Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A Tale of Two Mommys' Groups

Another time, I'll tell the story of how I came to be a Stay At Home Mom, and someday I'll even write an account of how I spend my time during the day. Right now, I'm writing about mother's support groups, altruistically called "play groups" for children.

Because of my daughter's congenital heart defect, she and I stayed home for her first four months. After she was recovered from her surgery and it was finally springtime, I felt ready to venture out into the world a bit more. And so we began going to play groups. We regularly go to two.

On Thursday afternoons, we go to Kangaroo Kids for the nursing moms' group. The first time I walked into this support group, I felt warm and safe. A panic I didn't realize I'd been feeling began to quiet. I sat in a corner and just absorbed the atmosphere. My daughter, Ellie, was overwhelmed too. She was all huge eyes and silence. She couldn't concentrate on nursing (for the first time ever) because there was so much else going on. There were moms talking loudly: sharing experiences, stories, and parenting tips. There were babies crying, babies nursing, babies crawling, babies playing with toys and exploring. It was incredible. One mom told a story about a very new, very young mom who was having a hard time. The other moms made a plan for reaching out to this young woman, picking her up at home, and bringing her and her baby to the group. It's a warm, commune kind of feel. These women talk about slinging, naturopathic remedies for ailments, attachment parenting, whole foods, discipline, family planning, exercise, and whatever else they need to talk about. The group is "led" very loosely by Tanya, a lactation consultant and attachment parenting-style mother of 4. The other moms are a mix of single and married women, young and older, stay at home and working full-time, and everything in between. They are rich and poor. And we meet, of course, in a resale shop with a very casual attitude.

On Friday afternoons I go to Gymboree Play & Music for another play group. This was the first mother's group I'd ever been to, and I found it through a friend at work who had a college friend who had a baby a few days after I did. She'd met another couple of women who had babies around the same time, and a "play group" was formed. Initially we all met for lunch at a very upscale mall. Often, I wouldn't eat. We'd sit at a cafe and chat. The other moms all had fancy SUV strollers from Peg Perego. The babies spent most of the "play group" sitting in their strollers, drinking from bottles or napping or fussing or looking at toys. Looking around at the other mid-day mall patrons - almost exclusively women - I thought, "This is how the other half lives! I always wondered who these people are, shopping in the middle of the day." I wondered how other people saw me, sitting in a cafe in a ritzy mall at lunchtime, with my beautiful blond baby in a sling. I didn't have a stroller to bring along, but I preferred to have Ellie close to my body where I could snuggle her and kiss her head from time to time. One of the other moms is on a leave of absence from work, but probably won't go back. Another is a freelance photographer. A third is an attorney and works part time. All are at least college educated and have husbands who are attorneys with large downtown firms. Now that the kids are older, we meet at Gymboree Play & Music so that the kids can move about and play. But other than chasing increasingly mobile babies around, the moms' part is largely the same.

So what do I get out of this group and why do I keep going back? Truthfully, I fall somewhere between the two groups and feel like I can be myself in both situations. It's wonderful to go to a group (the Gymboree group) where all the babies are the same age and we're all first time moms. We're learning as we go, and it's so fascinating to see the kids hit milestones at the same time. One week they'd all discovered ceiling fans. Another week they were suddenly all sitting unassisted. Sharing these experiences has been invaluable, and has lessened the sense of isolation I hadn't even realized that I was feeling. I wish that there were similar groups for new fathers, and can almost understand the appeal of something like the Promise Keepers: a place where dads feel supported and surrounded by others sharing the experience of new parenthood.

In lots of ways, these women are different from me, but in lots of ways they're the same, too. I have learned so much from these other moms and babies. In my world, where there's no extended family close by and we all live separately in our individual houses surrounded by moats of grass, it's easy to feel alone. It's been so helpful to me to talk with other new moms who are dealing with lots of the same issues, who don't have it all together, who have questions too.

And that's all besides the feeling of accomplishment that comes from something as simple as getting it all together enough to get out of the house for a couple of hours in the afternoon.

1 comment:

Geez the Deez said...

Hey Sara Lynn,

This is Ellen from Kirkwood. We used to work together at Mosby... that is, when I had a job. 14 months, and I'm still unemployed and it ain't pretty. I didn't even know you became a mommy. This is my daughter's blog, but I update it for her since she's away at camp and can't get to the computer like I can. My e-mail is ebakergeisel@sbcglobal.net
Have your people write my people!
Ellen