It's ok to demand more from life for yourself...

More than 400 Cork women are members of Count Her In — a nationwide platform for females to meet other females in their local area — for a coffee, play dates, or to try something they’ve always wanted to do.
It's ok to demand more from life for yourself...
Count Her In

THE term ‘social isolation’ is often associated with older people or with people living in remote rural areas but, in reality, it can affect anyone, at any age, anywhere.

Mum of three, Georgina McKenna, says she first experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation at 19 years, when she moved from England to Ireland with her then boyfriend, now husband, and she struggled to make friends.

“People were very nice and I was made feel very welcome by all my husband’s family and friends but it took me a long time to make friends of my own. We lived in a rural area and I think it’s just generally harder to make friends as an adult,” Georgina said.

“I did build a large group of friends after some time but when I had my first child, social isolation hit me hard again. My friends were all working during the day or were on different schedules and there was very little happening in my local area.

“If I was lucky, I could drive 30 minutes to attend a parent and toddler group, which happened maybe once a month, but not only was that too far to be travelling with a baby, I also needed to fill all the other days of the week and month.

“I just wanted a place I could go and say, ‘Is anyone around for a coffee today?’ or ‘Does anyone fancy coming to see Bridget Jones with me? I really need some time away from the house but the husband doesn’t want to see that film’.”

Each time Georgina was off work on maternity leave she was faced with the same scenario and later, when she was made redundant, she decided to start afresh and do something about her situation by creating a new network and community for herself and other women in similar positions.

Last Spring, Georgina who lives in Louth, launched Count Her In, an online and offline social community for women. The network, which Georgina says was “created to encourage women to make time to live and get the most out of life by trying more, doing more, and being more,” now has almost 12,000 members in 29 locations around Ireland and the UK, including more than 400 in Cork.

“Count Her in is for all women, regardless of age or location. The website provides a platform for women to meet other women in their local area. The introduction is done online through our localised Facebook groups for women and mums but then we move to an offline model and our members can arrange to meet up with other ladies, maybe for a coffee, a walk, a playdate for the mammies, or to try something they have always wanted to do but maybe had no-one to do it with.

“There’s a bit of a crossover between the ladies’ groups and the mammies’ groups, which are mainly for mums aged 25 up who have children aged under 13, but all the Count Her In groups are about encouraging women to make time to live and to remind women that’s it’s OK to look after themselves or to demand more from life for themselves.”

Georgina said that, so far, Count Her In has grown fastest in rural areas where fewer support networks for women already existed.

“The biggest Count Her In group is in Roscommon, where we have more than 1,600 members in the Mammies group, whereas we thought it would be Dublin.

“The Facebook pages are fantastic in terms of connecting women and offering online support but Count Her In is intended to be more of an offline social group where women actually meet up in person and build new friendships and enhance their lives by participating in activities and events through the network.

“There’s a false perception that people must be a bit weird or have something wrong with them if they go online to make new friends but lots of our members have lots of friends. They’re either just not local to them or they’re on different schedules and that’s why Count Her in is here to help.”

Each Facebook group creates a bucket list of things its members would like to do and every month, the group administrator or ambassador posts an activity for its members.

“We organise challenges like going for a walk in the rain or being a tourist in your own town. Things that most of the women would never think to do, only that someone else has suggested it,” Georgina said.

“Since we launched, I have done so many things I know I would never have done had it not been for Count Her In. I have met hundreds of new people, sometimes just the once, some who are now firm fixtures in my life. I have run naked into the sea for charity with over 200 other women and, most recently, I took part in Strictly Come Dancing for my local GAA club and, trust me, with my co-ordination that’s something I never thought would happen!

“Count Her In has made a huge difference to my life and, I hope, to the lives of hundreds of other women around Ireland. I want it to become the biggest social community group for women in the country and I hope it will inspire women to live fuller lives.

“We now have groups across Ireland, UK, US, Australia and Canada and we recently started to monetise, working with local businesses offering discounts to Count Her In members, so that it’s possible for women to enjoy life to the max without breaking the bank,” she said.

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WHEN Mairead O’Halloran, from Crossbarry, joined the Count Her In Cork Mammies Facebook group six months ago, it only had 20 members.

She has two young children and being the first of her own peer group to have kids, was “looking to connect with other mammie friends.” She says she thought Count Her In “was a great idea” because it allows women and mums to connect with other women in similar situations.

She became administrator of the Facebook group before Christmas and helped boost its membership to almost 300.

“The group has been great for helping women get out meeting new people. When we had our first mammies meet-up, we went to a playcentre in Wilton for a cup of tea and a chat and brought the kids along. We had two stay-at- home mums, one of whom had moved from another area, and everyone was delighted to get out and about to meet new people,” Mairead said.

“We try to plan different activities for mums with kids at different ages and stages and we’re trying to encourage the mums within the group to set up their own meet-ups but I think that the more we interact online, the faster the group will grow.

“It’s been great so far and has opened lots of new doors for lots of women.”


 LIFE coach Sarah Cooney, 28, from Donoughmore, joined the Count Her In Cork Ladies Facebook group just before Christmas and has since taken on the role of group administrator.

“I heard about the group online so I looked up the website and thought it was a fantastic idea,” she said.

“What appealed to me was the idea of making new friends. A lot of my friends are at the stage where they’re getting married and having babies whereas I’m still focusing on my career, so I’m always looking to expand my circle of friends.

“With Count Her In, I now feel that I have an outlet for social interaction, that if I was at a loose end, I could go on the page and see if anyone’s free to go to the cinema or see a play.

“One of my main personal values is having fun and I look at Count Her In as a way of bringing more fun into my life.

“I think it’s important for everyone to have a good circle of friends to rely on and it’s also important for your mental health to go out and have new experiences and meet new people, and doing new things can help you cope with life changes that might be getting on top of you.

“We’re making a list of things we’d like to do through the group. I’d love to go to a bingo night because I’ve never done it and I think it’d be great craic and I’d also like to try zip-lining, so they’re just some of the things I’m hoping to do through Count Her In,” she said.

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