Deloraine's Stephanie Trethewey creates virtual mothers group for rural mums

CREATING COMMUNITY: Stephanie Trethewey, with her children Evie and Elliot. Picture: Supplied
CREATING COMMUNITY: Stephanie Trethewey, with her children Evie and Elliot. Picture: Supplied

Stephanie Trethewey knows what it takes to be a rural mum.

She knows the strength, the energy and passion it requires - but also understands the feelings of isolation that can come with it.

It's what has inspired her to launch Motherland Village, a new virtual mothers group designed to connect mums in rural and regional areas, after she realised how few regional mothers were automatically allocated one.

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

"I think there's lots of women who know what it feels like to be isolated (in that role)," Ms Trethewey said.

Initially, Ms Trethewey's plan to connect mums was to start a podcast, drawing on her journalism background to share stories of the diverse experiences of rural motherhood. And so she did, with Motherland Australia ticking over 100 episodes just recently.

However, while raising a young child and when she had another on the way while living on a farm in Deloraine, in central northern Tasmania, she realised she wanted to do more.

Creating a community

While a number of parenting supports exist in Tasmania for new mothers and expectant parents including parenting classes through hospitals, virtual parenting classes for private hospital patients in the North-West and the Child Health and Parenting Service run by the state's health department, the more rural women she spoke to, the more she realised mothers groups were uncommon.

Ms Trethewey said she wanted Motherland Village to help fill that role.

Describing it as a "match-making service for mothers", she said she wanted the process of finding your group to be simple.

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The groups have a maximum of 10 people, and are based on the ages of the kids and personal circumstances of the mum. Geography is irrelevant, with a key focus being connecting people across Australia.

It's so irrelevant that the pilot group, which recently concluded the formal six-week program, had women spread across different states, with more than 82 hours of driving and 6000km of driving between them - not that Ms Trethewey was counting.

"The key thing is really breaking that stereotype of what a mothers group is," Ms Trethewey said.

"Whether or not (participants) form a lifelong bond is not the point, it's that they have the opportunity to connect."

Shared experiences

Scottsdale woman Karla Williams took part in the first Motherland Village mother's group, after seeing a callout from Ms Trethewey.

With two young children, she said while she was fortunate to have some family around her who provided support, she had also missed out on being allocated a local mothers group in her North-East region.

She said finding this community of mothers who understood her experiences was significant.

Although it's a virtual mothers group, just having the support is helpful to muddle through the expectations, and trials and tribulations, of motherhood

Karla Williams

"As a rural mum, living on the land, weekends don't exist," Ms Williams said.

"You don't always get your husband home of a weekend, and when you chat to other mums that don't have that experience and can't relate it's very isolating. It's really nice talking to mums that understand that.

"Although it's a virtual mothers group, just having the support is helpful to muddle through the expectations, and trials and tribulations, of motherhood which is the next best thing.

Karla Williams with son, Eli. Picture: Supplied.

Karla Williams with son, Eli. Picture: Supplied.

"I think it's company, at the end of the day. You can go to this group and know they're with you even if you're states away."

Other supports

Charlotte Fielding is a counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, and works with the Burnie-Wynyard branch providing breastfeeding and parenting support to new mums on the Coast.

Covering a region that (virtually) extends virtually all the way to the West Coast and King Island, she said it was pivotal that mothers were able to access communities to share their experiences with.

She said increasingly, this was being accessed online, and so there was a real place for virtual communities that could provide that support, as well as accurate, qualified advice.

"It's about finding your village," Ms Fielding said.

"When you become a mother, the learning curve is very steep. Social support is so important."

The Australian Breastfeeding Association has long provided support to women across the country, offering breastfeeding education classes, a helpline and online support from qualified volunteers including through a Facebook group.

In Tasmania, this includes free webinars, after the ABA noted challenges for women across the state in accessing accurate breastfeeding information easily.

"Mothers need support in all areas," she said. "Sleeping, weaning, settling... it's knowing where to find support when things are not going well."

Only around one year ago this service extended to creating a weekly mothers group in the Wynyard area, after members noted their need for that broader social connection.

"There's so much pressure on mums," she said. "They need a safe space."

This story Meet the mum working to prevent the isolation of rural mothers first appeared on The Examiner.