A Fife mum struggling with lockdown loneliness has formed a new group to help other parents in the same situation.
Kiri Stone gave birth to baby Tove in March last year, just a week before lockdown was imposed.
Baby groups suddenly stopped and socialising with friends was banned, leaving Kiri feeling isolated.
The first-time mum, from Cupar, decided to take matters into her own hands and began looking at Covid-safe ways to meet other people with babies once restrictions eased.
And within weeks, she launched Wild Fife Babies and Bairns which meets outdoors for socially-distanced walks.
The group has proved immensely popular and now has a waiting list of people who want to join.
Parents reported feeling isolated
It’s not surprising the idea took off so quickly because Kiri’s feelings of lockdown loneliness and isolation during the pandemic were far from unique.
Research by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation found 63% of parents reported feeling cut off from friends and family last year.
This compared to 38% before the pandemic began.
The charity spoke to half a million people in the UK as part of its research, gathering information on what it’s like to bring up children under the age of five.
It concluded that lockdown restrictions were “hugely challenging” for parents.
Kiri, 29, is a single mum and said she and Tove were happy to be in their own little bubble for the first few weeks.
However things changed as the weeks turned to months.
“It didn’t really hit me until Tove was a bit older and I wanted to go to groups,” said Kiri.
“I wanted to meet other mums and dads and for Tove to see other babies but there was just nothing.
“That’s when I thought I could start something myself.”
“The response was overwhelming and it just took off,” she said.
“I had to keep within the numbers’ guidelines, which at that time was a maximum of 10 adults.
“I had a waiting list at the start, and still do.”
It soon became apparent there was also a need for a group involving parents of older children .
As a result, walks are now arranged for three different age groups.
There is the Acorns for children aged between three and 12 months, the Oaklings for 12-18-month olds and the Fox Cubs for youngsters aged 18 to 36 months.
The older groups are led by Kiri’s friend Hollie Sutherland.
There is no charge for any of the groups but parents can make a donation to children’s charity Children First if they wish.
They have raised more than £350 for the charity so far.
Helped ‘reconnect with normality’
Kiri is a former countryside ranger and is passionate about the great outdoors.
” I found that spending time with my little one in the great outdoors not only helped me to reconnect with a bit of normality but also strengthened our mother and baby bond,” she said.
“It also helped keep anxieties at bay.
“I knew I wouldn’t be the only one feeling like this and the group has really helped lots of people.
“Obviously the adults on the walk keep their two metres distance from each other but if we stop for a picnic and the parents are happy to put their babies down, they can interact together in the middle for a while.
“It’s really nice that people have come along and met each other and are now really good friends.”