The Power Of Support - local moms find friendship & connections in area moms’ groups
From the day the child is born, mothers and fathers alike will spend a great majority of their waking minutes attending to their child's every need: from ensuring they are sleeping enough and eating properly to concerns over their ability to fight off infections and stay healthy. Establishing a positive, productive parent- child relationship is paramount to creating a happy and mutually-beneficial family dynamic, especially during the first several years of life.
But for mothers, the bond that connects parent to child goes beyond bringing their bundle of joy into this world. A mother nurtures her baby from the minute she discovers she is pregnant, and her ability to care for her child extends past breastfeeding and providing nourishment to this new, wide-eyed child.
Sonya Biehler says that while it is easy for mothers – especially new moms – to focus all their attention on the baby while ignoring their own needs, it is critical that moms maintain both a healthy family life and a healthy personal life. Craving that balance, Biehler and hundreds of other moms like her have joined clubs specifically designed for mothers – both working moms and the stay-at-home mothers. These groups offer support in all shapes and sizes, from emotional support such as how to deal with postpartum depression or a child's temper tantrum to social support like finding play dates for their children.
Biehler is one of approximately 60 women who are active members in the Webster/Ontario M.O.M.S. (Moms Offering Moms Support) Club. These women enjoy the benefits of play dates with other children in the group, field trips to places such as the Seneca Park Zoo, assorted museums and playgrounds in town, as well as group outings to the story time programs at the different libraries in and around Webster. There are also "Mom’s Night Out" gatherings for the mothers, including frequenting nice restaurants, performing community service projects and participating in recurring book club get-togethers.
"In my neighborhood, there aren't many children, and [the M.O.M.S. Club] gives me a good opportunity to meet other moms, and for my children to meet other kids their own age," says Biehler, a Webster resident and mother of twin boys, Tommy and Andrew, age 5. Not all of the group's members are stay-at-home mothers, says Biehler; there's a variety of members in the group. "It's been a great experience and has definitely been a fun way to learn from other mothers," she adds. "We all participate as much as we want to, and everyone can find something that interests them. There are activities for the children, activities for the mothers and even activities for the fathers in the group. My children have greatly benefitted and we've all made some nice friends."
Sometimes, mothers seek the comfort and guidance of other parents who are experiencing the same challenges of child-rearing, and possess the same religious beliefs.
Nicole Kirsch and dozens of mothers in Canandaigua and the surrounding area gather weekly for M.O.P.S. (Mothers of Preschoolers) group meetings on Thursday mornings from September through June inside the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church at 320 S. Pearl Street in Canandaigua to chat about parenting, their faith, and whatever other topics are on members' minds.
Kirsch says that when she moved to Farmington from New York City in 2008, she was lacking close friends nearby who had children, so she began searching for potential moms groups. After trying out the Rochester Mommies group, which mainly meets online in chat boards with periodic face-to-face gatherings, Kirsch found the Canandaigua M.O.P.S. group, and her search for a supportive, faithbased mothers' group ended.
"I was desperately looking to reach out to similar stay-at-home moms like myself," says Kirsch, who has two boys, Danny, 4, and Mikey, 2. "I wanted advice on the dayto- day things, and to see what other moms were doing about health issues and childraising. As a mom, you tend to worry about every little thing concerning your child, but it was comforting to hear these mothers telling me not to rush my child to the hospital for an illness. It also helps with my patience and my sanity to have an excuse to get out of the house and see other mothers. Sometimes you get so tied up in the day-today duties of motherhood that you lose yourself and you're no longer Nicole, you're Mikey and Danny's Mom. This helps me find my sense of identity again."
That social element is also a big reason why approximately 25-30 mothers get together as part of the Clarkson/Hamlin M. O.M.S. Club. The mothers meet regularly, with two or three social activities scheduled each week for mothers and their children, from play dates to lunch outings.
"It's a social thing for everyone, we all want to find other people and other mothers that we can identify with," says Tara Kolinsky, who works full-time and has two daughters, ages 3 and 7.
"A lot of our members join thinking they need a play group for their children, but then they find that we're a place to go with friendly people to chat with. Mom needs to have a place to vent when she's frustrated, and she needs to be able to chat with other mothers about topics other than, 'Barney,'" says Kolinsky. "This helps us be better parents; if we only focused on our children we wouldn't have any hobbies for ourselves. We need our own personal time and friendships, and we need to be wellrounded to show our kids balance between family and personal life."
John Boccacino is a freelance writer living in Webster, NY who reported on sports and local news for more than 6 1/2 years with the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. He is currently the Director of Sports Information for Keuka College.