How to meet other new moms By Alena MurguiaFrank Pinc / Chicago Parent A great venue for meeting others is a mom and tot class, such as this one at Gymboree, 3158 N. Lincoln Ave.
Motherhood can be a surprisingly isolating experience. It's likely that today's new mother will have spent years in the work force. Then, after the baby is born, some women opt to leave that job altogether; others work part time outside the home. The changes in work added to the life change of a new child limit your contact with colleagues. Years ago, new mothers also had an automatic support group of mothers, sisters and in-laws-all of whom lived in the same community. Now we find ourselves alone with our new baby. Don't despair, however, if you're feeling lonely. There are ways to alleviate the isolation, but it takes some work. You just have to be willing to get out of the house and look for connections.
1 Plan ahead. If you're taking birthing or prenatal classes, get social with the other women. Go out for dessert after class. Exchange phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Plan to have a reunion three and six months after your due dates. Getting together with women who have shared this exciting time will be great since you'll finally be able to see the end results. If you can keep the reunions going on a regular basis, you are likely to make good friends.
2 Take a class. Whatever your interests, from music to yoga or just simple gym play, there are classes out there for you and your baby. You can find them listed in magazines such as Chicago Parent. Almost every park district has a mom-and-tot class, which is a great way to meet moms from your neighborhood who are just as eager to meet other mothers.
3 Go online. Web sites such as www.babycenter.com offer message boards, which can put you in touch with women in similar circumstances. Heidi Gassel of Oak Park began posting messages with women due to give birth the same month as she. She made incredibly close friends without ever meeting them face to face. "The best part about computer friendships was how candid we could be. We talked about things that would have been too embarrassing in person," Gassel says. The women she met online have been emotionally there for each other through triumphs and tragedies and have even made plans to meet up at Disney World when their children turn 5.
4 Have some conversation starters. Our mothers drummed "never talk to strangers" into our heads. Ignore that advice. Potential friends start as strangers, so have an approach. Luckily, if you've found a family friendly location, you already have something in common. Try asking about, or better yet, complimenting her baby. For some reason, talking about our baby's age opens the conversational door like nothing else because it moves us right into developmental stages, clothing sizes and sleep patterns-all great conversation topics.
5 Get involved in a charity or cause. This can be done with or without your baby. Choose a charity or cause that interests you. Call and say you're a new mother and would like to volunteer. Then go. Since this is an election year, you might want to work for a local candidate. Your contribution doesn't have to be overwhelming. Aline Lathrop of Chicago recently participated in a rally for midwives at University of Chicago Hospital. "This is not something I could have done when I was working full time. I felt really good about participating in that event with Viviana, and of course we met lots of local mothers and babies there."
6 Catch a movie. You may have thought your movie-going days were over, but some movie theaters offer baby-friendly showings. Loews Cineplex Entertainment's "Reel Moms" offers Tuesday matinees. Doors open at 11 a.m. for moms to gather in the lobby. Babies and toddlers are admitted free. Stroller check is available and crying is not only tolerated, it's expected. Visit www.enjoytheshow.com/reelmoms. Or call your local movie house to find out if it has a special program or would be willing to start one.
7 Meet your neighbors. Just because you have a private back deck and a privacy fence doesn't mean your neighbors have to remain strangers. Say hello to the people on your street. Introduce yourself. If you're up to it, organize a block party. Try attending a neighborhood watch or the city council meeting. Or you can simply extend an invitation to the family two doors down to come over and play in the backyard.
8 Check your local listings. Local newspapers are an excellent source of mom-friendly activities. Listings and advertisements beckon mothers for stimulating, social get-togethers, often with an early education bonus. Your local library, park district or community center is likely to offer an array of one-time or ongoing activities. Women's leagues, newcomers groups and parenting networks all promote meeting times and locations convenient for new mothers.
9 Schedule a moms' night out. This doesn't have to be a big deal with a dozen women. A moms' night out can be as simple as re-connecting with work friends. For the more ambitious, organize your own moms' group. Get the e-mail addresses for women (they don't have to be moms) you know. Choose an activity (theater, pottery painting, coffee-house, concert), the date and time. E-mail the details, encouraging women to invite their friends. It doesn't have to be formal and structured. Each month a different person can choose an activity.
10 Book club. Most public libraries hold monthly book clubs with daytime or evening meetings. Reading one book a month might seem overwhelming, but there are no tests. If you don't finish, you can still go to a meeting with cookies, coffee and good conversation. If you can't find a group to your liking, start your own. Use the same steps as the moms' group; just change the activity to include a book.
Alena Murguia, who lives in Berwyn, is the mother of two sons and a part-time employee of Chicago Parent magazine.