Originally written by member and past president, Karen Schultz, for YMC (Karen's kids are a little older now but she still treasures her one morning a week at MumNet II)
When I first had my son, I had several people approach me to tell me I “HAD” to join their Moms group. Not likely I thought. I had lots of support from family and numerous girlfriends on maternity leave with their first child. And if you know anything about me, as soon as someone tells me I HAVE to do something, I immediately do the opposite.
Fast forward to January. It was cold, I was housebound with an 8 month old, and going a bit stir crazy. A friend mentioned over a girls night out that her Moms group offered not only an hour of fitness, but also babysitting at the same time – SOLD. As for the coffee and discussion that followed, I figured I could keep an open mind.
Four and a half years later, it turns out joining a Moms group was one of the best things I did, and when I had my second child I couldn’t wait to go back to my regular group. The fitness class is great, but the coffee and discussion (otherwise called community) is what keeps me coming back week after week. Finding my little tribe of mid-town Moms has given me something to look forward to week after week and often keeps me sane during the crazy parenting ups and downs.
1. It’s not just you
Do you feel like you are losing your pre-pregnancy brain and slipping into the abyss of neighbourhood stroller walks and rainbow songs? Think you’re the only one obsessed with how to get your baby on a nap schedule? Worried everyone else can’t wait to have sex 6 weeks after birth like your partner is convinced? Time and time again, I arrived at my Mom’s group feeling like I was the only one to experience the frustration, exhaustion and tedium that can come with having a baby at home. But after an hour of group discussion (read: venting and sharing with my tribe) I would leave feeling completely normal and uplifted. Knowing so many others were going through similar experiences somehow made it feel so much more manageable.
2. Being with your baby feels great (after you’ve had time apart)
The first time I left my son with anyone other than my family was at my Moms group - and even knowing he was one room over left me terrified. I mean, he was PERFECT, so who in their right mind wouldn’t want to run out the door with him as soon as I turned my back? And even if there wasn’t an organized baby theft ring operating in mid-town, what if they forgot to give him his bottle, or didn’t pick him up when he cried? So when I walked in and saw the loveliest group of women that reminded me of my own grandmother, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. And relaxed for TWO WHOLE HOURS. I got to experience the pure bliss that is drinking a cup of coffee and having an adult conversation without being distracted every 30 seconds. Doing sit-ups without a baby in my arms. And going to the bathroom on my own! Those two hours became my treasured hours of the week, because I learned how wonderful it feels to hold your baby once you’ve had time to recharge by yourself. And that’s good for everyone.
3. How to make a killer marinade
For me, one of the most surprising changes about becoming a Mom was how much it consumed my life. Before having my children, I was quick to judge parents who only wanted to talk about their kids. As a person who liked to be out and about in my pre-baby life, the total and complete focus on my child was a huge shock for me. All of a sudden I wasn’t up on the newest restaurants, hadn’t been out partying in months and had put my professional life on pause. The weekly group discussions and guest speakers at my Mom’s group started to feel like a very welcome relief of rebuilding interests outside my baby. We’ve had speakers and conversations on everything from favorite books and blogs, strategies to talk to your kids about sex, tips for taking great vacation photos, nutrition for picky toddlers, advice for dealing with in-laws and other martial minefields, and just about everything under the sun. Having that injection of fun and relevant conversation in my week really made me feel like a person again, and that the cloud of babyhood I was under would eventually lift. And guess what – it did.
4. To listen without judgement
We all have friends that we support and who support us no matter what. But having a baby can put a real strain on friendships, especially when friends develop different parenting styles that may not mesh with your own. Being part of a community of Moms is different because you are able to listen to other Moms experiences without having to balance your pre-existing friendship. I remember clearly when a Mom friend said she wouldn’t be returning to our group because her baby needed to stay on his nap schedule. To me, this was unthinkable, having to give up my cherished ‘me time’ each week to keep a rigid schedule for an 8 month old. And I might have voiced that opinion (loudly) to a close friend. But I’ve realized over the years of sharing with my Moms group that it’s not important for people to do things the same way, because everyone is just trying to muddle through the best they can. My two hour adult time might be her two hour alone time, and that’s just as important. Breast feeding, sleep training, and pain medication during birth are all polarizing topics but the truth is, we are all just trying to do what is best for our babies and still keep an ounce of sanity for ourselves. Understanding this has made me a better Mom, and a better friend.
5. Learn to let it go
Being part of a community of Moms is similar to having a trusted friend at work in that you can blow off steam about your job (being a Mom) and then go home and let it go. Whether you’re up all night with a baby who JUST WON’T SLEEP or trying to force your toddler to eat something other than cheese strings, chances are someone else is going through it too, and being able to commiserate seems to put things in perspective. After all, it’s a cheese string, not a can of soda. And yes – eventually – you will sleep again. Today, I have a four year old, a two year old and am six months pregnant with my third little one. My life feels crazy now, and I know it’s about to get even crazier. But I chose this life, and I wouldn’t give it back for all the new restaurant openings and party nights. Connecting with my Moms group has helped me find my place in my new life, and finding my tribe to share parenting highs and lows with helps me be able to laugh at myself and this crazy time of life. And then go home and enjoy it.