Used to be, when a woman had a baby, she could count on getting help from the tight-knit community of women family members and friends living nearby, sometimes in the same home. Fast-forward to 2012, where families are often scattered across the country (or even the world), leaving new moms without the wisdom and support women have been sharing with one another since, well, always. Even for those fortunate enough to have family living nearby, moms today grapple with a range of issues that their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts never had to face, like more kids with allergies or autism, pesticides in the food supply, and raising kids in a digital world.
One way to find camaraderie during a time when it’s desperately needed: Mom groups, like the ones that bring Moms Meet members together. These four groups are just a few examples of the moms supporting each other across the country.
The green-minded moms
When Kelly Swan moved to Wheeling, West Virginia, in April 2010, she quickly realized that even though there were plenty of parents interested in raising their kids in a more earth-friendly way, the local resources were slim to none. The closest natural food store was an hour and a half away, there was only one eco-friendly preschool, and breastfeeding in public usually received strange stares. “I was looking to make more connections in the community, and it became obvious that an eco-friendly mom group would be something people here would enjoy,” she says.
Swan knew she was onto something big when 30 moms (and 20 kids!) showed up to her group’s first meeting last year. Now, Wheeling Mountain Sprouts meets monthly for free demos and workshops (often lead by a group member or an expert that a group member knows) on topics like backyard gardening, cloth diapering, and homemade green cleaners; many group members also get together more frequently for playdates or walks. The group also has an active Facebook page that serves as a resource for any Wheeling mom interested in raising her family in a healthier way. “We put the DIY cleaning recipes on our page, and moms can ask questions and get answers from other Wheeling Mountain Sprouts moms,” says group member Meg Ross. “When someone asks for natural cold soothers, someone else will suggest giving the child essential oils or a steam bath.”
The military moms
Frequent moving, a parent that’s often away on duty, and talking to kids about the realities of war: Life for military families isn’t always easy, which is why Stacey Gibbon started the mom group on her Cheyenne, Wyoming, military missile base after her 18-month-old son, Jayden, was born. Married to an air force staff sergeant, Gibbon didn’t always feel informed about news and activities happening on the base. “The worst thing is feeling left out, so I started the group so no one would feel uninformed,” she says. In addition to keeping one another in the know, the 10 members in Gibbon’s group are friends who swap babysitting duties, share advice (like when someone isn’t sure about a recommendation from one of the base doctors, or what to do when your husband gets called into work on his day off), and come together to help moms who’ve recently arrived to the base transition to their new home.
The moms of multiples
Raising one baby is tough. Raising twins? Twice as hard! The San Diego Twins club, founded in 1981 and currently with 225 members, pairs more-experienced moms with new moms of multiples. Plus, regular support meetings feature speakers giving talks on sleep habits, potty training, and traveling with twins. Rebecca Del Busto joined the club in 2007 shortly after the birth of her twins, Rachel and Ruben, and is now showing the ropes to a mom of 8-month-old boys. “Parents of multiples need other parents of multiples in their support system!” she says. “Having a place to find encouragement, advice, or just hear the plain old ‘I know exactly what you’re going through,’ means so much to me.”
The food allergy moms
Angie Nordstrum’s son, Hayden, was a healthy baby until his first birthday, when he started developing severe eczema and was diagnosed with allergies to 20 different foods. Forced to figure out how to manage an allergy-friendly lifestyle with few resources, Nordstrum connected with another mom of a child with food allergies through a mutual doctor in 2005. Motivated to help other families with allergies, the two formed Boulder Allergy Kids, so parents could share their experiences, swap information about doctors and treatment methods, and create safe, food-free play areas for their kids. Seven years later, the Colorado group is still going strong with meetings at the local library or rec center, plus Sunday morning coffee meet-ups just for moms. “Connecting with other moms going through the same thing has been more helpful than talking to people in the medical community,” Nordstrum says. “It means a lot to look another mom in the eyes and understand what her life is like.”
From the pages of KIWI magazine
Talk about it
How has being part of a mom group enriched your life?