This is a common question that I get from virtually everybody, and it absolutely depends on you. Everyone is different, people need different levels of support. One of the things that I say to people is that you need to be able to know that you can do it on your own, but you don’t have to do it on your own. You can set up a support network to help you to make things easier for you. There are ways of setting up a really great support network. Many women come back to me to say: “I actually feel more supported than some of my friends in a couple because I’ve really built this amazing support network”. What I help people with is how to build that support network, like an onion diagram. The people you need in the middle – the key supporters, who will be there for you, the first people you call in an emergency. Then you’ve got your local people, who live close to you and can get to you quickly. Then you’ve got your best friends, who can offer you emotional support or they can come and stay with you and offer you support at various stages.
There is also paid support – depending on your financial situation, there are lots of different options to pay for. You can pay for a doula, you can pay for a night nurse to come and help you overnight, you can pay for childminders, for nursery, for a cleaner – lots of different people to help you in life to make it easier. And then, of course, there is online support. One of the things that I absolutely love about this community is the online support that’s available – people getting together in the same situation, chatting about their circumstances and supporting each other through it. I have a support group called “The Stork and I Mum Tribe”. There are 800 women from around the world there, and they ask each other questions, provide support, they have meetups so lots of online support. Sometimes that turns into a face to face support if you’re living nearby.
One of the things that I would say is that when I started on my journey, I moved to a new area, so I didn’t know anybody. But I’ve set up brilliant support at work, and now I have very good support. So I can try to reassure people by saying that you can build that from scratch if you need to. I won’t go into all the details now, but I have lots of ways of building that network up from scratch. It’s personal, but there are ways you can do it, and I think one of the key things is identifying which sort of support you think you might need. You might need emotional support, child care support, practical support and social support – so nothing to do with childcare but someone to just come and keep you company. It’s about identifying all the things you think you would need. One of the things is that it’s very important that you tell people what support you might want because people are not mind readers. A lot of women come to me to say: “My friends aren’t supporting me in the right way” but actually when I ask them it turns out they haven’t said what support they needed. We need to be in control of telling people what support we want. We can’t expect them to guess. That’s what I would say about the support network elements.