‘It takes a village’: SuperMamas live at KCRW Berlin

The SuperMamas were aired live at KCRW Berlin on May 22nd.
If you have missed it do not worry, there is a link to the interview!
HELP US REACH OUT MORE MOTHERS IN NEED OF PAMPERING BY SHARING THE LINK BELOW!

https://kcrwberlin.com/2019/05/it-takes-a-village-supermamas-connects-berlin-moms?fbclid=IwAR3PK0gIhwokcVwIuKSARDZ993h21fmO9nhy-mYlnvOwgxvCz8X55M47DGg

SuperMamas Germany is a network of mothers who volunteer to help out fellow mamas who just gave birth – by providing a freshly cooked meal and a little chat.

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY HERE!

International Volunteer Day

On the 5th of December it was International Volunteer Day. What a great opportunity to thank all the SuperMamas who donate their time to make all this possible and keep the concept alive.

I am often asked why the SuperMamas continue to grow, but especially why so many HelpingMamas register and donate their time.

Why actually? What motivates these mothers from all backgrounds to dive into this adventure and pamper other mothers?

Volunteering means of course… free. No monetary compensation. But then, if there is no monetary reward, what do they gain in donating their time, a bit of their food budget, and of their creativity to offer a freshly cooked meal and some of their free time to strangers?

It is a pertinent question that the journalists and other people who I talk to about SuperMamas are asking. It is indeed a little bit crazy, in a world where everything has a price tag or follow the rule of compensation, that hundreds of mothers invest every day in the well-being of families around them.

Below is what I answer to this question, and the majority of the feedback I receive from these mothers/grandmothers/women/men are full of kindness and indefinable joy.

The feeling to contribute to the community. This is the first argument that comes to my mind. Do not misunderstand me: our fabulous SuperMamas are also contributing outside the scope of SuperMamas! But it is very rewarding for the soul to experience how our actions concretely do some good to others.

The appreciation of one’s competency. Preparing a meal that does some good, exchanging about your own experience, providing some sought-after advices, recommending a professional or a friend, or informing the Admin when we have the feeling that the BubbleMama could use more help.

Beautiful encounters. Those that transform into friendships or partnerships.

The easy access of the pampering. I subscribe if I want to, when I want to, and if I can.

This is for all those reasons that our fabulous volunteers get involved and keep the SuperMamas alive.

Three years already went by. Three years of pamperings throughout Switzerland and Germany.

Hundreds of families have discovered the joy of being pampered. What a gift! My desire to show the new mums that they are valued has been fulfilled: You deserve it! You deserve it so much that other mums who haven’t met you yet are more than happy to pamper you, to support you in this most beautiful and most difficult mission of all: to raise the generation of tomorrow.

I think of all the partners, the children, the colleagues, the friends and families who see you, generous mothers, go pamper another mother you have never met before. What a wonderful example you are giving them! I am so proud to witness so much generosity.

To you, HelpingMamas and SuperMamas Admins, to you all SuperMamas, I wish you a wonderful International Volunteer Day.

-Elisa

Elisa is the inventor behind the SuperMamas concept and founder of the SuperMamans.ch.

https://www.supermamans.ch/journee-mondiale-du-benevolat/

SuperMamas in the news again

SuperMamas is featured in a long article about how to cope with loneliness as expats in Germany. Journalist Rachel Stein was prompted to talk to us after reading our blog. It was published in The Local on 13 February 2018.

You can read it here:

https://www.thelocal.de/20180213/how-expats-have-overcome-loneliness-in-germany

‘Being honest helps’: how expats have overcome loneliness in Germany

by Rachel Stern

Removed from their language and culture, many people who first arrive in Germany experience feelings of isolation. The Local has spoken to expats who have struggled with loneliness to find out how they overcame it.

For seven years as a child, Stacy Weiss lived on a Air Force on Germany’s western border. Twenty years later, the Texas native decided to revisit, reaching out to the family her parents had rented a house from.

But her trip was more than the brief hop overseas she planned: after she reconnected with the family’s son, the two began a long-distance relationship. Within a few years, they were married, and Weiss bought a one-way ticket to the Eifel region.

Despite immediately feeling like she had an in with her husband’s family and friends in their idyllic small town, she felt alone. People seemed unfriendly and distant, and making friends beyond acquaintances was hard. She held onto connections back home through social media, crying during holidays when it seemed like life there had moved on without her.

“It was really difficult at first,” says Weiss, who found a job teaching English at the local university. “There’s that expat honeymoon phase the first couple of weeks where it’s very exciting and then the newness wears off. At first I didn’t know anyone, I wasn’t working. I was trying to fix my loneliness by looking back to the States.”

Loneliness among expats

Whether in small towns or big cities, whether moving abroad with a significant other or solo, many expats in Germany have experienced loneliness, or an often sombre sense of being cut off from others. The feeling is often magnified by struggles to learn the language, form deep connections, and generally integrate into the culture.

“The loneliness that expats experience comes generally with a sense of alienation,” says Jan Kaspers, a Berlin-based psychologist who works with expats.

Indeed, learning German to at least a conversational level and interacting with Germans themselves helps subdue these feelings, according to a survey of Spanish expats conducted last year by University of Cologne psychology master’s student Juan Serrano.

Yet social interaction on its own isn’t always a cure for loneliness, says Kaspers.

“People start to realize after a while that they have made a lot of new acquaintances, but that deep down they are still mostly unknown by the people around them, and this can cause loneliness. Friendships can take time to develop, especially in larger cities.”

Introversion can actually be an advantage over extroversion when it comes to dealing with loneliness, he adds, as “introverted people tend to have less, but also more high quality contacts.”

In order to meet more people after moving alone to Munich, Indian expat Ashish Anand attended event after event organized through InterNations, a social activities network for expats. But after a few years he still found them quite superficial. To fix that, he adopted a “quality over quantity” approach, interacting with the smaller pool of people who reciprocated his openness beyond small talk – to his surprise even becoming friends with Germans he previously believed to be somewhat reserved.

“I think that when people start sensing that you’re coming from this genuine place, then the vibe is completely different,” says Anand, an author who has now lived in Germany for 10 years.  “And then quickly you can get into a discussion, a common point.”

A lonely society?

It’s not just expats who feel lonely in Germany. In January, Christian Democratic (CDU) families spokesman Marcus Weinberg called for “a removal of taboos” on the subject of loneliness so that “it doesn’t remain a dirty issue.” He joins other politicians and religious leaders in the country who have advocated for Germany to follow the example of the UK in combating loneliness.

“Similar to most other Western countries, many people in Germany don’t like to admit that they are lonely,” says psychologist Maike Luhmann from the Ruhr-University in Bochum, pointing out that it can affect all age groups. In a recent study of 16,000 Germans, she found that the age of 30 – a transition time for many – is when there are elevated levels of loneliness.

“Probably people tend to think that lonely people are often to blame themselves for being lonely,” she adds. “Especially among young adults, admitting to feeling lonely may be akin to admitting to being unlikeable, socially incompetent.”

British expat Rebecca Hilton was no stranger to expat life when she moved to Wiesbaden, having spent the previous three years in Bangkok. Yet she found herself feeling more alone in a society more similar – “I don’t stand out as an expat until I open my mouth” – but less outwardly friendly.

Yet she found that being honest with others about her loneliness, whether other expats or Germans, helped her overcome it by forming connections with people “who operated on the same wavelength.”

Seeking to meet more like-minded foreigners, she also created the Expat Book Club. Their first read was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine about a young woman suffering from isolation and loneliness. “On some level it resonated with everyone,” says Hilton, who is originally from Bolton, near Manchester, “that on the outside it looks like you’re doing just fine but on the inside you can feel completely isolated.”

Making friends amid different social norms

It was a feeling of loneliness that caused Belgian expat Marijke Hermans to co-create Supermamas, a volunteer network in Berlin for expat mothers of newborns. Moving to Berlin while pregnant, she didn’t know a soul in the city except the friend with whom she formed the support group. Despite having studied German for years, she felt overwhelmed by the bureaucracy and the lack of friendliness in comparison to what she found at home.

“Here I wouldn’t ask the person next to me at a coffee shop, “Wie geht’s dir?” I wouldn’t even know if I could say dir,” says Hermans, sipping a tea in a quiet cafe in the residential neighborhood of Steglitz.

Moving to Bad Mergentheim, a town just shy of 30,000 people in Baden-Württemberg, Jim Geren also felt a sense of isolation springing from very different social norms. Shortly after his arrival in 2013, “people would whisper at each other, point and stare,” he says with a laugh, “as though word got around that I was the new American in town.”

His biggest barrier to integration was the German language, and learning it largely through an intensive course has helped him mingle with the mostly German inhabitants.

“It takes people here a while longer to make friends,” says Geren. “People here are a bit more standoffish but when you break through that, they’re essentially friends, well, pretty much forever.”

Solitude versus loneliness

It’s important to separate solitude, or “the state of being alone with yourself” from loneliness, which can cause anxiety and depression when not addressed properly, says psychologist Kaspers.

He suggests creating a structure in one’s life in order to be more at ease with the uneasiness that being an expat often entails, be it getting up at similar times or meeting the same people.

Such predictability pushed Weiss to embrace expat life further and feel less alone. Looking to improve her German and get out of the house, she began taking an integration class five days a week.

“I just started forming connections with people,” says Weiss, who now blogs about expat life in the Eifel. “I wasn’t making best friends with anybody but I was getting to know people…who understood what I was going through.”

Yet above all, says Kaspers, “it is important to stay in touch with yourself. Be gentle and compassionate for the extraordinary situation you are in.”

KidsGo writes about SuperMamas Berlin

29.11.2017
Netzwerk bringt Mütter zusammenBERLIN. Das Netzwerk SuperMamas Berlin bringt frischgebackene und erfahrene Mütter unkompliziert zusammen. Die Initiative richtet sich an Mütter, die ihre Erfahrungen, Gefühle und ihr Wissen, von der Schwangerschaft bis zum Elterndasein, teilen möchten.

Zu jedem Treffen gehört eine selbstgekochte Mahlzeit, die der hilfsbedürftigen Mutter in den ersten Tagen nach der Geburt Kraft spenden soll. Dieses Gericht ist die Leitidee des Netzwerks und soll sinnbildlich für Zuwendung und den Verdienst der jungen Mütter stehen. Gegründet wurde SuperMamas Berlin von zwei Freundinnen, der Französin Emilie und der Belgierin Marijke, die von einem ähnlichen Projekt in der Schweiz inspiriert wurden. Die Berliner Initiative besteht erst seit einem Jahr und hat bereits 215 hilfsbereite Frauen angelockt – fast ausschließlich durch Empfehlungen unter Freunden. Derzeit kommen die meisten Mütter aus Prenzlauer Berg, Mitte und Steglitz. Nur etwa ein Drittel sind sogenannte BubbleMamas, also frischgebackene Mütter, welche in den ersten Monaten mit Kind die Einsamkeit plagt und die sich nach Austauschmöglichkeiten sehnen. Der Rest sind Frauen, die helfen wollen und ihre eigenen Erfahrungen weitergeben möchten.

Das Netzwerk von SuperMamas Berlin ist international ausgerichtet. Bei einem Großteil der Mütter handelt es sich um ausländische Wahl-Berlinerinnen. Für die Zukunft wünschen sich die beiden Gründerinnen eine Zusammenarbeit mit Hebammen. „So könnte man sich gegenseitig unter die Arme greifen und junge Mütter in Zukunft ganzheitlicher versorgen.“ Darüber hinaus würden sie sehr gerne noch mehr öffentliche Treffen veranstalten, weshalb sie sich stets über engagierte Mütter freuen, die die Organisation in einem Bezirk unterstützen. Eine kommerzielle Absicht verfolgt die Initiative nicht. Das Netzwerk und die gegenseitige Hilfe sollen allein auf Gemeinnützigkeit und dem individuellen Erfahrungsaustausch beruhen.

supermamasberlin.wordpress.com

Kindaling interviews Supermamas: read the article here and get to know us a little bit better :)

SuperMamas – Ein Netzwerk für Eltern in Berlin

07.11.2017

Vor ein paar Wochen haben wir die Gründerinnen von SuperMamas – Emilie und Marijke – zu einem Gespräch eingeladen. SuperMamas ist ein Netzwerk für Mütter und werdende Mütter (und natürlich auch Väter), die sich mit anderen Eltern vernetzen und sich gegenseitig unterstützen möchten. Mehr dazu und wie genau ihr Konzept funktioniert, erzählen uns die beiden:

SuperMamas im Kinderling Interview

1. Liebe Emilie, liebe Marijke! Schön, dass ihr euch die Zeit nehmt und für die Berliner Familien und uns ein paar Fragen beantwortet. Zuerst würden wir sehr gerne erfahren, wie ihr beide euch kennengelernt habt?

Wir haben uns im Sommer 2015 über Facebook kennengelernt, als wir beide noch schwanger waren. Ich (Emilie) hatte mich in der Facebook Gruppe Expatbabies Berlin vorgestellt. Kurz danach trafen wir uns in einem Café und sind sofort Freundinnen geworden, die sich gegenseitig unterstützen.

2. Ihr seid die Gesichter der SuperMamas in Berlin. Könnt ihr uns etwas über euer Konzept erzählen?

Bei SuperMamas gibt es HelpingMamas und BubblesMamas. Eine HelpingMama ist eine engagierte Mutter, die Zeit hat, für eine BubbleMama in ihrem Viertel eine gesunde Mahlzeit zu kochen (oder zu kaufen) und sie ihr vorbeizubringen. Ohne die HelpingMamas würde das Konzept gar nicht laufen.
Eine BubbleMama ist eine Mama, die in den letzten 3 Monaten ihr Baby bekommen hat und Unterstützung braucht. Wir machen kein Unterschied, ob es ihr erstes Baby ist oder nicht. Jede Mama, die gerade ein Baby bekommen hat, braucht Unterstützung.
Manchmal haben wir Mütter, die besondere Unterstützung brauchen. Einigen wurde Bettruhe verordnet, andere hatten eine traumatische Geburt oder leiden unter einer postnatalen Depression. Für diese besonderen Situationen, versuchen wir die BubbleMamas mit HelpingMamas in Verbidung zu setzen, die eine ähnliche Erfahrung gemacht haben, und die genau verstehen können, was die BubbleMama gerade erlebt.

3. Wie seid ihr auf die Idee gekommen bzw. wie ist die Idee entstanden?

Wir haben SuperMamas im Oktober 2016 ins Leben gerufen, nachdem wir einen Artikel über die Hebamme Elisa gelesen haben, die ein Mütternetzwerk in der Schweiz gegründet hat. “Les Supermamans” verwöhnen frischgebackene Mamas nach der Rückkehr aus dem Krankenhaus. Inspiriert von diesem Konzept und überzeugt davon, dass es sich in unserer tollen Stadt gut entwickeln würde, nahmen wir Kontakt zu ihr auf. Elisa war begeistert von uns zu hören – sie hat selbst auch ein paar Jahre in Berlin gelebt und uns sofort dabei unterstützt, SuperMamas Berlin aufzubauen

4. Was hat euch während oder nach der Schwangerschaft am meisten gefehlt? Waren es die sozialen Kontakte mit Gleichgesinnten?

Ja, die sozialen Kontakte mit anderen Müttern! Ab dem Moment, wo man der Mutterschutz beginnt, findet man sich langsam in seiner eigenen Welt. Im letzten Monat der Schwangerschaft wird es immer schwieriger sich zu bewegen und man bleibt länger und länger zu Hause. Wenn die Familie nicht in der Nähe wohnt und der Partner arbeitet, ist man sehr oft allein. Die Vorfreude, aber auch die Angst vor der Geburt sind zwei Sachen, die ständig im Kopf von jungen Müttern auftauchen. Hier ist es hilfreich, sich mit anderen Müttern zu vernetzen, damit sie sagen können, dass alles gut wird.

Nach der Geburt ist es noch schwieriger, mit dem Baby etwas zu erledigen. Man ist oft sehr erschöpft. Die Mutter muss jede Minute, in der das Baby schläft, nutzen, um selbst zu schlafen, und wenn das Baby wacht ist, vergeht die Zeit ganz schnell mit Füttern, Wickeln, Baden,… bis das Baby wieder einschläft. Selten schafft man es rauszugehen und andere Leute zu treffen. Die ersten Monate werden wie in einer “Blase” zu Hause verbracht (daher kommt den Begriff BubbleMama). Alles ist so neu und überfordernd und oft gibt es Unsicherheiten. Diese Zeit wird zu oft allein erlebt, auch für den jungen Vater. Hier ist es wichtig, sich mit anderen Müttern (und Vätern) zu vernetzen und auszutauschen und dabei möchte SuperMamas behilflich sein.

5. Es finden regelmäßig Meetups von den SuperMamas statt. Wie laufen die Organisation und das Treffen ab und wer kann alles an einem Meetup teilnehmen?

So funktioniert das Konzept von SuperMamas

Jede SuperMama kann ein Meetup in ihrem Viertel organisieren. Es ist ganz einfach: Die SuperMama muss nur mit uns Kontakt aufnehmen und uns sagen, wann und wo sie das Meetup machen will. Wir kümmern uns dann drum, den Event bei Facebook zu erstellen und anderen SuperMamas Bescheid zu sagen. ALLE SIND WILLKOMMEN: Es geht darum, die Mamas (und Papas) aus der Nachbarschaft näher zusammenzubringen und Spaß beim Kennenlernen zu haben. Findet das Meetup in einem Kindercafé oder draußen im Park statt, wird keine offizielle Anmeldung benötigt. Veranstaltet eine SuperMama ein Meetup zuhause, ist es besser sich im Voraus bei der Organisatorin zu melden.

Bei den Treffen werden Themen wie Elternsein, Kinderbetreuung, Erziehungstipps, Geburtserfahrung und Schwangerschaft besprochen. Die Meetups sind uns sehr wichtig, da sie die SuperMamas außerhalb des Verwöhnungsprogrammes näher zusammen bringen und das SuperMamas Netzwerk verstärken. Wir hoffen, dass mit der Zeit mehr und mehr SuperMamas in Berlin diese Meetups ins Leben rufen werden.

6. Welche Sprachen werden bei den SuperMamas gesprochen?

Es wird überwiegend Englisch gesprochen, aber nicht mit Absicht. Die Webseite ist auf Englisch, weil Marijke und ich diese Sprache im Vergleich zu Deutsch sehr gut beherrschen. Nachdem das Netzwerk größer geworden ist, haben uns einige SuperMamas dabei geholfen, einige der Seiten ins Deutsch zu übersetzten, damit das Konzept bekannter werden kann. Die SuperMamas Berlin ist ein Netzwerk für ALLE Mütter, die sich gegenseitig unterstützen wollen, ganz unabhängig von der Herkunft.

7. Wie sieht es aus bei euch zu Hause, werden eure Kinder mehrsprachig erzogen?

Bei Marijke wird Flämisch gesprochen (beide Eltern haben die gleiche Muttersprache), und die kleine Tochter Lucie geht in eine Deutsch-amerikanische Kita.
Bei uns (Emilie) ist es ein bisschen bunter, da die Eltern unterschiedliche Muttersprachen sprechen. Es werden 3 Sprachen zu Hause gesprochen: mein Mann und ich sprechen Englisch, mit unserem Sohn Alexandre spreche ich Französisch und mein Mann Finnisch. Alexandre besucht eine Deutschsprachige Kita.
Beide Familien nutzen die „OPOL Strategie“ (one person = one language), d.h. die Kinder wissen, welche Sprache zu wem gehört. Unsere Kinder sind bald 2 und fangen gerade an zu sprechen, aber sie sprechen noch nicht viel. Für viele Kinder ist die Mehrsprachigkeit in Berlin ganz normal.

Die Gründerinnen von SuperMamas

8. Wie sieht bei euch ein ganz normaler Alltag aus?

Wie bei vielen arbeitenden Eltern in Berlin, denke ich: Früh aufstehen, sich und das Kind fertig machen für die Kita, Kind in die Kita bringen und zur Arbeit gehen. Nach der Arbeit holen wir die Kinder ab, essen gemeinsam zu Abend und bringen sie ins Bett. Danach, wenn man Glück hat, hat man noch 1-2 Stunden Zeit für sich selbst oder für seinen Mann, kann sich um die „Verwöhn-Besuche“ kümmern, organisieren und das Netzwerk pflegen – das alles machen wir in unserer (knappen) Freizeit.

9. Viele Eltern denken an die Zeit, bevor sie ihr 1. Kind bekamen. Was sind die größten Veränderungen in eurem Alltag seit dem ihr Kinder habt?

Die Zeit, die Flexibilität und Energie, die wir leider nicht mehr haben. Daher muss man die Aufgaben während des Tages anders priorisieren. Aber es ist wunderschön zu sehen, wie die Kinder groß werden, mit ihnen Zeit zu verbringen und mit ihnen lachen!

10. Apropos „Zeit“ – inwiefern hat sich dieses Thema für euch verändert, seitdem ihr Mütter seid? Zeit für euch, Zeit für den Job, Zeit für die Familie und Freunde?

Seitdem wir Mütter geworden sind, mussten wir die Kunst der Priorisierung meistern: Was ist heute wichtig und was kann warten? Wenn ich wieder Vollzeit arbeiten möchte, was kann ich machen, damit ich genug Zeit für die Familie habe? (Babysitter, Putzhilfe, etc…) oder möchte ich lieber Teilzeit arbeiten und Platz für andere Projekte schaffen? Wenn man weniger Zeit hat, sollte man sich auf die wichtigen Sachen konzentrieren. Aber das muss jede Mutter für sich entscheiden…

11. Habt ihr einen Lieblingsort mit euren Kindern in Berlin? Habt ihr einen Geheimtipp für einen Ort ohne Kinder?

Lieblingsorte sind momentan die Kindercafés und die Parks! Bei uns in Steglitz gehen wir gerne zum Kindercafé Cocosh. Auch den Steglitzer Stadtpark und Wilmersdorfer Park besuchen wir sehr oft.
Ort ohne Kinder? Letzten Samstag war ich mit meinem Mann in der Galerie Lafayette, im Untergeschoss in der Wein- und Feinkost-Etage. Dort saßen wir an der Bar, haben etwas gegessen und getrunken und dann haben wir französische Weine und Feinkost gekauft 🙂 Ohne Kind hat es sich das fast wie die zweiten Flitterwochen angefühlt! Aber auch mal in ein Spa (z.B. Liquidrom und Vabali Spa) zu gehen, genießen wir sehr.

12. Wenn ihr auf der Suche nach Freizeitaktivitäten für die ganze Familie in Berlin seid, wo sucht ihr?

Wir nutzen den Eventkalender von der Expatbabies Berlin Facebook Gruppe und natürlich Kindaling!

13. Und zum Schluss: Was ist euer ultimativer Glücklichmacher-Geheimtipp für alle Mamas?

3 Sachen:
•    Don’t forget to spend time just for you as well!
•    Don’t try to do it all
•    and probably the most difficult of them all → ask for help!


Das nächste Meetup der SuperMamas findet übrigens am 14. November um 15 Uhr im Café/Bookshop Totem statt. | Ihr wollt auch SuperMama werden? Dann geht auf die Website und meldet euch an!

Source: https://www.kindaling.de/blog/supermamas-ein-netzwerk-fuer-eltern-in-berlin

How to feel like yourself again after having a baby

Not too long after my daughter was born I started wondering: when will I feel normal again? When will my body feel like my own again? I had no clue. I could only wait and see. That was my plan. I laugh at it now, because I was so naive to think I could go back to a state of pre-pregnancy. When I had things under control and knew what I was doing. I worried about my body and whether I would ever fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. But more than that, I worried about ‘feeling myself’ again, whatever that meant. My mum-friends assured me it would get better. Just wait until the first three months are over. So I waited and it did indeed get a little better. I got into the routine, I had a little bit more energy and could even start to enjoy breastfeeding and taking care of my baby.

Apparently I wasn’t a minute too early. It seemed as if the world had forgotten a human being came out of my body only 3 months ago. Those first weeks it seemed OK for me to feel like a zombie and forget every appointment or important events (thank you Facebook for reminding me of birthdays!). Or to walk around all day in my pyjamas without a bra (I was breastfeeding, why bother really?). But at some point I was supposed to have returned to the realm of the ‘normal people’, as in: “OK we know you’ve had a baby but isn’t she sleeping through by now? And you’ve got the hang of breastfeeding right? That’s sooooo convenient, you can do that everywhere. Just join us for dinner/party/drinks!”

This scared the begeezus out of me. Was I supposed to feel normal again? Should I already be out and about? Should I feel like having my life under control again? How come, I wondered, I was inundated with information during my pregnancy about my pregnant body but I only received information about my BABY after birth? I remember getting a leaflet about anti-conception the day after I gave birth. Important, I agree. But please, can someone tell me why I felt like crying all the time? I wanted a guide for women about how their body will be, about how they will feel AFTER the birth. Overwhelmed. Check. Dizzy all the time. Check. Tired. Check. Aching in places that are supposed to heal after 6 weeks. Check. Mega big boobies. Check.

After this reality check there were only two options for me: wallowing in self-pity or taking action. I ended up taking the middle way. I ate a lot of chocolate and watched a lot of Netflix. I cried and felt lonely. I was homesick. I cannot lie about that. But I also got up from the couch and ventured into the world again in search of my pre-baby self. It started small at home by putting my favorite dance songs on and going crazy, pretending I was in a club giving my best performance. I agreed with having my husband feed the baby with one formula bottle each night so that I could go to bed early/take a bath/watch TV undisturbed. I took the bus on my own and sat on the top level of the double-decker with so much excitement it was ridiculous. Emilie and I went to a sauna and had a massage. The first two hours were complete bliss. Then we had to pump milk in the dressing rooms and we both started to get nervous about being away from home. So we went home and were happy again.

Me and my daughter at LaufMamaLauf during a very sunny day (mind you I also went to training when it was snowing and freezing ;))

Most importantly, I started exercising again. I had ignored my midwife’s advice to do Rückbildung (the German term for postpartum gymnastic). It sounded so boring and I couldn’t imagine my baby staying happy during it. But I needed it to get back control over my bladder. After a bit of googling I found out about LaufMamaLauf. It’s a paid outdoor fitness class for mothers from 6 weeks after giving birth. They have classes all over Berlin and I was lucky that there was one in Steglitz Stadtpark which is just around the corner from where we live. I signed up for a trial lesson and joined immediately afterwards. In the freezing February cold, but never mind! My daughter was then 2 months old. I loved it from the start because it is really tailored to women whose bodies are recovering from birth. Emilie, who gave birth 2 weeks before me via C-section, joined me at LaufMamaLauf 2 months after, and got hooked instantly as well. It helped a lot that we were living in the same area and were doing this together: we were happy to see each other and, in turn, that motivated us not to miss any session. Our teacher Janika was great. She motivated me, gave advice and never ever made me feel like I was weak. And on top, I was meeting other mums with small babies. My daughter usually slept through the classes. I think the fresh air did wonders. After each class we’d go to a nearby cafe to have a drink. A Latte Macchiato of course, decaf for the breastfeeding mums. I was completely and utterly exhausted after each hour of training but I felt so good about myself for having done it. I would come home, feed my baby while lying in bed and then we’d take a nice nap together. Oh yes, and I’d learn a bit of German too.

Emilie and her son during LaufMamaLauf training.

With the passing of time I found more routine in my life as a mum. Around 6 months I stopped breastfeeding. The dizziness went away. Around 9 months I slowly started to feel like a normal human being again. Until now (16 months after the birth), I haven’t gone back to my pre-pregnant self: I still carry some baby-fat, I still can’t remember anything unless I write it down, and I’ve accepted that I can’t go to the toilet in peace. My baby isn’t a baby anymore but a toddler walking around and interacting with me. Time went by so incredibly quickly!

Frankly, even if I sometimes miss my old self, I am accepting more and more the new me (who is so much more confident than my old self!) and this new body (which is much stronger than I ever thought it could be). I am still getting to know “her” but I can’t imagine going back to who I was anymore. So maybe the question we should all be asking ourselves after birth instead is “how to redefine yourself after having a baby”?

It helped me a lot to be connected to other mums who are also struggling in getting used to their new body and mind. That is what we aim to achieve at SuperMamas Germany: a loving and understanding network  of mothers , who are here to support and listen to each other. After all, we all want to feel good and happy with ourselves again. We might as well do it together!

– Marijke

SuperMamas Germany is a network of mothers who volunteer to help out fellow mamas who just gave birth – by providing a freshly cooked meal and a little chat.

JOIN OUR COMMUNITY HERE!

 

 

How to settle as an expat mum in Berlin

When we started SuperMamas Berlin we had this vision of bringing people together, of fighting the loneliness that often comes with staying at home with a baby. We’re thrilled to see that this is happening and friendships amongst SuperMamas are growing! It is easy to underestimate the importance of socializing and friendship. Of course we can survive on our own. Of course we don’t need anybody’s help or advice to cope with everyday challenges. But it’s so much easier when your troubles are shared with another person, someone who knows what you are going through.

I’ve always felt a great need to have friends around me. One of my earliest memories is the first day of pre-school when I clung to a random little girl who also happened to be crying. We found each other in our shared misery and have been friends ever since.

Whenever we embark on a new phase in life, whether that is going to pre-school, moving to another country or becoming a parent, the need for friends becomes poignantly clear.

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It’s not easy to make friends when you move abroad, even though you need them more than ever. SuperMamas tries to help out by connecting mothers in the same neighborhood.

Friendship in times of loneliness

I’ve felt most lonely when my need for friendship was challenged because of I was moving to a new country or city. I’ve lived in different places during my student years. Making friends was easy back then. When the opportunity arose to move to Boston for a while with my husband we immediately said ‘yes’. Life however turned out to be much more lonely than I had anticipated. I was finishing my PhD in this super tiny studio, Boston turned out to be really expensive and cold (so cold!). So I tried to fight the loneliness by looking for friends – or just random people I could talk to. Like the woman sitting next to me at my usual coffee place, or this girl on the street that had a cool haircut (I was looking for a hairdresser). In the gym one day this teacher connected me with another German girl, (“there are so many Germans here today” – I’m Belgian actually but it’s quite the same, really). We were both so happy about this: ‘Do you want to meet for coffee?’ ‘Yes, sure… Now?’. ‘YES’. And we became friends instantly.

Starting a new life from scratch can be a thrilling adventure, but it can as easily lead to isolation and loneliness. Especially if you don’t know anybody (except your partner), are not familiar with the customs and don’t know the language. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the task of settling in. Whenever I moved my top priority has always been to socialize and find like-minded people who could potentially become friends. For my last move – to Berlin – this task was even more urgent as I was pregnant and did not want to go through this life-changing event without knowing anybody, preferably other pregnant women.

How I found my feet in Berlin

I was 5 months pregnant when I moved to Berlin. My priority list consisted of: finding an English-speaking gynecologist, finding a prenatal yoga class, and most importantly, making friends. I was so happy to come across the Berlin for All the Family website run by Sarah Winborn. This solved most of my problems because of the wealth of information (in English!). I realized I had overlooked an essential thing when I lived in Boston: I had completely ignored social media as a way of connecting with people. Now I made the most of it: I presented myself on Facebook pages that were relevant to me (Expat Babies, Dutch people in Berlin and Belgians in Berlin). I got really lucky because that is how I met Emilie! I made an effort to speak German with my fellow prenatal yoga class students and remained active on the whatsapp group afterwards. One day I discovered one of my neighbors was pregnant too. I wrote a card in German and left it at her doorstep.

This might all seem very random, but it’s really about taking the initiative to meet people and to not get stuck indoors. I knew that once my baby was there I wouldn’t have time for all of this. I can honestly say it saved my life knowing a few people in my neighborhood before giving birth.

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Settling in made easier with SuperMamas Berlin

Even with this small circle of other mums around me, I still often felt lonely the first months after my daughter was born. I thought to myself: how great would it be if I could prevent other mums from feeling this way? This has been the biggest drive for me to co-found SuperMamas Berlin with Emilie. SuperMamas is a volunteer network of mothers helping out other mothers who just gave birth – by providing freshly cooked meals and a little chat.

Through our network we bring new mums in touch with more ‘experienced’ mums who live in the same neighborhood. We connect HelpingMamas, those who bring the gift of food, with BubbleMamas, those who deserve a little bit of pampering. Why do we do this? We want new mums to feel loved and cared for by strengthening the social bonds that exist around them. Living in a big city often means that there are no relatives close-by who can chip in whenever it is needed. Yet, this social fabric is so important in those early days of motherhood, when life is lived in a bubble of nurturing and caring for your baby around the clock.

-Marijke

Are you pregnant? Did you recently give birth? SuperMamas can help you to meet other mothers from your neighborhood. Or do you want to help other young mums because you can still remember how it felt? Do you want to make new friends? Sign up at https://supermamasberlin.wordpress.com/become-involved/

I’d love to hear your experiences. How did you manage to settle in Berlin? Are there any tips you think are worth sharing with others? What would you do differently knowing what you know now? Please leave your story in the comments below!

How to fight loneliness as a new mum

I’m surprised and a little shocked at how often I hear and read about feelings of loneliness after birth. Before I had a baby, I never even considered loneliness to be an issue. Exhaustion, yes. Pain, yes. Not being able to go to the toilet on your own, yes (oh yes!). My mamma friends had told me all about these things. But nobody talked about being lonely. I’d hoped I would feel whole, complete and happy to finally have the baby I’d been longing for for so long. When baby came, I ended up feeling all of this – as expected – including the loneliness – quite unexpectedly.

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Call the Midwife. Brilliant series! Make sure to have tissues nearby when watching with hormones raging in your body (picture: BBC)

Why did I feel lonely? I was not just about living in a city where I didn’t have many friends. It wasn’t only about the physical companionship. After all, I had my loving partner who came home in the evening and helped out as much as possible. I called or skyped my mum and friends too. But still, it was often very hard to say goodbye to my husband in the morning, knowing that there was a long and exhausting day ahead of me. To combat these lonely feelings, I binge-watched series that made my heart feel warm and cozy and made me cry – something I apparently needed to do (I can highly recommend period dramas such as BBC’s Love and War, Poldark or Call the Midwife – warning: you’ll cry your eyes out!).

Hausbesuche von Stephanie Quitterer

“I admire Stephanie for challenging her loneliness in such a remarkable way”

Some women take more drastic actions to cope with the loneliness as a new mum. Stephanie Quitterer, 34, from Prenzlauerberg decided to start an interesting experiment during her Elternzeit. Every day, she’d bake a cake (Marmerkuchen, of course!) and randomly started ringing doorbells in her neighbourhood in the hope she was allowed in to offer her unassuming neighbours a piece of her cake. She rang 2893 doorbells in total! Most often people didn’t open their doors or told her to go away. In fact, Stephanie ended up eating the first 30 cakes she baked on her own (her husband was on a no-sugar diet, can you believe it?). But she didn’t give up. Her perseverance paid off in the end: once she managed to step inside people’s houses she also got a peek view into their lives. These strangers told her the most extraordinary stories about their lives. She wrote down these encounters in her book “Hausbesuche. Wie ich mit 200 Kuchen meine Nachbarschaft eroberte”.

I admire Stephanie for challenging her loneliness in such a remarkable way. Big cities are so vibrant and lively but very lonely too. On one of her solitary walks with the pram she calculated that there were 5500 people living in her street. 5500 living souls that she didn’t know but that were so close-by! This triggered her to start her ‘Kuchendates’. Wonderful, isn’t it?

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SuperMamas: a new way to fight loneliness as a new mum in Berlin

If you don’t feel up for such a big challenge as Stephanie’s, there are numerous other ways to cope with loneliness with a baby or toddler. It’s important to take the loneliness seriously. Don’t be ashamed about it. You don’t have to be super happy or on cloud number 9 the whole time. Of course you love your baby, but it’s also very hard work. My top tip: get involved in social media. It helps you to connect to others who are going through the same or have experienced it already and can give advice. Simply put: it gives you a support network (and research agrees it is beneficial). Perhaps this even leads to meeting people offline – as in: the actual world! That is how Emilie and I, the founders of SuperMamas Berlin, met.

There is now an new way to fight loneliness as a new mum in Berlin: join SuperMamas!

We bring new mums in touch with more ‘experienced’ mums who live in the same neighborhood. We connect HelpingMamas, those who bring the gift of food, with BubbleMamas, those we deserve a little bit of pampering. Our aim is not just to provide young mothers with healthy cooked meals at a time in their lives when they need it the most. It is bigger than that: we want to connect people. We want to try to reduce this emotional distance that exists in big cities such as Berlin.

You can have a peek of what we do on our Facebook page.

-Marijke

Being a SuperMama keeps you young…

… it also makes you happier, strengthens relationships and is beneficial for your heart.

Yes, I am serious: scientists have discovered that acts of kindness are not just fun for the person on the receiving end but are also good for yourself. When you do something good for someone else, you feel good, because deep inside you know that this is how it should be. The good hormones that this releases – according to the scientists – makes us feel better, less stressful and more in tune with our surroundings. Importantly, it also strengthens relationships because it reduces the emotional distance to others. Simply put: acts of kindness, even to complete strangers, make us feel more connected to others. And that is what is so important to us at SuperMamas!

Our aim is not just to provide young mothers with healthy cooked meals at a time in their lives when they need it the most. It is bigger than that: we want to connect people. We want to try to reduce this emotional distance that exists in big cities such as Berlin.

Why? Because we all crave for human interaction, especially when we are at our most vulnerable such as after giving birth. I remember myself about a year ago getting out with my baby girl in the cold to go grocery shopping. Sometimes I would linger around chatting to staff members about my dilemma in buying diapers, dummies or whatever it was I wanted to buy. I just needed to talk to another human being (apart from my husband)!

A few months ago we thought: how wonderful would it be if there was a way to make this interaction happen and do some good at the same time? To not only save someone’s time by cooking for them but also to be there to provide moral support, to lend a listening ear and to connect about the things you have in common? That is why SuperMamas Berlin was born. Spreading love and happiness all over the city- thanks to all of the wonderful SuperMamas!

-Marijke

The gift of food

Whenever a baby was born, we would bring food to the new parents. This is a tradition we shared amongst friends when I lived in the Netherland. I once made Cornish pasties for a friend with the letters of her newborn baby pasted on each one. Even though I don’t like cooking that much – I leave that to my husband – I really enjoyed making that meal, packing it up nicely and delivering it to my friend. Not having gone through the same experience myself yet, I was a bit apprehensive about going round her house only a few days after the baby was born. My friend, however, urged me to come in and admire her baby when I had actually wanted to leave the food in the kitchen and make a quick escape. How silly of me to think she didn’t want to see me!

When it was our turn to have a baby, we were so happy when family and friends returned the favor. They brought freshly made soups, dinner or sweets. Some bought fresh food at local shops they knew we liked. It didn’t matter whether they spent hours in the kitchen making the dish, whether it were leftovers from last weekend’s bake or whether they bought the food. The point was that they cared enough about us to bring us food.

So, if you are also a little bit hesitant about the idea to bring someone (you don’t really know) one of your home cooked creations, just simply let the food speak for you. It’s that easy! The gift of freshly made food says more than a thousand words. It simply says ‘I care about your family and wish you well’. What more is there to say then?

— Marijke

Join our wonderful community of supportive mothers and experience the joy of giving food to a newly grown family: https://app.supermamasgermany.org/