Meet our 2017 Mum of the Year
Emma Benninga used her own experiences to form a not-for-profit support group for mums
Emma, 26, formed not-for-profit support group Sleepy Mumzzz after a battle with post-natal depression due to severe sleep deprivation. She’s using her experience to offer online support for mums all over the country, as well as in her own backyard
After the birth of her son, Maverick, in 2015, Melbourne mum-of-two, Emma Benninga, experienced severe sleep deprivation. After many trips to sleep schools, different strategies and techniques, and long, exhausting nights, Emma took herself to the doctor, which led to her post-natal depression diagnosis. “These feelings were all very new to me, so it probably took me a while to acknowledge them,” she explains.
Longing to talk to other mums who were going through the same experiences, Emma launched Sleepy Mumzzz on Facebook, Instagram and at www. sleepymumzzz.org.au to bring mums together and create a place for them to lend support and receive it. “Sleepy Mumzzz is something I am so proud of. I am finally doing something that I am so passionate about and that is helping others,” she says. “I started this group because I was suffering from post-natal depression and I needed another source of support. I had my incredible husband and both of our families and my close friends, but I just needed something else… I needed other mums who were going through the same things as I was so I could feel normal and understood, and I could relate to someone. And if I needed this, then I figured there would be other mums out there needing the same thing, too.”
In addition to the support group, Emma also fundraises for The Babes Project, a charity that supports women in crisis pregnancies. She also runs two weekly playgroups, including an intergenerational one, which is held in a nursing home, giving the elderly a special opportunity to play and interact with young children. “Usually about five or 10 mums go to an aged care facility and spend time with the residents, playing games and doing activities,” she says, “It’s so special, and it’s something I’d love to focus on and further build upon.”
Upon learning she was awarded the grand prize, a $5000 voucher from
Babies”R”Us, Emma was thrilled, shocked and most of all excited about sharing her prize with those around her who need it most. “This incredible prize from Babies”R”Us is going to help not only my family, but our Sleepy Mumzzz community. Having a toddler and a newborn, this voucher will help us to provide our babies with some amazing products to help us adapt to becoming a family of four, as well as a huge help towards the Sleepy Mumzzz support group and playgroups I run.”
As Sleepy Mumzzz is completely funded by Emma, she’s looking forward to purchasing brand-new playgroup kits with toys and educational activities for everyone to enjoy. “This voucher is also going to allow me to do something really special for The Babes Project,” she says. “I am going to use some of this prize money to help provide items for their birth hampers that the new mothers receive once their babies have arrived. We are able to spread the love among so many and help a variety of different people. That’s what I, and this group is all about, which makes me super excited.”
While Emma has big plans for the future of Sleepy Mumzzz as well as her work with the intergenerational playgroups, she still acknowledges the special people around her who have helped her come this far. “I would like to thank Mother & Baby magazine for making this entire adventure possible. I am so honoured to be a part of this process, but to actually win this award has come as such a huge shock to me but one I am extremely proud of. Tegan, a fellow mum from our Sleepy Mumzzz group, is the friend who nominated me for this award. I thank her for seeing in me what I sometimes struggle to see in myself. My husband has also been amazing. His support has helped me to fulfil my dreams of helping others, even when it was at the cost of us financially, and he believed in me when I said what I wanted to create and the future I saw for Sleepy Mumzzz. I’ve also got my own fantastic mum, who is my biggest supporter and has been my rock throughout my motherhood journey,” she says.
“Some days I’m an average mum – I cry, I yell, I get frustrated, I get mum-guilt and everything else in-between, but I guess that’s all part of it. To be alongside four other incredible mothers with such inspiring stories, is really hard to put myself on the same level as them. But I think as mothers, every single one of us is just doing the best we can, the best way we know how and, to our children, we are all a mum of the year.”
I cry, I yell, I get frustrated, I get mumguilt and everything else in-between, but I guess that’s all part of it.