Support for Moms

Emily Wilson is a Council Coordinator for MOPS International,Inc., wife and mother of two girls. She has recently been published in Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler’s Soul.

Sweaty, wrinkled sheets clung to my 31 ½ week pregnant body as I lay on doctor- ordered bed rest; tears in my eyes and a knot in my throat preceded a very humbled voice as it meekly escaped my lips. “Yes, I need your help” I said.

 

That was about 4 ½  years ago. June of 2001 I moved to Michigan from Texas where I had spent almost my whole life. With no family, no old friends and a husband that worked 45 minutes away from the house, 5-6 weeks of bed rest seemed next to impossible. The summer had been pleasant as my then 3-year-old daughter and I explored our new city and met the neighbors, but once school started in the fall, loneliness and homesickness started to creep in with the weather change. Fearful that my emotional blemish would turn into a full-blown infection, I sought out just the right prescription, a support group.

 

These 50+ women were welcoming immediately – no uncomfortable feelings of trying to “fit-in” or fear of rejection. From the very first meeting I was filled with the hope of new relationships. But never in my wildest dreams did I foresee the amazing blessings that these women would bestow upon my family, even after only knowing me less than 6 months.

 

 I went into pre-term labor at 30 ½ weeks. After one long week in the hospital, I was finally sent home to spend as much of the final weeks of my pregnancy on bed rest. My mother-in-law and my mom took turns flying up to Michigan to help. Amazingly the women of my group also rose to the occasion in grandiose efforts. In the beginning it was a flood of phone calls, cards in the mail and various reading material. Then came many offers to bring meals and play dates for my daughter. Pridefully I declined for almost two weeks but soon accepted help and acknowledged their genuine generosity. Their support never waned and once our newest addition was finally delivered, our dinner table was graced with meals for almost 6 weeks from the moms in my group. By this point they had stopped being just “moms” in my group and had become an extension of my family.

 

As a member of MOPS  (Mother’s of Preschoolers) for the past five years, it’s clear to me that being a part of a support group is an essential part of a mother’s life.  Although everyone’s needs are different, here are five key questions to keep in mind when joining a mother’s support group:

 

  1. What is the mission or purpose of this support group?                                                                              
  2. How close do most of the women live to each other?
  3. How old are the children of the moms in the group?
  4. Is this group going to meet my needs or goals?
  5. Are there any costs to be a part of this group?

 

Knowing the mission or purpose of a group is very important. It will tell you if you have common values and goals with the other woman. Understanding the purpose will also realistically set your expectations, avoiding some unnecessary frustrations or disappointments. But don’t let an intimidating mission statement keep you from experiencing a group either – stretching ourselves is an important part of growing. Sometimes setting a goal bigger than ourselves teaches us to think outside our normal vision and find amazing strength and character we didn’t know we possessed.

 

Proximity to the other women in a group can be key to building strong relationships too.  Living close to one another will encourage play dates, date nights, friendships, continued attendance to the group and the ability to help one another when in need. It is less likely that you will continue to participate in a group that requires a long travel time.

 

Play dates obviously work best when shared with children of similar ages, but I have also learned much from moms with older children. They are better able to encourage and educate when they have already passed through a season of their children’s lives that we are struggling with now. In addition, I am able to pass along the same wisdom to moms with younger children.  Having a mix of ages is a benefit to everyone in the group.

 

Every mom’s needs are different. They can range from just needing time with other women, time for her kids to play with other children, or perhaps even an outlet for her own creativity. Some groups might even fulfill a need for further education, opportunities to mentor or be mentored. You should determine the needs or goals you are trying to meet in your life. If the group you are participating in does not meet those criteria, then perhaps reconsider your decision. Time is precious when you are a mom.

 

Some groups may charge fees for participation. This may not always be the case. However, never overlook a group that might truly be a perfect fit based on cost. Many groups offer scholarships or sponsorships. Finances and help are usually uncomfortable topics for many women, but amazingly enough I have found that most women will extend help to those who ask and are in need. We are nurturers by nature.

 

Our role as mother seems to change almost daily. In the past ten years I’ve worn the uniform of college student, career woman, single mom, wife and now stay-home mom. The right support group can enrich a mother’s life and the lives of her children through education, relationships, encouragement and support. Sharing common struggles helps lighten the load and being seen positively through the eyes of others increases a mother’s sense of value and self –esteem. At every step of a mother’s life there will be obstacles as well as achievements, but how much sweeter a journey when shared with friends.

 

 Please visit www.MOPS.org to find information

about joining or starting a MOPS group in your area.