Have you ever tried to play a board game with a toddler?
This description of the experience is fabulous. I found it on one of the online parent communities I belong to, The Motherload, and it’s just one of the many reasons I love online parent communities.
**Rules of Old Macdonald Lotto: a ‘fun’ matching game**
1 – this is strictly a two-player game, as your toddler will insist on having three lotto boards to your one.
2 – toddler goes first. And second. You MAY be allowed to touch a card several minutes in, but I’m not promising anything.
3 – toddler may also keep ANY cats she finds, regardless of whether they’re on your board, because they’re her favourite.
4 – same goes for dogs, ducks, goats, cows and that inexplicably featured mainstay of farm life, the woodpecker…
5 – if at the halfway point you have somehow defied the odds and completed half your board, s*** will be lost, and the game will be restarted.
6 – the frog IS NOT allowed on anyone’s board. WE DO NOT LIKE THE FROG!!! (Reasons unknown).
7 – toddler can lose interest, dramatically sweep the board clear and declare themselves the winner AT ANY point. Protests and video evidence to the contrary will not be considered.
It’s safe to say that I’ve got more chance of winning The Hunger Games than this b******s.
The summer holidays are long. Four years ago, when my boys were 3 years and 9 months respectively, we moved to Milton Keynes, where we knew not a soul – and we did it in the first week of the break. And as every primary carer of a baby or toddler knows, there are hardly any groups running during the holidays, unless you know where to look.
Fortunately I had a brainwave: turn to Facebook. I’d only had an account for about four years back then, so this was something of a lightbulb moment. Where we’d lived before (in Ripon, North Yorkshire), I’d belonged to a local mums’ group, which shared information about groups and places to visit. I wondered whether something similar existed in Milton Keynes; and to my joy, it did.
In 2014, the Mum to Mum MK group had 7000 members (which was staggering enough, to me – my previous group had about 100) and it was a mine of useful information. I found out about some wonderful groups, activities, places to visit, and even where to take my toddler for a haircut. I’m naturally an introvert (see previous blog for that particular reveal), but I knew that the only way to make this new town home was to get to know it – so I pushed myself to get out and about, try as many of the different groups as I could, and get to know our area. I dread to think how long this would have taken me without this wonderful Facebook community, all started by a Mum seeking the same online companionship four years earlier.
But a Facebook community doesn’t just help you out with recommendations. It’s deeper and far more valuable than that; it helps you to feel less alone. Becoming a parent is the biggest shock of your life, for most people; and the primary carer, be it Mum or Dad, gets the biggest shock of all. You are responsible for every aspect of another human being’s life, and the responsibility is frequently overwhelming. And then, here’s the paradox – this all-consuming, life-changing responsibility is characterised by a fist-chewingly dull daily routine.
“The years are short, but the days are long” – no truer word was ever spoken.
So here you are, making potentially life-and-death decisions for a tiny dependent person, several times a day, whilst your brain feels like it might be turning to mush through lack of use. All of the complex business problems, revolutionary bursts of creative genius, and logical adult conversations that coloured your day Pre-Offspring, are swept away in the After-Offspring era. But here is the wonderful part that you suddenly discover in parent communities – there are thousands of other people out there who feel exactly the same. And they can help you with the questions, doubts, uncertainties, lack of confidence and loneliness you can feel when your life changes so fast, and so completely.
I adore Mum to Mum. It has saved my sanity on several occasions, and given me all sorts of local knowledge, advice and reassurance about so many facets of parenting. It’s made me laugh, made me cry tears of empathy and sympathy, and its members regularly show the most wonderful levels of compassion to others in need. You don’t even need to be vocal on the group. Many members derive huge amounts of comfort just by reading what others have written.
I’ve also been lucky enough to be part of the team that has propelled it into becoming a real local business, with its fabulous founder, Sam Poole, at the helm. It now stands at 14,000 members, and it’s got an associated website and local life directory, filled with information that members of the group have provided over the years: https://mumtomumuk.com/
I regularly see posts on social media about how much better things were in the old days, and I do think some people truly believe that. But I will be forever grateful that I became a Mum in this age where communities don’t have to be made up solely of the people who live near you – and that you can reach out and find a friend 24 hours a day.
If you’re not already a member – and any parent, grandparent or carer is welcome to join – then I highly recommend it.