Harrogate International Festivals run a free weekly music class for mums under the age of 25 and their children. For Tanisha from Jennyfields, Musical Mums has been a vital social lifeline that has dramatically reduced her isolation in Harrogate.
Tanisha said: “I felt very isolated before I joined the group, and was going through many personal problems. Being a young parent is hard. I’ve had some experiences at other mother and baby groups where I’ve been left on my own because the other mums are older and have little groups of their own. I feel that sometimes society judges younger parents on their abilities as a mother because of their age. But Musical Mums made me feel completely different about that.
“Every mother, whether they’re young, old, a stay at home mum, a working mum, or a single mum, is in the same boat. Some of us are just way better at putting on a front. It’s easy to put your lipstick on, chuck your hair in a mum bun and laugh along with your friends, but deep down we all feel the same.”
“If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you should never feel less of a mother because of how you see the others. You should never have to feel alone, because there is always another mother round the corner feeling exactly the same. We’re in this together and we should build each other up whenever we can.
“The group has made me feel less isolated because it’s very relaxed. Without this group I probably wouldn’t have as much confidence as I do now.”
Fearing that there are many young mums who feel alone in the Harrogate district, Tanisha emphasised the importance of helping to build up their confidence in accessing support.
She said: “Harrogate is a lovely town – there are lots of groups, clubs and events that happen in and around the area where mums can go to socialise with their children. I’ve only lived here a year and a half and I have made a lot of friends by making myself go to things – but not all mums have that confidence.
“I don’t think there is enough awareness of loneliness in parenthood unless you are a parent yourself. There should be something to help mothers build up the confidence to ask for help and get themselves out there.
“When you surround yourself with positive people and other mums you start to feel less alone. Sometimes it just takes an hour with others to remind your brain that you’re not alone, but not all mums have the confidence to go to them.”
Joining Musical Mums was also a real turning point for Natalie Moscardini, 22, who had previously lacked confidence to join groups.
Natalie said: “Being a young mum I used to feel a bit out of place at some baby groups, but Musical Mums felt completely different. We are all in the same sort of place, and it put me at ease knowing this when I first went along. I’ve made some great friends from going to the group and it gave me more confidence to go along to other groups.
“I think all mums at least go through a phase of feeling alone. At the end of the day we’re all mums. And just going along to a baby group or even the park, and starting up a conversation with another mum, can make a world of difference.
“Especially for a stay at home mum, as that might be the only adult interaction they get all day and will love having someone coming to talk to them.
“I think people are a bit afraid to get out and meet new people, and as easy as it sounds, turning up at groups can be a bit daunting for people.”
Emma Winter, 23, from Bilton, has been going to the group for four years.
She said: “I think there is quite a big problem with loneliness in Harrogate and surrounding areas. I think there are some groups, but not a lot of people know about them, and are very worried or unsure about going.
“In this group we all talk and help each other out with everything – from passing on items and advice, to last minute childcare.”
Emmy Iveson, 22, added: “I’ve seen a lot of people upset and complain they don’t feel comfortable going to groups because of their age. I don’t think there is enough awareness of it. I think people turn a blind eye to it simply because it’s not their problem and doesn’t affect them.”
Charlotte Woods, Music and Education Coordinator at Harrogate International Festivals, said: “Being a young mum can be very isolating, it can be difficult when your friends go to university and sometimes lose interest. It can be difficult to maintain friendships and the social life you had.
“We want to show mums through our group that no one should have to feel alone, and there are plenty of other mums out there who are going through exactly the same thing.
“The most amazing thing about music is the ability it has to connect people from all walks of life regardless of their age, culture, gender, nationality, and language. It brings communities together and breaks down those barriers that exclude people.”
Charlotte said: “We support the Harrogate Advertiser’s Ending Loneliness campaign, what it stands for and what it aims to achieve – across our entire organisation. As an arts charity we work across all age groups to provide accessible events and projects. We are proud of our group and the journey that all our mums have gone on with it. And without our supporting partners and NYMAZ, a youth music development charity, we wouldn’t exist.”
Musical leader Hannah Dilworth said: “Being a new mum is often quite isolating in the best of circumstances, but being young and living in rural areas highlights this difficulty. “I’ve seen the benefits of using music to enhance communication and interaction between mums and their babies, but music classes are often expensive so the fact that these are free and travel is reimbursed is a huge incentive for this group to attend.”
The free sessions are held every week at Wesley Chapel in the town centre on Tuesdays, 1-2pm. They aim to end isolation by offering a welcoming environment where mums can make friends and share experiences while helping their children develop through music and singing.
Musical Mums also signposts support for healthcare, housing and education, as well as training and job opportunities, working with Connexions, SureStart and Bumps2Babes, the local midwifery service. Travel expenses are reimbursed for the sessions.
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