I can’t believe Mums in Jersey has been running for 6 years! It does makes perfect sense though. My son was just over a year old when I started a Facebook page, in the hope of finding some new friends and finding out a bit more about the island, and he turned 7 a few weeks ago!
It seems so very long ago, a different life really, that we were sitting in a tiny flat day in, day out. Me – not doing very much of anything aside from standard house/baby duties – which is actually a lot – though it feels like nothing, apart from that glaring exhaustion at the end of each day. Jake – doing amazing baby things like pulling all the clothes out of the cupboard whilst smiling at me with a “dare me” sparkle in his eye, or making a mess with his lunch that resembled a murder scene! We were actually pretty content in our little life together; we existed side by side in a haze of alternative motherhood, trepidation and breastmilk. The frustration and loneliness I felt at the time has significantly faded, just like the intense pain of labour does… but I do still remember it, and the not so drastic lengths I went to fix it.
I once overcame my social anxiety and ventured out to the baby cafe – the breastfeeding group down the road. I actually talked to other new mothers and gave and gained a bit of advice. I even exchanged numbers with one lovely lady, and a couple of weeks later we went for coffee and had a nice time. Then, in the spirit of island living, her husband changed jobs and they were back off to sunny England (I have since lost many a friend due to island, and continent, hopping). Then Jake’s nap times changed, or something, and getting to that particular group became almost impossible…. or maybe my old friend anxiety came a calling! 😉
NOTE: I know that groups can be absolutely life saving for some people, and I am not disregarding them at all, however, they are not for everyone, and I know PLENTY of mums and dads, that turn into a quivering wreck at the thought of going to a playgroup, no matter what the benefits might be.
After the snow and cold weather of 2011, I started to get a bit more fed up, and with Jake finding his feet I decided that he deserved better than me being miserable, and the confined space of the 3rd floor flat we were mooching around in. I turned to Facebook to find stuff; exciting stuff we could go to, or get involved in, exciting people we could meet and be best buddies with! I had grown up on the internet and had always found what I was looking for, but this time I was disappointed, maybe my expectations were too high.
So, I created what I was trying to find; a facebook page for Mums in Jersey! I thought I might get 10, 20, maybe even 50 people join, and we could have a little group where we could chat, arrange to meet up, find things out about different groups and activities…. well that happened in week 1… and then it just grew and grew; it seemed I wasn’t the only one feeling the need for a place to connect and find information.
Suddenly, I was managing a community of 1000 parents, all asking questions and looking for friends, requesting meet ups and giving so much information and love to other parents. This was it! I got a message from another lady who had recently moved to Jersey (she is one of those good friends who has since island hopped away!) and was trying to get parents together but was having trouble, so wanted to join forces. We organised a big meet up at the old Lion Park (nostalgia!), loads of people came, even BBC NEWS came to do a piece. I was on TV – what?! Then I started to get emails and phone calls from the radio stations and newspapers asking my opinion on internet safety and breastfeeding in public and nursery places and post natal depression and schools and…. hang on?! How did I become a parenting/safety/education/mental health expert all of a sudden?!
The page started to become a fury of opinionated and sometimes nasty comments, facebook trolls were rife, and downright haters were hating. And in amongst it all were the lost, but genuine requests for support and help. I spent a lot of time mediating arguments, deleting trolls, deciding what and what not to post. Nothing pleased everyone, I was always doing something wrong. The name is also wrong, by the way – if you’ve never seen the people moaning about that – it should have been something more inclusive, like ‘parents in jersey’, or ‘families in jersey’, or ‘mums, dads, carers, grandparents and all others in jersey’…. *eyeroll* – I made up the name, Mums in Jersey, in a split second, when I was literally looking for Mums in Jersey… so… sorry folks!
It took a huge amount of time and energy to manage the page effectively, but I felt such ownership, and so much passion for helping other parents. By this time, MIJ and its offspring (an adverts page, and some topical sub groups that I’d created (Natural Parenting, Breastfeeding Support, PND Support) had made me and Jake some really good friends, and had given me a huge wealth of information. This was why I had started it and why it had to continue.
Among all the stupid crap, and that is what it was, people were finding each other; making friends, finding things they needed for cheap or free that they couldnt afford to buy new, gaining knowledge about support groups and activities, learning about the school application process, finding better doctors, seeking out the like minded parents who believed in home schooling, finding friends for their children before they started at a new school, sharing kindness stories, recommending good shops and cafes, welcoming new people all the time… so much good! And that is what has driven me to continue the page for 6 years, growing the community to nearly 7000 people… Im really proud of myself, and of every single person who has contributed to our amazing network!
Despite moving away from our beautiful island (yes, I became an island hopper too, sorry, and I still miss it so much), I will continue to run, grow and support this group for as long as I can. I will also continue to work with local businesses and support the amazing charities that work long and hard for the families in Jersey.
Happy Birthday Mums in Jersey. May there be many more!