Wednesday 16 October 2019

'Women don't speak about it because you don't want to be seen to be complaining' - Two best pals start a meet-up for mums

Mothers can often feel isolated but a monthly meet-up set up by two Dublin women hopes to provide a space where mums can come together

Sarah Bridgeman and Naomh Geday set up The Breakfast Club
Sarah Bridgeman and Naomh Geday set up The Breakfast Club
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Stronger together: Sarah Bridgeman and Naomh Geday set up The Breakfast Club
Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

'Some women don't speak about it because you don't want to be seen to be complaining about it. For fear that someone might say, 'Isn't she lucky to have her child'. So you don't talk about it, but you're still dying a death at home."

Naomh Geday (39), a Dublin make-up artist, is mother to Maxim (5) and Ellie (1). She remembers the sense of pure joy when she first became a mother, a whole new meaning to life and a whole new purpose. But equally, she admits there's a growing feeling of isolation when you're at home alone taking care of a little baby, while loved ones and friends are busy going about their working days.

"The silence is almost deafening, you're used to being out and socialising."

And if you return to work after maternity leave: "You get your money again and there's the social aspect of it, but you have the price of childcare again," Naomh says.

Feelings of guilt and anxiety are common too, Naomh's best friend of 30 years, Sarah Bridgeman (39) says. Are you making the right choices for your family? Should you return to work, or should you not?

"I always had a guilt - if I went out I felt guilt, if I stayed at home I felt guilt," Sarah who is a psychotherapist and mum to Leo (7), Jacob (5) and Toby (3), says. "My anxiety was not about my mothering skills, it was about feeling that I couldn't go back to myself because there were expectations on me: 'I'm no longer Sarah who has that background and that education, [I'm] Sarah who's mother to…' I used to say, 'Oh don't mind me, I'm just a vessel'. I struggled in that way, when people would see me as the mother-of-two [rather than just Sarah]."

Stronger together: Sarah Bridgeman and Naomh Geday set up The Breakfast Club
Stronger together: Sarah Bridgeman and Naomh Geday set up The Breakfast Club

She adds: "My mother had died in June and I was going back to work in September, so it was a really hard time. I was leaving [the baby] as well, I felt that guilt... my mother had stayed at home with us when we were young."

Naomh and Sarah recently started a monthly meet-up for women in the form of 'The Breakfast Club', to bring women together to meet new networks, learn new things and hear new voices. The morning meet-up includes childcare, a breakfast service, and speakers on themes from mental wellbeing to healthy eating to domestic violence to fashion.

"We got the idea thinking about motherhood as a whole, and what's missing," Naomh explains. "This is a tune-out for two hours, a bit of luxury, a bit of 'me time', while your child is safe and being entertained in the room, and it just has to be a time that you can switch off."

"[The conversation] doesn't have to be about kids and about how your body is changing now that you've had a baby - the state of your nether regions, or how your hair is falling out. This is just a bit of 'me time'."

"The age demographic, the majority would be between 30 to 45. We've had younger girls and older ladies come along too, and it's lovely to see everyone mix at the table and hear about their day-to-day lives, as opposed to just mammies sitting talking about babies. It's inclusive for everyone, but we always try to make it clear it absolutely caters for mothers. For women who have small babies, we say bring the babies and if you need to change them, just slip right out. They can drop in and out at their leisure."

Are subjects like children off limits, if this is a meet-up intended as "me time"?

"We wouldn't tell anyone not to talk about anything. But we do say this is a time for you, we have a child area there, they can leave the child in the child entertainment area, and to go and enjoy the morning. Generally I think people are happy to go in and enjoy talking about something completely different."

Earlier this month, the Happy Pear twins, Stephen and David, gave a cookery demo and healthy eating and lifestyle talk. In March there'll be a focus on stress and burnout.

"Social anxiety," Sarah says, "is bigger than anyone lets on. We're conscious of that, when people book we're conscious about where we sit them, and if someone's arriving on their own we bring them down to their table and introduce them to any woman sitting there.

"I really suffered with social anxiety when I was a child and a teen. You wouldn't necessarily have known that, I always had plenty of friends. But put me into a room - unless I knew where I'd be sitting and knew people there - and I'd have my heart racing. I was nervous, even in psychology in college, any social setting at all."

She explains: "I worked in Oberstown [Children Detention Campus] for years and going in there every day, it was either sink or swim, you had to get out of your comfort zone. You fairly quickly found your sense of self and gut and trust in decision-making. And that was my push out of my own social anxiety battle. If I had gone to see someone, I probably would have been diagnosed with anxiety, it was crippling."

What the #MeToo movement has demonstrated recently, Sarah offers, is the idea that women can motivate change by sticking together and forming one strong voice. Women "want it all" in modern Ireland - career, work life balance, and maybe a family as well - but society can adapt and facilitate this more.

Sarah says: "If we all support each other and keep encouraging each other to make stands and to push, and keep pushing, and not let the guard down, [then change will happen].

"Women getting together, it's a powerful thing. I think it's an amazing time for women. The world is our oyster at the moment, and for people who might not feel that at the moment, for whatever reason, to get together with a room full of people - maybe someone who has lost her job - it's a powerful thing."

See thebreakfast-club.com

Irish Independent

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