Playdates for Parents:
Why a Support Network is Vital – And How to Find One By Susie Cortright
One summer day, my car sputtered and rolled to a stop with my 6-month-old and I inside. So I moved it to the shoulder, called a tow truck and began to walk. That was the day I pushed my daughter in a rickety second-hand stroller nine miles to my mother’s support group. I hadn't packed a lunch and the trail snaked deep through an alpine forest, far from any McDonald's, so I raided my child’s bag of Cheerios and graham crackers along the way.
When I finally arrived, we traded stories about the barbs we would endure to come together each week.
No mom is an island
In our culture, moms often feel we have everything we need right in our homes. But less industrialized countries -- where moms spend more time with other moms -- report far fewer cases of postpartum depression. In fact, researchers say women with support networks are at a lower risk for minor ailments such as colds as well as more serious conditions such as heart disease.
A support network of other mothers provides a forum for us to compare notes, share ideas and vent frustrations. Monica Jones is a stay-at-home mother of two. She says, "Talking to others in similar situations helped me to realize it’s okay to feel frazzled, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for needing time for myself."
The moms in your group could become your best friends throughout your child’s life. The group also allows your children to socialize if they are not accustomed to group settings such as day care.
Some groups may allow you to keep your professional skills sharp, as well, or to serve the community through volunteer work.
Find an existing group
Check out local bulletin boards and newspapers for local groups, or contact national organizations that may have local chapters in your area. Your local librarian, pediatrician or social services office may know about an existing group of moms with children in similar age ranges.
Silvia Brugge is a stay-at-home mother of three. She relies on the support of a diverse network of friends. "I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who have kids around the same age as your own," she says. "I also think it’s important to be with other friends whose children are older. I’ve learned so much from my more experienced friends.”
Form a new group
If a suitable group doesn't exist in your area, consider starting one of your own. Place an ad in your local newspaper describing yourself as a mother of young children looking to start a playgroup or mom's support group. Once you have more than one recruit, it becomes easier. Word of mouth travels fast, and there may be more home-based moms in your area than you realize.
The best places to find people like you are the places you already frequent. Post notices in your church or synagogue, grocery store and post office.
Most groups meet once each week for two to three hours. If each mother is a regular, you might want to keep your group at four to five moms. Limiting the number of moms can help assure that you know them and their parenting styles. If one mother has an especially divergent parenting philosophy, she may not be a good match for your group.
Look into securing a public meeting spaces or simply rotate hosting duties, each week meeting in another member’s home.
Enjoy your new friendships, which can help you more fully enjoy motherhood.
© Susie Cortright
NFO regular contributor Susie Cortright publishes Momscape, a website devoted to helping busy women find balance. Read more about Susie.