Thursday, 15 September 2016

I had a baby and joined a tribe

When I was pregnant with Mia I didn't worry a lot. I knew I had good friends. I knew I had great family support. Everyone I spoke to told me I’d easily combine a career working from home with childcare. I pictured long leisurely lunches with friends, I imagined gently rocking her to sleep, one foot on bouncer while I chatted away to a client. I read all the books. I knew what I was doing. I had this.

Then she was 11 days late. I was induced. I was in established labour for 24 hours. It ended in a forceps birth. She was horribly jaundiced and rushed back into hospital. I got a bad infection and ended up in hospital. I struggled to establish breastfeeding and then it turned out she was allergic to formula. We ended up in hospital again. Oh and I’d committed to delivering a project starting when she was 4 weeks old. I didn't have this. I didn't have a clue. The books didn't cover this. I had no friends with kids. My family, as awesome as they were, had their babies many years ago.

I was stuffed.

Then my antenatal ladies came to the rescue. They were my lifeline in those first few months. They were the people I shared my lows and highs with. The people I asked for recommendations from everything from bum cream to nurseries (and just about everything else in between).

So why did I go to them? Why did they replace my usual trusted network of friends (some of whom had been friends for over 20 years)?

Because they knew. They knew what it was like to wake up with a tiny screaming person 3 times a night. They knew you’d do anything to stop their tiny little stomach cramping if it meant you could eat a hot meal in the evening. They knew that having a small person utterly changes your life and perspective. And they were right with me in the moment, parenting at the same time and facing the same challenges I was facing. In some respects parenting never changes- your job is to raise a relatively normal kid that turns into a respectable-ish adult.

But then everything changes. In between having my two how you made a bottle up changed, the advice on using dummies changed. Between me and my mum having kids the landscape of raising children has changed beyond all recognition. In 1976 my mum didn't have to worry about the impact of technology on her child’s developing brain. Playing out in the street was totally normal and expected. We knew little about cot death. Brands were hardly on our radar. Antibacterial hand gel and aspartame in drinks didn't exist.

So the mums I met at that stage of my life became my tribe. The people I trusted most, whose opinions I listened to and whose advice I would take. I wanted to know what toys they’d bought, what foods they were feeding their kids and what product you could buy to wash away those mysterious orange food stains.

And even when I didn't want the advice I was always taking in what they said. I spent a lot of time with these people. And over the years although that group of mums has changed – as I moved towns and my kids moved from nursery to school  - the tribe remains integral to my decision-making.

My tribe is at the school gate, at my slimming world group, on facebook and on nights out. Each time the conversation might be different, so at holiday club pick up over summer we covered where everyone was buying school uniform, holiday destinations, kids’ hair chalk and shoes (each one coming with recommendations of where to buy). And on a night out at the pub we talk about where we’re going with our partners for nights away, new cars and beauty treatments. These are people I’d trust with my kids, so I’m likely to listen to their opinions pretty carefully.

It’s important for brands to understand that these are the people I turn to when I have to make every day purchasing decisions. I’m not thinking about what washing machine Kim Kardashian uses when my finally packs up. Think about the people your customers trust and how you can tap into that network.

We’d love to know whose opinion you trust most…

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