The mummy club: Befriending other new mothers

It's good to share notes with other new mums if your own family isn't around.

The saying "motherhood is the toughest job in the world" can only be truly understood when someone becomes a parent. During pregnancy, emphasis is placed on educating new mothers about labour and childbirth, but unfortunately there isn't nearly as much open conversation about what comes after.

Life literally changes overnight as we're faced with the reality of raising a child. It's a huge adjustment, and is especially challenging for those without an established support system of family as well as friends who are fellow parents.

After I moved to Australia, I developed a close friendship with two girls I'd gone to school with in Kuala Lumpur. As fate would have it, we were pregnant around the same time. I think my husband's ears are still ringing from all the squealing we did when we found out.

But career opportunities beckoned back in Asia for their husbands, so Trish and Michelle ended up moving to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur to start their new families. Thus began our separate journeys into motherhood.

Their absence and the fact that I had no close family in Melbourne was definitely a struggle. I took a year off work as we didn't have anyone we felt comfortable imposing on to help care for our daughter Arianna.

Having a nanny or maid wasn't an option, nor was I prepared to send her to daycare at such a young age.

Perhaps I should've seen it coming, but the lack of human interaction that comes with being a stay-at-home mum was - and sometimes still is - incredibly isolating.

In an ideal world, I'd catch up with friends during their lunch breaks, then spend hours window shopping whilst my daughter entertained herself quietly in her stroller.

But ask any mother and 99 per cent will tell you that this simply isn't realistic when you barely have time to brush your hair, let alone prepare yourself and your baby for a day out.

Fortunately, our local council recognises that the isolation new parents face is an issue, and runs a programme connecting parents with babies of a similar age in a series of educational sessions with a maternal health nurse.

After a series of formal sessions with a maternal health nurse, it's up to the mothers to decide if they want to stay on to chat and get to know the others in the group.

I was lucky to develop a friendship with some of the women and we now meet once a week for coffee, swimming or baby gym dates. It's a great comfort to know that others are going through similar experiences and uncertainties in parenting.

When Trish migrated to Singapore, she found herself in a similar situation. Without the same council support that I had, she had to actively search for ways to meet new people.

She joined a selection of Facebook groups and connected with a number of fellow expatriate mothers, who now meet up weekly at each others' houses.

Trish also used social network meetup.com to expand her network of new mums. By creating an event within the site using strict filters, she was able to form another mothers' group who schedule regular play dates.

Without the luxury of having family members close by, Trish and I have benefited from settling our babies into a fairly strict routine so that we can accomplish more at home.

We've both been able to take on work projects to keep our minds busy, and schedule our work deadlines around our daughters' sleeping schedules. It doesn't necessarily work for everyone, but it does help keep us sane.

Michelle's story is slightly different. With her family and in-laws in Kuala Lumpur, there's no shortage of helping hands. While she has this side of the support network covered, she does wish she has other parents with babies of a similar age to spend time with.

However, she's wary of establishing new relationships online in Kuala Lumpur and feels her options for meeting new people are limited by comparison.

Keen to ensure that she doesn't miss out on the benefits of a mother's group, she is currently researching mum-and-baby activities around the city that she can participate in with her son, and hopefully develop some new friendships that way.

Regardless of where you're based and what your situation is, it's a big help to be surrounded by a great support system.

Thanks to modern technology, our phones are filled with messages to each other featuring the good, bad and just-plain-weird experiences that come with raising a baby.

As Trish, Michelle and I are also discovering, there are different ways we can cultivate new relationships with fellow parents, and share our stories as we go through this roller coaster ride together.