updated 11 Mar 2014, 00:02
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Tue, Mar 11, 2014
The Straits Times
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S'pore mums getting together to find support
by Lim Pow Hong

MOTHERS here are a diverse lot, going by the number of groups out there which address their interests.

Though none is as quirky as one Taiwanese group that encourages children to wash their mothers' feet, groups here address a range of issues mothers face - from work-life balance to breastfeeding for working mothers. The groups provide information, emotional support and a social network for mums.

WeCare for U Project helps mothers cope with single parenthood. Down Syndrome Association (DSA) MOMS Only addresses the needs of mothers dealing with children who have special needs.

On social networking site Facebook alone, there are at least nine groups. They include Stay At Home Mothers and Singapore Motherhood Sept Mummies, a group for mums with September babies.

Associate Professor Paulin Straughan, 46, who teaches at the sociology department in the National University of Singapore, pointed out that new mothers especially have 'a confusing time'.

'They are bombarded with self-proclaimed expert advice, so support groups are useful because they allow mothers to meet others in the same situation and share best practices,' said the mother of two teenage boys.

She said support groups also help increase awareness, so 'even if you're not a mother, you would have heard of the difficulties that mothers have to deal with'.

One mother set up her own group when she found herself faced with a unique problem.

Ms Jenny Huang, 35, could not find an official source to help her deal with her daughter's food allergies, so she started Food Allergy Singapore in 2007.

At the time, her daughter had started pre-school and she was worried that her child, who has anaphylactic allergy to dairy, eggs and peanuts, could die.

'I wanted my child to be safe but I also wanted her to have as normal a childhood as possible,' said the stay-at-home mum.

Since then, the number of members in Food Allergy Singapore has grown to 300, triple that of its first year's enlistment. The group attracts queries on everything from which doctors to see to where to eat.

'We answer queries within 24hours and when we can't answer them, we get medical advisers to respond to the questions.'

It also organises 'coffee meetings'.

Said Ms Huang: 'We met with an American mother who was moving to Singapore last month. Ten of us went to answer her questions.'

Other groups are proactive in other ways. In the past 30 years, the Breastfeeding Mothers' Support Group (BMSG) has grown from a group that mainly educated women on the benefits of breastfeeding to one that also helps working mums continue to breastfeed after returning to work.

It now handles about 3,000 calls and 700 e-mail messages a year. It also runs an e-mail counselling service for mums with less urgent queries.

Some newer interest groups deal with stigmas too. Single mothers and those with special needs children, who might face discrimination, can rely on support groups such as these. Other than social gatherings, these networks provide work opportunities too.

For instance, single mothers who have a tough time juggling work and family, can find solace in WeCare for U.

The group, launched by the National Trades Union Congress Women's Development Secretariat (NTUC WDS) on International Women's Day in March, seeks to empower single mothers and help them find jobs.

It encourages those who cannot go out to work to make use of other skills, like baking, to generate a source of income.

Madam Halimah Yacob, director of NTUC WDS, explained: 'The lack of a steady source of income is one of the greatest difficulties experienced by single mothers who face an uphill task in securing maintenance or whose maintenance payments are not sufficient to support them and their children.'

Other than financially, the group is also a source of comfort.

Jorita (not her real name), 36, a single mother of a seven-year-old daughter, said: 'I don't feel lonely. I've made new friends in the same situation and my daughter can befriend their children as well.'

This article was first published in The Straits Times.

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