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The mom networks
Clubs offer support, advice and a sense of community for South Sound moms.
By Debbie Cafazzo; Debbie.email@example.com
Monday,November 24, 2008
Edition: SOUTH SOUND, Section: SOUNDLIFE, Page E01
Moms need timeouts, too.
While past generations of stay-at-home mothers found respite in informal neighborhood coffee klatches, modern moms sometimes need to look beyond their own cul-de-sacs for support.
With more than half of all mothers of young children at work outside the home, according to the U.S. Census, it's a challenge for a stay-at-home mom to find someone with whom she can share confidences and baby-sitting.
The solution: moms' clubs.
There are mother's clubs for moms of every stripe: military moms, Christian moms, moms of twins or other multiples, green moms, online moms.
Some have been around for years, others are recent inventions.
Why do moms need clubs for support?
MOMS CLUB OF TACOMA
"Before I joined a moms' group, it was lonely," says Barbara Kearley, president of the MOMS Club of Tacoma and a mother of three children ages 1 through 5. "I only had kids to talk to. There were chores nonstop. You'd get the noses wiped and the diapers changed, then start all over again."
MOMS - Moms Offering Moms Support - was started by a California woman in 1983 who wanted to find children for her kids to play with during the day. MOMS now has more than 2,000 chapters around the country.
Liz Satterthwaite, another Tacoma MOMS Club member, is the mother of Anna, who is almost 2.
She says the club serves two purposes for her: "She's at the age where she wants to play with other kids," Satterthwaite says. "And I want to meet other moms."
Oladare Zante, mother of 2-year-old Anthony, joined the Tacoma MOMS Club in May after moving to Tacoma from Renton.
"I didn't know any other stay-at-home moms," she says. She found the club listed on The News Tribune Web site.
She likes MOMS because it allows Anthony to meet other kids his age, and it gives her a chance to meet more experienced moms who can offer her advice on issues like potty training.
The club hosts monthly meetings that both moms and kids attend. It plans regular outings to the zoo, the children's museum, farmers markets and other kid-friendly locations around Tacoma. Several members have formed play groups, and the group also does occasional service projects for the community. Members help with meals and other needs when someone has a baby or is ill. They try to get together once a month for a child-free mom's night out to eat at a restaurant, take in a movie or spend an evening scrapbooking.
MOPS: MOTHERS OF PRESCHOOLERS
MOPS has been a lifesaver for military mom Bethany Tucker of Spanaway.
She first learned about MOPS in 2004 while living in Wyoming with her parents during husband Brendan's deployment to Iraq.
"I had never heard of MOPS," says Tucker, mother of 5-year-old Houston and Caden, who turns 2 in December. "I was invited to join by somebody my mom knew."
She joined the group and found the support system it provided invaluable.
So when the Army moved her family to Fort Lewis in 2005, the first thing she did was look up a local MOPS group. She found one that meets twice a month at Christ Community Baptist Church in Puyallup.
"We have no family here, so they have become my support system," says Tucker. "It's a way to meet other moms at the same stage in life, who feel as crazy as I do."
At the MOPS meetings Tucker attends, children are cared for by church volunteers, while moms get some child-free time to listen to guest speakers, pray, work on crafts and enjoy breakfast prepared by members who take turns doing the cooking and cleanup.
MOPS includes another important component in the form of mentor moms. These are women who have already raised their children, who attend MOPS to offer advice to younger moms.
"The mentor mom is there to be a listener, a helper, a teacher and a friend," says Joan Hall, who volunteers as a mentor for the Christ Community Baptist MOPS group.
Hall says she wishes she had known about MOPS when her children were little.
"I love the program," Hall says. "It's a way to share your own life and let them know that it will be OK, whatever the issue is. They need to know that soon it will be over."
Gig Harbor mom Trisha Novotny is a MOPS veteran. For many years, she was involved in MOPS with her own five children, who range in age from 6 to 19.
She started a group at the Tacoma church where her husband was pastor, then became a regional coordinator for MOPS throughout the state.
At national MOPS conferences, she started hearing from women who had children who had outgrown the group's preschool focus. Many of these mothers of older children wanted a mother's group to call their own.
"I realized there was a huge need for moms whose kids were out of the preschool years," Novotny says. "I started writing down ideas and stuck them in a folder."
In 2007, she pulled out the folder and started a moms' blog and a mothers' group on Yahoo. From those efforts, her online community, 24/7 Moms, was born.
Novotny is an online aficionado, who spends time on Facebook and Twitter.
"I'm huge online. I shop online. I do everything online," she says.
Novotny blogs at 247moms.blogspot.com, touching on mom-friendly topics such as food, freebies and fun. Recent posts tell women how to get free freezer bags and how to organize a child's birthday party.
"Moms are at home, and - after the kids are in bed - they can go online in the middle of the night," Novotny says. "A lot of social networking people find you."
Once a month, 24/7 Moms sends out an e-newsletter filled with parenting tips. Novotny asks moms in her online network to review toys, clothes and other products that marketers send to her.
"We try to promote mom-owned companies and moms who are authors," says Novotny.
Novotny is working with a designer to get her Web site up and running, and she is also working to get her organization registered as a nonprofit group. For now, a group of about 15 volunteers keeps 24/7 Moms humming.
Their most recent triumph was a weekend conference for moms held in October at the Wesley Inn in Gig Harbor. More than 100 women attended the two-day event, which featured entertainment, workshops on parenting topics, an Oprah-style product giveaway, a candy buffet and a pajama party.
Kim English from Kent and Nicole Ferguson from Maple Valley were two of the moms at the conference. Both have children ages 3 and 1.
"We need adult conversation with someone who understands," says English.
"Somebody who will listen to you when you complain that your child hasn't had a bowel movement in a while," adds Ferguson. "Your single friends don't care to hear that."
Both women said they overcame their mommy guilt to attend the 24/7 Moms conference.
Novotny is already planning more mom fun. She hopes to start face-to-face 24/7 Moms groups. She'd like to launch a mother-daughter conference, as well as online "momferences" for women who can't travel to weekend gatherings.
What keeps her working so hard?
"We live in a society where so many are away from their families," Novotny says. "We need a community around us to support us while we raise our children."
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Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
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MOMS Club of Tacoma
Description: The club offers support to women who believe that raising children is a fulfilling full-time job, but a job that sometimes calls for help from others.
Online: momscluboftacoma.org; momsclub.org. You can find a group near you through the national Web site.
E-mail: contact@ momscluboftacoma.org
MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers)
Description: MOPS offers support, mentoring, creative activities and more for moms with kids from birth to kindergarten age.
MOPS International, a Christian organization, includes more than 3,900 local chapters. There are at least three dozen MOPS groups in the South Sound.
Online: www.mops.org; you can find a group near you through the Web site.
Contact: Puyallup MOPS, 253-846-3000.
Description: Created by a Gig Harbor mom, this online community is a place for moms to go to be informed and inspired about the challenges of raising children. The group has already sponsored a successful moms' conference, and plans more in the future. 24/7 Moms is also working on setting up local chapters where moms can meet each other face to face.
Online: 247moms.blogspot.com; www.247moms.com (a work in progress
Labels: 24/7 MOMS