The first few weeks of motherhood turn your world upside down and once the visitors have gone and you’re left alone in the house with a new baby, it’s easy to feel isolated, lonely and overwhelmed.
Add in the pandemic and it’s no wonder that so many mums have struggled.
Dad of three and fitness trainer Rob Lunn offers mood-boosting workouts for pregnant women and mums in Liverpool, Knowsley and St Helens, Merseyside, but he realised the idea of going to a class might be intimidating to mums who are feeling low and have no confidence after birth.
So Mum’s Social was born – a walk and talk group that’s the perfect way to get women out of the house to feel the benefit of fresh air and peer support, with a free coffee afterwards.
The driving force on the ground was project activator Jen Longman, 40, who gathered a group for the first walk in January 2020. Shortly afterwards, lockdown hit. But the moment she could get the meet-ups going again, she did.
“So many mums had been stuck in their houses for so long, so we were inundated when we came back to the walks again,” says Jen.
“There was a core group of three mums who came to the first walk, they struck up a friendship, swapped numbers and supported each other right through the lockdown.
"One of them had been very timid on the first walk and she actually got her partner to come and wait with her. She was so anxious about stepping outside her comfort zone of being at home with the baby.
“When we met her again after lockdown she told us she’d been diagnosed with post-natal depression and anxiety.
"She said that the friendship she formed with those two other mums basically got her through lockdown. All three had partners who were frontline workers, so the support they gave each other was vital. If they hadn’t come to that first walk, they wouldn’t have met.”
Walking in the park – and the associated group chat that Jen set up – offered mums a friendly, safe space to share their feelings.
“There’s never any judgment. I talk openly about mum guilt and those times when you feel like everything’s going wrong,” says Jen.
“We accept that being a mum is hard. It’s isolating, it does make you lonely and it has you questioning your sanity. When someone has a bad day, they don’t need to sugar coat it or rein in their emotions with us. We’re all there to support each other.
“People share quite personal stories about their birth experience on the group chat and one of the mums told us that she’d lost her partner when the baby was only a few weeks old.
"It absolutely floored us all, but we were there to support her. I think it speaks volumes that she could share that information with the group.”
Now funds raised through The Health Lottery have helped bring even more new mums together.
“It helps us buy the mums their coffees after the walks and then we put on celebration events throughout the year, hiring a local venue and providing food,” says Rob.
“We have three locations for our walks in three parks in St Helens and they all come together for these events.
“Through delivery of Mamafit classes I realised that mums were often worried about joining an exercise class, they’d see the word ‘fit’ and be concerned feeling the needed to be fit to join, but we knew they needed mental health support and connections with other people, so that’s how we came up with the idea of Mum’s Social,” says Rob.
A walk in the park might sound simple, but the way it helps mums is invaluable.
“It’s hard to measure the preventative side of it, but when women are feeling stressed and frustrated, they go out and get active and talk about their problems, so perhaps they don’t need to visit their GP. We can see the change in the person,” says Rob.
Jen has seen the benefits first hand, in all weathers and she has this message for players of The Health Lottery: “Every time you buy a ticket, you’re supporting projects like this.”
Diverse Active - Mum's Social Factfile
Mum’s Social: forming friendships across St Helens, Merseyside
Bringing mums together to connect, share experience and improve mental wellbeing
Weekly social meet-ups and online support with text chat groups, buggy walks, private social media groups and celebration events
Mum's Social website