Everyday motherhood is complex, and for most of us—much of the time—seems more challenging than we ever expected.
Second guessing every decision from the moment your baby is born, feeling guilty about everything, experiencing a strong loss of identity as a woman, having no time for basic self-care, always feeling lonely even when surrounded by your loved ones or feeling burnt out just thinking about the laundry.
Does this sound familiar to you? You’re not alone. Although motherhood can bring joy, it can also be very hard, and it seems that everyone just accepts that this is the way that it has to be.
What if motherhood didn’t have to be that hard?
What if there was a group of mothers like you, who have young children and who understand what you are experiencing and have been rethinking the way we approach motherhood and found another way?
What if they have created a village for genuine mothers like you where your needs as both a woman and mother are fulfilled, where you can safely be you and mentally recharge so you can tackle the challenges of everyday motherhood with more ease and ultimately feel more relaxed, more you.
What if this village was just around the corner? Would you pop in to learn more?
This is the village that Dinah Thomasset has worked to create in founding Villagehood Australia. We chat with her about what it’s all about.
You actually conceived the idea of The Villagehood Australia in a Moroccan village. Tell us about how it came about.
Growing up in Morocco, I was surrounded by an extended village of love and care. Moving to France at age 9, I mourned the loss of my village and have yearned for it ever since. Becoming a mother in Australia, 18,000km away from my village, was the toughest challenge of my life. The strong, confident woman I had been, disappeared from the moment my first child was born. Even with the support of my husband and friends, like many mothers, I felt isolated and invisible, adrift in a sea of nappies and sleepless nights.
Moving to Adelaide shortly after, I found even less support. I thought I could handle the move, having travelled widely and with friends all over the world, but I felt lonelier than ever. The situation worsened when my second child arrived and she barely slept. I found myself in a dark hole. My health deteriorated and I was hospitalised. Waiting for test results, I imagined the worst. I told my husband: “If anything happens to me, get over it and find our children a mother, any woman who’ll love them.” Then it hit me: I am that woman. Loving them is enough. I am enough.
Those three words resonated deeply and brought me back to life. I began feeling better; my old self reappeared. A few months later, I visited Morocco and reconnected with my village. That’s when it all clicked – I needed to open a centre for mothers. A place where all mums could feel safe and supported, creating a village of like minded women who’ll transform motherhood so that we, and all future mothers, feel visible, valued and loved. A legacy to my children and all mothers (and parents) to be.
How different was becoming a mother in Australia than you expected?
Although I thought I was prepared, nothing really prepared me for motherhood. When I gave birth to my first child 7 years ago, I left the hospital feeling overwhelmingly worried and anxious. I thought the feeling would disappear once safe home but it didn’t. That night, alone in the dark, trying to breastfeed my baby, I totally freaked out and started to cry and cry. I had no idea what I was supposed to do and second guessed every decision I made. I was getting more and more anxious. I hoped the feeling would disappear after a few weeks once I’d got used to being a mum but it didn’t. I was literally mummying in the dark and had no confidence. So I called the different helplines and met with some professionals… “it’s trial and error” they said, “you know your baby best”, “you will learn with time”. They didn’t get it. They didn’t get me. They didn’t see me. I WAS INVISIBLE.
With my second, things were worse. My baby girl had really bad allergies and would not sleep.
After 9 months of sleep deprivation, I was very depressed. I got myself onto a mental health plan (only to realise you still had to pay a gap fee of $85 for each session) and learned how to navigate my way through a rainbow of emotions. After feeling better I decided it was time to go back to work and feel visible again, “of value”. I quickly did the calculations: I would have been out of pocket by about $10-15k a year with two kids in childcare on a part-time salary so it wasn’t worth it really. I felt that I was left with no choice. I remember people saying “this is what it is”, “you just need to accept things as they are.” And I felt that fire in me! I was not going to accept this: the way we’re treated, the way the system treats us. Mothers become invisible, we can’t find a job, the school system is forced on us yet there are no jobs that allow us to work within school hours. Just because it’s common, doesn’t make it normal. Motherhood shouldn’t be this hard.
So I decided a few years ago that I would utilise my skill set and personal strengths to help raise awareness around the challenges modern families face in Australia and together with community organisations propose solutions that would better support mothers and their families and ultimately enhance their health and wellbeing.
With that purpose in mind, I have created my own path and I am becoming the woman I always imagined to be. A woman who chooses how she wants to live, to work and to mum her two beautiful children.
What type of support do you think mother’s need that they’re so often not getting in Australia?
We live in a child-focused society where the research and services created for families are mainly focused on developing services to support and protect the wellbeing of the children (which is of course really important). However there has been almost no research or service development focusing on the health and wellbeing of the mothers – independently of their children. I believe it is important that we shift that focus first to be able to offer the kind of support mothers need in Australia.
Here is my top list:
- More mental health support with free access to mental health services without a waiting time of 6-12 months
- Better wellbeing programs to beat loneliness and isolation in the early years
- Better paid parental leave that can be equally shared to allow mothers to remain connected to the workforce and fathers to care for their babies
- Affordable and accessible quality early learning services for all Australian families to set our children up for success, allow families to choose what is best for them and give our economy a boost by enabling women to return to the workforce. (it is a win for everyone!)
- More family friendly workplaces to attract and retain parents (mainly mothers) in the workforce.
What services and help does The Villagehood Australia offer women?
Villagehood Australia is a registered charity and volunteer based association dedicated to help protect the health and wellbeing of mothers and support them through their motherhood journey.
At Villagehood Australia, we welcome every mother (and woman) into our village, holding space for her to maintain her sense of self, wellbeing and independence, as she navigates the trials and triumphs of motherhood.
We provide all mothers with a strong support network – beating loneliness and isolation and building their capacity to better cope with the everyday challenges of motherhood.
We offer a combination of initiatives for our community that are selected to improve the mental wellbeing of mothers.
Whether it is through exercising, singing together, learning new parenting tools or simply having an adult chat and being able to create meaningful connections, our programs offer a number of benefits to enhance maternal health & wellbeing.
The Villagehood also offers a creche service for babies and toddlers – how important is this for giving mums a moment to breathe for themselves?
Being able to mentally recharge is critical to the wellbeing of mothers and their children. We know that
The Playhood Creche, which is located in the playroom, is a nurturing, creative and fun environment available to all children of Villagehood Australia from 12 months old to 5 years old. It is a great opportunity for the children to develop social skills which helps them form healthy relationships with other people and for mothers to relax and connect with like minded mothers, knowing their children are safe and looked after by experienced carers.
How can mums get involved and become members of Villagehood Australia?
There are different ways mums can get involved
- By either joining our activities and programs
- By joining our team as a volunteer
- By promoting Villagehood Australia: liking and sharing our posts on socials (word of mouth is key!)
- By donating to support our programs
- By becoming a partner and help us grow and impact more mothers
What services are available to help women at Villagehood Australia?
MOTHERS CAN CONNECT with
- Our Casual & Informal Coffee Catch Ups (Monday)
- Our Bubs Friendly Pilates Class and Mindful Singing Group (Wednesday)
- Our Mummy Steps mothers group (starting in November 2022 – Registration open)
MOTHERS CAN GROW with
- our Circle of Security® Parenting™ program (Thursday)
MOTHERS CAN RISE with our Social Impact projects (ongoing)
Book your FREE TRIAL online now.
It’s time to get out of the house, find a moment to yourself and connect with other like minded women journeying through motherhood with Villagehood Australia.