When, where and how did “M courage” begin?
Our founder, Sandra Olbrich, started the group in 2007 after giving birth to her second child and the need and the wish for exchange grew.
“How do other mothers in my situation manage?” she then asked herself. Finally she brought many different mothers together, with different handicaps, in order for them to share their experiences and to give each other tips first hand. To know that other women understand you and that you’re not alone with your thoughts and fears is a valuable source of strength for us mothers. The rooms used for the mothers’ meetings are provided by the advice center for people with disabilities “Autonom Leben” (Autonomous Living). Autonomous Living constantly supports the group, giving advice and guidance during the early stages and for specialized questions. The group continues together and develops even when the leadership changes. In this way M courage stays lively and colourful.
“M courage” – a name with which you associate a lot of things. Strength, courage, the joy of life and a will to fight. Why did you decide on this name?
Exactly – the concept of courage and strength definitely plays a role and should be transmitted through the name. The capital M stands for us mothers – and we have top priority. We are the centre of attention at our meetings. That’s not normally the case in a mother’s daily life – they mostly let other people’s needs take first place. However, at M courage it’s all about what moves and concerns us. We can speak about everything openly and directly in confidential surroundings. It gives freedom. We certainly didn’t want a name which sounded like Happy Handicap – something like Handicap Mum. Also, the term disabled is somewhat unwieldy, though, of course, not unimportant. After all, that’s what it’s all about: about disability and being a handicapped mum with restrictions. Whatever: we liked M courage straight away and we think that the name has a certain resonance.
What concerns you?
Group participation can be the first step for mothers to do something for themselves. Once a month they can concentrate on themselves, and put their own subjects at the centre of attention. There are some disabled mothers who withdraw from social life and have much less social contact than mothers without disabilities. Single mothers, especially, carry a heavy burden. These women are tied to house and children because the childcare support of a partner is missing. Together it’s easier to set priorities for concerns and needs. We can give each other strength, and the group solidarity helps to withstand the pressure – that from outside and that which we create ourselves. Another point is the contact to other initiatives, such as bbe e.V., the association for disabled and chronically ill parents e. V., or to Kanikuli e. V. a self help group of disabled parents in Belarus.
Who are you targeting?
All women are welcome at M courage who are interested in an honest, continual dialogue and constructive group work. It doesn’t matter what kind of disability you have. There are mothers with different bodily or mental disabilities or who are chronically ill. Pregnant women with handicaps fit in well, too – so that many questions can be dealt with before the baby is born.
How often do you meet? And how is the subject matter decided on?
We meet once a week on a Sunday morning, without children or family, in order to be able to speak freely. Confidentiality is taken for granted. We women bring an honest interest in other mothers’ questions and we candidly share our life histories. The meetings are structured and each one has a set subject which we have decided upon together. Obviously, there is often more to talk about but a set subject helps to focus and you don’t lose the thread quite so easily.
- A selection of topics spoken about:
- Family planning and wanting children
- Exhaustion and not wanting to moan
- Invisible disabilities
- What help am I entitled to?
- Single mothers with disabilities
- Where do I find a reliable daily helper?
- Partnership and sexuality
If wished, or when there is an emergency there are also meetings without set subjects. For women with acute, immediate need for advice, private consultation at an advice centre for the disabled, such as “Autonom Leben”, is possibility advisable. The important steps can be individually talked over and prepared.
photos: Katja Klein