Having a baby is a big transition for just about any new parent. The feeding and napping schedules, the lack of sleep in those first few months, the feeling that life now revolves around a tiny infant who can only cry to communicate their needs often leads to feelings of isolation for some.
The perfect antidote for those difficult post-baby days is community. And thanks to the internet, these days, finding a community is only a few keystrokes away. Many moms today are turning to online meet-up groups to find their village – a place to share experiences and enjoy support, conversation and fun.
Take, for example, a group of Shrewsbury moms who get together weekly for a playgroup in town to share in friendship, activities and play for their kids. Khalan Sears, a Shrewsbury mom who founded the group, originally created the playgroup out of a larger group she had originated called MomSquad.
“Our mission is to provide moms and fellow women the opportunity to create friendships, not only for their children but for themselves,” said Sears. “We do crafts, circle time, once-a-month Mom’s Nights Out, kids’ classes, and social events.”
“Kay ran a playgroup out of her home for years when her kiddos were little,” explained Mandy Normandin, also a Shrewsbury mom who runs the group with Sears out of an area community space donated by The Residence at Orchard Grove in Shrewsbury. “We set up our space like a small, early-learning class, with free play toys. We typically have a simple theme. ‘Pancakes’ was last week’s theme and we’ll have a hands-on activity related to the theme, like a craft. Last week we made pancakes and during our small circle time, we will have a book that also supports the theme.”
The result is a chance to escape the loneliness of being home for long days with children. It gives the moms a chance to socialize, and the kids a chance to have some fun. It is a welcome break for everyone, says Sears, who thoroughly enjoys facilitating the weekly group.
“I get to watch other moms create friendships like I did when my kids were young,” she said. “I love watching the children learn in circle, and seeing the moms really and truly enjoy their time at playgroup.”
According to an article from baby-food maker Beechnut, whether they’re in-person or online, 70 percent of moms agree that their inner circle of moms is their largest source of support. A quick glance at sites like MeetUp.com reveals there are no shortage of groups for parents of all kinds in the Bay State. Groups for moms based on town, age, and religion. There are groups for moms who want support and socialization around breastfeeding. There are groups for parents who are navigating the experience of parenting a child with a disability. There are groups for working moms, like the Franklin/Bellingham chapter of the Working Moms Meetup headed by Kristi Morin, a Bellingham mom who joined the meet up seeking new connections when she first moved to the area.
“Motherhood and parenthood are hard, but it doesn't have to be isolating,” said Morin. “It is possible to still maintain an active social life as parents - and even better when it includes your kids!”
Like the Shrewsbury group, the working moms group hosts playgroups that are centered around engaging and fun activities moms can take part in with their children. Morin said activities range from free events hosted at members’ homes, or at playgrounds, local libraries and businesses. There are also events that require a fee, like group outings to a play place or trampoline parks. The fun doesn’t stop with kids-only activities, said Morin, who aims to offer parents an opportunity to connect and relax in adult settings too.
“We also put a heavy emphasis on organizing mom-only events for more focused socializing time as well,” she noted. “Playgroup are awesome because you can bring your kids, but then you also have to stay attentive to them as well, which depending on the venue can make adult conversations a wee bit more challenging.”
Adult-only outings have included a scrapbooking event at a local brewery, trivia nights and coffee or brunch gatherings. The group also recently hosted a date night event that included a beer tasting and dinner. All of it, said Morin, aims to provide like-minded moms with an opportunity to decompress and have fun.
“Being a mom to small children that consume your entire life can sometimes be draining and isolating - especially when you add work demands on top of it,” she said. “We provide a regular, consistent opportunities for moms to connect with other moms, bring their kids, and seek out social connections with other local women in similar life stages and circumstances”
A parent meet-up group that works for your interests and situation is easily found with a Google search, or on sites like MeetUp.com. Morin says even with varying backgrounds and professions, it’s easy to form friendships because parenthood is a unifying bond.
“Not being from the area originally, or knowing anyone around here, it gave me a chance to meet other moms to form relationships within my new town,” said Morin. “I also knew everyone else joining the event would be a mom so there would always be something common to talk about!”
Joan Goodchild is a veteran writer and editor and mom of two living in Central Massachusetts.