New moms need other moms. Of course, they need the support of
their partner and family members, too. But during that exhausting
newborn phase, no one understands how you feel like a bleary-eyed,
baby-feeding-and-burping machine than someone else who is also a
bleary-eyed, baby-feeding-and-burping machine.
However, at a time when moms need to connect with other moms
most, that newborn phase can be isolating. Sarah Cobb, the
executive director of the Neighborhood Parents Network, recalls her days
with a newborn more than five years ago.
"My newborn had her share of feeding, sleeping and spit-up
problems," she says.
Cobb joined an NPN New Moms Group and credits the group with
getting her through the ups and downs of parenting a newborn.
"I showed up at the first meeting to a room of eight moms from
all different backgrounds and interests, but we all had one major
thing in common-we were brand-new moms experiencing some level of
shock, loneliness and a hefty side of anxiety," Cobb says.
As many (now seasoned) mothers have learned, other new moms are
out there - you just need to know where to find them. Here are some
ideas on where to start your search.
Moms groups come in a variety of formats and sizes, but with a
little research, new moms can find a group that works for them.
Linda Szmulewitz, a licensed clinical social worker and a mother
of two, founded the Chicago New Moms Group in January 2011. The
group meets in Hyde Park, Lakeview and Hinsdale. Based on her own
positive experience with a moms group in New York City when her
daughter was born, Szmulewitz wanted to create an environment where
women could "come together with a group of others who are sharing
in the same challenging experiences and learn from the other
participants and the expertise of the facilitator."
The Chicago New Moms Group offers moms a nurturing and
nonjudgmental environment where they can benefit from information
on a wide range of topics relevant to the new mom experience and
from a variety of parenting perspectives. The club's premise is
that there is no one right way to be a mother.
"My ultimate goal for each participant is to build their
confidence in their role as a mom," Szmulewitz says.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Do your
best to avoid isolation. Get out at least once a day, whether it is
to meet up with other new moms in a structured or unstructured
setting. Start developing a support network of others who can
identify with your experience," Szmulewitz says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "Anywhere you
can walk with a friend (meets three essential requirements: social
interaction, exercise and combating isolation)," she says.
Beth Cohen-Dorfman, mother of two and veteran of an NPN New Moms
Group, recalls the winter when her daughter was born. "The weather
was horrendous and my baby cried and cried. My NPN New Moms Group
saved us," she says. Cohen-Dorfman's group began meeting in March
2007 and many of the original members still meet every week. NPN
New Moms Groups meet for three consecutive weeks in the home of a
more "seasoned" mom. These meetings are all included in the annual
$45 NPN membership fee.
"Our hope is to have longevity for the groups," Cohen-Dorfman
says. "We organize the groups by working or stay-at-home moms with
the hope that the meeting times will continue to work out for
Best piece of advice for new moms: "You see so
many people pushing strollers in the city, but when I actually had
a baby, I wondered where did those people go? When I got into a
moms group, I felt calm. It felt good to know that other people
also thought that motherhood was not as easy as they thought it was
going to be," Cohen-Dorfman says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "The Lincoln
Meetup.com has made it
easier for new moms to connect based on interests and geographic
location. Search the site to find a moms group in your area.
Debra Wagner, a mother of two, founded the Downers Grove Area
Moms Group in March 2010. Wagner had been a part of a moms meetup
in another city and she loved the experience. When she moved to
Downers Grove, she wanted to start a new group to meet people in
her community. The group consists of new moms and more experienced
moms in the neighborhood. The group hosts family get-togethers,
moms' night out and daytime activities at kid-friendly
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Join some
sort of moms group. Whether it be through meetup.com, MOPS (mothers
of preschoolers), a local church or through the hospital where your
baby was born. You need adult interaction and a place where you can
ask questions about things you are unsure of. We have all been
there-no question is dumb or weird. It just makes that newborn
stage a lot easier," Wagner says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "Walk in your
own neighborhood. It is the best way to find and meet other moms
who are nearby," she says.
Another great place to connect with other new moms is
postpartum-focused fitness programs that moms can attend with their
Stroller Strides is a fitness program for new moms that
incorporates both the baby and stroller. In each 60-minute class,
participants get a total body workout. Classes meet indoors during
the colder months and outdoors during warmer weather. The class
registration ranges from one class to a monthly membership. Owner
Jackie Dorris, a mom of two, says participants can enjoy "the
support of other moms experiencing the newness, joys and challenges
of motherhood" while they get fit.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Having a
group of parents who are going through the same amazing and
exhausting experience of living with a baby is so important. If you
have a great support system, everything else, including fitness, is
so much easier," Dorris says.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "My philosophy
on walking is that if you make it too complicated, you are less
likely to do it-especially with a new baby in tow. Start by walking
to do your errands," she says.
Organizations are out there that provide social interaction,
information, fitness and more for new moms.
Bump Club and Beyond offers new and expectant moms information
on topics such as sleep, breastfeeding and choosing baby gear in a
social, fun and supportive setting.
Best piece of advice for new moms: "Don't be
shy to ask for help, or take it when it is offered. So many times
we are too proud and think we need to be 'supermom' and do it on
our own. But you don't have to," says Lindsay Pinchuk, the founder
of Bump Club and Beyond and mother of a toddler.
Favorite place to go for a walk: "There is so
much to see and do at Millennium Park. Plus, if it is nice you can
grab a bite or a snack outside. Other great places to walk are the
Garfield Park Conservatory or Lincoln Park Conservatory on a rainy
or cold day," Pinchuk says.
Caitlin Murray Giles is a full-time mother of three and part-time freelance writer living in Wicker Park.
See more of Caitlin's stories here.
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