When I first heard of my mom’s group, it was officially a chapter of the international MOMS Club. A woman at church named Marie told me about it when she noticed my large pregnant belly. She told me about this mom’s club she was in, and I just shrugged her off. I wasn’t the type to join clubs like that. Play dates weren’t my thing. Besides, it was my first pregnancy and I didn’t think I’d need a group of moms to help me through motherhood. Really; how hard could it be?!
And then Tuesday, June 17, 2003 happened. I became a mom. It started off pretty well, until I took her home four days later. The panic set in and hit full throttle the following Monday. I remember being in the pediatrician’s waiting room for our first checkup, and I looked up Marie’s phone number. I called her from the waiting room to ask about that mom’s club she mentioned. Two days later, I met the group for the first time at a local park play date.
From the moment I said hello to these women, I knew I had found a place where I would be accepted and encouraged. One woman could tell that I was shell-shocked and in the beginning throes of postpartum depression. She sought me out while the kids played (and I held my fussy baby), and gave me some of the best parenting advice I’ve ever received: It will get better.
I joined the group, and found kindred souls. My parents died when my first child turned one, and I lacked any direction for the hardcore parenting issues. The women in my mom’s group became my saving grace. We discussed every single aspect of parenting: discipline issues (Time Outs or not?), breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, how to get my daughter to sleep through the night, how to introduce new foods, how to adapt my marriage around a new focus, and so many other things. In the group, I found women who would give me a break from holding my infant (I felt like all I ever did was hold her in those early months!) and women who would call me after play dates to make sure I was doing okay because they sensed despair in my eyes earlier that morning. I met people who have different backgrounds than me and much different parenting styles, but we all had one thing in common: raising our babies the best way we knew how.
But mom’s group went beyond parenting: I found some of my best friends through the group, and encouraged my already-existing-friends to join the group so they could share in what I’d found too. I found exercise buddies who trained for (and completed!) half marathons with me.
I learned so much about the town we live in and what cool things are available to do. (Who knew you could tour the trash center?)
One member inspired then encouraged me to start writing a blog.
I learned how to cook new things I never would have tried. (I still make Megan’s Biscuits and Gravy Casserole and Brina’s Buffalo Chicken Dip!)Others outfitted my children with outgrown wardrobes. We’ve shared inspiring books through a now-defunct book club. And even though it isn’t a religious-based group, I can trace my salvation back to two women I met through this group.
One day, I looked around and realized I was one of the moms in the group who was welcoming other parents (we had dads by then too!), and checking on them after play dates when they had despair in their eyes. That was one of the best parts of my mom’s group: I got to pay the gift of encouragement forward, to a set of parents who were new to the gig and still blindly feeling their way around.
And now, my time is up. I’ve been in the group for nine years, and both my kids are school-age. The end of July marks the end of my membership, and the end of an incredibly challenging, rewarding, growth-inducing chapter of my life. It’s been so much more than a play date; it’s been a living, breathing part of my life for nine years. I’ve seen 134 members come and go (yep, I counted ‘em!), and each one of them left a mark on my soul.
To all of you who ever were or still are part of my mom’s group: thank you for all the ways you’ve been a part of my family’s life!
“So much of me is made of what I learned from you. You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart. And now whatever way our stories end I know you have re-written mine by being my friend.” (from Wicked)
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