For the last five months, Trena Marthaller has had her hands very full caring for her two-year-old daughter, Camille, and five-month-old twin sons, Reid and Hayes.
“There’s a lot of time where everyone is crying and everyone needs something from mom, you don’t know who to triage first basically,” Marthaller said.
Like many other families, Marthaller and her husband live far away from their parents and other relatives, so extra help can be hard to come by.
“It’s been challenging. I think it’s challenging no matter what your family level is like. Whether you have one or two or three or four.”
According to Nicole Letourneau, research chair in parent-infant mental health for the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, it really does take a village to raise a child.
“The interesting thing about that phrase is it takes a village to raise a child well. When the village hasn’t been there for them, I think we see mental-health problems and challenges that those children end up growing to face as adults.”
Letourneau says parents who try to do too much on their own may be putting their kids at risk for developing behavioural problems, anxiety and depression. Stressed-out mothers are also more vulnerable to postpartum depression. The good news, Letourneau says by asking for help, parents can work to build a village of their own.
“Don’t be shy about asking for help and if you know people that have young children, do nice things for them. Bring food or offer to look after children for an hour or two – give them a break!”
There may also be community resources available to offer extra support. Calgary’s Children’s Cottage Society, for example, offers an in-home respite service for families with infant twins or triplets or for mothers who are experiencing postpartum depression.
“We talked to parents and asked them, ‘what would make a difference for you?’ And the parents said, ‘if we had someone to come into our house and just be there three or four hours a week, that would make such a difference,'” said Patty Kilgallon, Children’s Cottage Society CEO.
Monthaller says having that few hours of help each week from a children’s cottage volunteer has given her the time she needs to recharge and strategize. She’s now built a network of friends in her new community, to help her out when she needs a hand.
“We’ve made some really good friends living down here that come and help so yeah, the village is good!”