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How the library helped me create my “village” as a new parent
They say that it takes a village to raise a baby. But here I was as a new mum living in a different country from my friends and family – essentially away from my village.
When I was a student, I would have said that the library was my second home. I utilised their internet, computers, books, study spaces, printers, copiers and it generally turned into a place where I spent most of my time during my studies. Back then, I didn’t see it as anything more than a space for reading, writing and discussing group work for exams.
Working with Princh as a Library Innovation Specialist has meant that my exposure to libraries has widened and I understand now that they are so much more than that. It is from this knowledge that when I thought back in the newborn days “okay, how can I build my new village?”, that I turned to my local library.
It was quite fitting since whenever a new baby is born in Aarhus, there is a large bell that rings in the library. So, when my baby Z was born on 10th June 2019 at 14:16, the people of the library were alerted and some of the first to know about his arrival.
Baby Z’s father soon went back to work and after a couple of months, I was ready to get back into the “real world” and discover what we could do together to make this the best experience. This blog post will show you what the library gave me and why I say that I will forever be grateful for it providing truly the most comforting maternity leave.
In Denmark, it is quite common for new mums to be part of a “mother’s group”. This is where new mums with babies born around the same time can meet, share, help each other and just generally have some company. So, when Baby Z was born, we joined the Summer Babies group. We needed somewhere to meet and often our own homes were not an option (as all parents out there know, there is rarely a time where the house is tidy!). We first met up in cafes or restaurants, but this soon became impractical as the babies grew bigger.
We decided to meet up in the local library and from the first time we did, we have not met anywhere else since. For us, it was perfect. For small babies, there were brightly coloured mats and space for them to spread and look around. It was where Baby Z rolled over for the first time! Having the huge space and bright colours obviously motivated him. For mums, it was a space where we could sit down comfortably and chat. It was a safe space and one that is quite clearly equipped for small babies and children. There is even a “parking lot” for the strollers and prams.
I asked some other mothers in the Summer Babies group how they felt about the library, and they shared some of their thoughts. It is safe to say, the library was very essential for others too:
“The library was a place for us, especially when we only had a small apartment so my kids can burn their energy. The indoor and outdoor playground is definitely a hit. And now when the older one is getting older, being there and reading books is also cozy. What’s more? Oh, the family and kids’ activities are also awesome. And the best of it, they are all FREE!” Fen Juan Hu
“The library is a place to socialize and meet some people like me. A huge area for babies and moms with facilities. The events organised there are very interesting for babies and internationals. It is a very nice place to hang out because of space since we live in a small apartment in the city center, it’s like a second home for me and my baby. Plus, good coffee and good food, so very convenient when you want to spend few hours of your day there.” Bida Benjelloun
“The library worked as a base for our weekly mother group meetings. It became a part of the weekly rhythm and provided a great place for the babies to play and move and for the mothers to share their worries, thoughts and so much more. It was a place where one could make new friends and remain sane during such a massive life change.” Päivi Piirala
“For us, it was more like a “runaway place” from home when we are tired of being in our apartment. Most importantly, it was the best place to meet with all of you the mother’s group. It made me realize that there are also other places outside my home where I feel comfortable. We haven’t used the books there yet, but for us it was more of a comfy meeting facility with all of you.” Ghina Filiana
Every Friday, the local library hosts an international play group. This is for parents and children of all ages who are here in Denmark as international families. For me, it was great way to meet new people and be able to relate to one another because we are all away from our home countries.
Something that Baby Z’s dad took advantage of was the father’s playgroup, that was hosted on Thursday afternoons. It also allowed him to practice his language skills in Danish! Of course, it isn’t just mums but dads also need to be able to meet others too. This was a great chance for both Baby Z and his dad to get out and meet new people too. There is a section cornered off just for this playgroup where the dads can chill out together with their babies.
I have already mentioned the large space for small babies but as the babies got older, they needed more entertainment than just rolling around. The play area at the library was amazing for this. There is a large area where they can climb, go down slides, sit in front of mirrors and crawl through a tube. From the babies’ perspective, this was great fun but from my eyes I saw it as a great way to develop motor skills.
One of my favourite things in life is food. But when you have a baby around, the last thing you think about is preparing hot meals that take up way too much time. I could squeeze a sandwich in during nap times but cooking/eating a chilli con carne was simply out of the question. However, when we had our visits to the library, we would also have a hot lunch there and this was the best part of the day. No preparation, no cleaning, and lovely HOT food and coffee while Baby Z sat in his highchair eating his food too. Which meant that I could enjoy my chilli con carne (plus many other dishes) after all!
It was always so simple as the staff were helpful and offered to help carry my orders. Plus, I did not have to worry about where Baby Z could sit as there were many highchairs and little stools for older kids to sit on too. I looked around and could see many other parents and families also enjoying this time and space in the library.
As much as the library has been great for play, food and taking time out, it will always be the best resource for books. The books at the library have followed every step from pregnancy, to parenting to books now for Baby Z. We have settled into a routine where we go and pick out a couple of new books every couple of weeks. I am excited for the day when he asks to bring Harry Potter home!
So thank you…
My maternity leave has now finished and I am stepping back into my role at Princh, with a whole new level of appreciation for libraries. I have seen how essential they are to parents, particularly new parents, and will be forever grateful for the joy it brought (and will continue to bring) to both mine and Baby Z’s life.
We will be back next week with another interesting article from the library world!
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