from Freshie Mums to Freshie Families so as to be more inclusive of dads and other carers. It is a lovely thing to now be watching this group grow and serve this community. I am so grateful to be able to gather people together and see that there are so many who are so willing to support each other in these ways.
Humbled. Grateful. Always learning new ways to connect. By the time I left Bath, I had the most amazing women friends. I can’t wait to see them again.