Tracy Chappell, Mom of two
I’ll never forget my first mom’s group meeting. It took place at the hospital where I’d given birth to my first daughter, Anna, six weeks earlier. I’d barely made it—it was the first time I’d had to get us somewhere at a certain time in the morning by myself—yet the other women all looked so together. (One was even wearing non-maternity jeans!) About a dozen new moms sat in a circle of chairs, cooing with their babies while I was silently praying that Anna would stay asleep in her stroller. She’d been fussy, we were having breastfeeding issues, and I worried that if she woke up, I’d be the mom who couldn’t calm her crankypants kid. I wasn’t sure I belonged there.
But then we went around the room, sharing how things were going, and I felt my shoulders un-hunch for the first time in weeks. I wasn’t the only one having feeding problems or trouble soothing my baby. Most of us were confused, overwhelmed and so bleary-eyed with exhaustion that we wanted to fall over. This made me incredibly happy. I’d found a room full of kindred spirits, where I could speak the truth about life with my newborn, and find ideas and support to make it better.
Our hospital meetings morphed into weekly walks at a local park, where we talked about everything—books we’d read, advice we’d heard, poop, milestones met or missed, daycare options and marital issues. We learned so much from each other. Sometimes there were tears, but there was always a lot of laughter, too. Motherhood was turning out to be more intense than many of us had imagined, and those walks became a lifeline to keep us sane and remind us that we weren’t alone.
I don’t know why, but sometimes when a bunch of women get together, the dynamic becomes competitive and judgmental. But our group was my shelter from that. (I know everyone is not so lucky.) We celebrated our babies’ first birthdays together in the party room at my condo, and now, eight years later, I’m grateful to still be in touch with some of these lovely ladies. We shared a time in our lives that was so crazy and transformative that they’ll always have a special place in my heart.
Read more: 8 ways to meet other parents>
Jessica Leeder, Mom of two
It was the middle of winter and my daughter was two months old. I was beginning to sense that if I didn’t sign up—and prepay—for some kind of class I could tote her along to, I would never tear myself from the daytime decorating shows I had come to rely on for company. I also worried that if I didn’t get out of the house soon, I’d never lose the baby weight or, worse, I’d go an entire year without meeting another living, breathing, neighbourhood mom.
So I went for it. I signed up for an exercise class where we’d alternate between squatting with dumbbells and hoisting our yowling infants, and a singalong class that seemed to be the trend (never mind that our babies were months from uttering a word, let alone a tune). I envisioned meeting a gaggle of happy moms and trading numbers between diaper changes and feeding times, like speed dating, but with babies in tow.
The experience in real life couldn’t have been more disappointing. We sat in a circle, but few made eye contact, let alone said “hello.” I was the only one who’d sing the simple songs our leader doggedly belted out. There was no licence to be silly for the sake of coaxing a smile from our babies. Instead, everyone sat tight-lipped, looks of misery on their faces.
The few conversations sparked often gave way to an uncomfortable form of competition, as if everyone was treating parenthood like a project management exercise. Nobody opened up with the truth about sleep or postpartum bodies. During a discussion about crawling, one mother piped up and announced, “We’ve been working on his sit. It’s really coming along.” Working on his sit?
Instead of a warm social circle of comfort and friendship, I found a weird world of comparisons and anxiety. It definitely wasn’t worth the Herculean effort I made to make it to class each week. So I stopped going. This year, I’m at home with my second kid and I don’t feel any pressure to do the mommy-group thing. I have a couple of good mom friends in my back pocket for company, but really, I’m enjoying spending some quality solo time with the newest addition to our family.
Read more: Fun mom-baby activities>
A version of this article appeared in the January 2015 issue with the headline "Did you love your mommy group?" p. 88.