The Mum Ribbon Movement By Anna Mathur
One simple and easy way to grow your village
We are told that ‘motherhood takes a village’, but there sure are times where we can find ourselves looking around and wondering quite where that ‘village’ is. If you’ve ever struggled with the juggle, or wished for an extra pair of hands, you’re not alone. As a mother of three, and a Psychotherapist, I know so well how motherhood can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions where one moment you’re bursting with gratitude and ‘I’ve got this’, and the next you’re feeling like you haven’t ‘got this’ at all.
In fact, it was one of those ‘I’ve not got this at all’ moments that led to a simple idea that went viral and whipped around the world, bringing mums together. I’d love to tell you about #theribbonmovement , and how a simple ribbon tied to your bag can help you grow your village and access the kindness you need in the moments you need it most.
One afternoon, I was walking down my local high street with my three kids. They were all having a tough moment, and as a result, so was I. Feeling utterly overwhelmed, I glanced around, hoping to see a familiar face or a look of solidarity. I saw neither. However, I knew that amongst the other mothers, grandmothers and faces I saw, there would have been someone who had seen our noisy chaos, and craved to come over and see if we were okay, or offer a hand.
It got me thinking. What stops us from approaching each other when we’re having a wobbly moment, or we see another mother having a tough time? I believe we worry about offending them by our offer of help, or perhaps we fear they might feel patronised or undermined if we were to approach them. I know that there have been times when I’ve felt like a failure in motherhood, and an offer of support from a stranger would have felt like proof that others thought I wasn’t up to the job either.
I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if us mothers could somehow signal to one another that we were open to receiving words of kindness or looks of solidarity. But also that we were open to being approached by others mothers in times of need?
So, the invitation is to tie a ribbon of any colour, to your bag handle, strap or pushchair. This ribbon simply says ‘I’m open to your kindness, I’m open to giving you kindness’. It says ‘you can ask me for a nappy, a chat or a hug’. It says ‘you can be kind to me and I won’t rebuff you, I will be grateful’.
I must say, I knew the #themumribbonmovement would either fly or flop. If it flopped, I would slink off and not mention it again, if it flew, then I’d cross my fingers to hear of wonderful moments of connection. It flew. Posters sharing the ribbon movement have been put up in community halls, hospitals, public spaces, cafes and shops all over the country (and many parts of the world). Such was the craving for connection, the movement has been featured in hundreds of press articles, from Grazia, to The Metro and more. Grandmothers have been sewing ribbons onto keyrings, brands have been printing their own ribbons featuring comforting slogans, and small businesses have sent out hundreds of offcuts to charities and groups wishing to share the word.
The ribbon offers a talking point for those who find it hard to start conversation with others. The movement is encouraging bravery for those who find it hard to step out. The relief that mums report feeling at these little signs of permission to both give and ask for help, is palpable.
The stories that have been filtering through have been so beautiful. One mum moved to a new area and felt lonely. She felt able to speak to another mum with a ribbon, and was delighted to say they’d arranged coffee. One mum sat with another in an airport for hours due to a delayed flight, sharing stories and looking after each other’s children. Another mother entered a park feeling tearful after hearing some sad news. She saw another mother with a ribbon and asked for a hug, feeling hugely comforted in that moment.
These little moments aren’t small at all are they? They are moments of connection between parents in a culture that finds ways to pit us against one another. These are moments that can change days, and I truly believe they have the potential to change lives. Loneliness, anxiety and mental health challenges are rife, and these moments of connection cut through comparison, and assumption, creating opportunities for relationships, and the chance to feel seen, valued and validated. Who knows where these moments may lead? Who knows what these moments might mean to someone?
So, grab a ribbon, tie it on your bag and be open to what may happen.
We are finding our village in unexpected places, and it is alive and well.