Group helps tackle loneliness and isolation in new mums

published on 9 Feb 2022

Sophie and Libby at mum's push along group in Thirsk
Sophie and Libby with their children Finn and Meredith

A mum’s push along group which was set up during the pandemic to help tackle loneliness and isolation is thriving and creating lifelong friendships.

Set up by North Yorkshire Pioneer Major Paula Haylett because mums were missing out on connecting with each other due to lockdown restrictions, the group meets every Wednesday for walk at a local track followed by coffee.

The group is part of a Salvation Army Fresh Expression in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, where Paula and her husband Major Ian work within the community and from their home on a new housing estate, adapting to need there rather than from a traditional Salvation Army church building.

Paula said: “I had seen so many mums pushing ‘lock-down’ babies around in their prams, knowing they had no groups to meet with at children's centres and very few visits from health care professionals. In conversation with some new mums, it was clear that they wanted other mums to talk to about their experiences and to share hints, wisdom and encouragement with each other. 

My aim was to connect mums who are isolated, particularly due to Covid, but also because I live on a new housing estate which can be a lonely place.
Major Paula Haylett

“The group of about six meets weekly on Wednesday mornings, usually walking a couple of kilometres round the track. Depending on the weather, we then have a picnic or get coffee in a nearby retirement home which has a bistro open to public.

“It's a very simple idea and free to run. My aim was to connect mums who are isolated, particularly due to Covid, but also because I live on a new housing estate which can be a lonely place. I know I achieved my aim, because the group of mums who first started to come formed friendships and would often organise meet ups outside of the group. Some are involved in each other’s Christenings. 

“I would say this in itself is mission, the friendship group is very inclusive and mixed. The conversations we have had have been very personal and deep, covering all imaginable topics of medical, relationship and spiritual themes! It is confidence building and offers reassurance for mums who can talk through things like weaning or teething with each other.

“Loneliness and isolation are themes we discuss a lot as part of the Fresh Expressions mission, this is something we are passionate about tackling.”

Paula also runs a parent and toddler group at a nearby church, which many of the mums also go to.


Mum's push along group in Thirsk
The mums meet every Wednesday

For Libby, 40, when her daughter Meredith, now 16 months, was born, she missed out on those initial contacts – visits to the children’s centre or meeting up for baby massage wasn’t possible due to the pandemic.

Libby, who also has a son Dexter, eight, said: “It’s a supporting arm around your shoulders. It was that connection that was missing, and those connections are huge. The famous quote ‘it takes a village to raise a child’  really is true. Yes, you can research something online, but there’s nothing like going for a walk or coffee with somebody who gets it - who gets that that night you didn’t sleep, and your baby is crying for no reason. You need somebody that truly understands, and even more so in a pandemic because there are additional fears.

“We chat about everything, the conversations can go in all sorts of directions and in a mum’s group nobody is shocked. There was a lot of oversharing but we didn’t care!

“It felt safe when things were up and down. Paula is so welcoming and invites people to come and join us if she sees they are on their own.

“We have formed our own little friendships through the group. We message each other regularly and meet up outside of the group. I’ve met one woman who I know I’ll be friends with forever.

“If I didn’t have the group, I’d be more isolated. It’s worked wonders for the mental health side of things. It’s also helped my physical health and it’s helped me get back into exercise. The track is so accessible, I now use it for running, with some of the other mums joining me.”

If I didn’t have the group, I’d be more isolated. It’s worked wonders for the mental health side of things.

Sophie, 31, who has two children, aged 12, and Finn, one, said: “When Finn was born, it was like starting from new again and doing it in a pandemic with everything being shut down. When he was very small, I had no-one else to speak to, it was hard.

“It was very different from when I had my first baby because there was a lot more support then. I went every week to a weigh and play thing where I’d sit down with a group of mums and just talk to them. That got me out the house and helped me keep track of the days because at that point you’re so tired, you don’t know what day it is and everything is on top of you.

“With the push along group, you can walk and talk knowing your child is safe in their pushchair. You’re with other mums who are in the same situation. They know what you’re going through, so you have that reassurance and you can ask questions like is this normal? Should I be worried about this? Walking is such a great form of exercise, while getting out in the fresh air gives you that energy boost.

“It has helped make me feel less alone. You meet people that you would not normally meet, but they are just like you, you’re all in the same situation.”

For more information visit Thirsk's Salvation Army Facebook page here

a mother with her baby

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