You're not the only one, whatever it is that's going on
by Noël-Marie Taylor
here are times when I wish I had been raising my children during the time my grandparents were raising kids. I remember being told about how wonderful it was to be able to walk next door at any hour of the day, and find another mom home with her kids.
Another adult! Someone who can converse on topics other than Dr Seuss, whose idea of a debate didn't start and end with "But I was playing with it first!" And playmates! Several kids that could come over and play, or whose moms would be home to watch the kids when an errand needed to be run. Someone to call in an emergency, or even just to say "hi".
Instead, I'm a stay-at-home mom now. If I look outside during the week, there are no children on the block other than my own. Go next door and ring the doorbell, and at most I'll hear the barking of a dog left home while the family is all at work and school.
Most of the time, my computer is my source of contact with the rest of the adult world. It's my way to reach other at-home parents who are too far away to just drop in for a cup of tea. Some days, however, this isn't enough. I need the actual face-to-face contact, and the chance to SEE another adult.
Luckily, there are many organizations that provide both social interaction and support for stay-at-home moms. Some are based on common interests or parenting choices, others are meant to provide support for the difficulties that may be part of staying at home [financial hardship, negative response from others, etc]. Yet others offer mothers a chance to "be real people again"--that is, to spend a few hours discussing topics other than parenting.
Below is information on a number of these support groups, both online and real life, as well as suggestions on how to start a group of your own. Note that mention of an organization does not imply recommendation by either the author or this web site.
There are literally dozens of mailing lists for stay-at-home mothers. Some focus on parenting in general, others on specific parenting styles. There are lists for mothers who used to work, mothers who are at home and also running a business, and mothers who never worked outside the home. There are lists that offer information on how to live inexpensively, and on how to deal with criticism of the choice to be at home.
An excellent starting point for finding mailing lists relating to being an at-home parent is YahooGroups. Simply enter "Parenting" or "at home parent" in the search box, and many list descriptions will be returned.
There are also many web pages (in addition to this one) devoted to being an at-home parent. Among the best is About.com's Stay-at-Home Parents Page, (http://homeparents.about.com), which offers articles on frugal living, at-home businesses, childcare, and many other topics of interest. There are also discussion areas, where parents can offer information or ask questions about day-to-day concerns.
Mothers At Home is an organization devoted to the support of moms (and dads) who make the choice to stay home and raise their children. In addition to their monthly newsletter, Welcome Home, this group has a web site which gives information about making the transition to being home full time, managing finances, providing early education opportunities to your child, and being involved in activities outside the home.
While most available groups and web sites are devoted to mothers, there are a growing number that cater specifically to the fathers who choose to be home with their children. Slowlane.com, in spite of its somewhat patronizing name (what? chasing a toddler full-time is considered life in the SLOW lane?), is an excellent source for dads who act as primary caregivers. In addition to articles and resource lists, there is an index of stay-at-home fathers, and links to information about local support groups.
While not specifically devoted to at-home parenting, often the first and most helpful support group that new mothers find is La Leche League. In addition to information and advice about breastfeeding, LLL is an excellent place to meet other parents who are likely to have similar approaches to childrearing. Many playgroups, reading groups, and other support networks form as a result of regular contact at monthly LLL meetings.
Mothers of PreSchoolers (MOPS) is a non-denominational Christian organization which encourages women to stay home with their children at least until they reach school age. Regular meetings are usually held in church halls, and consist of discussions and craft programs for the moms, while children play in a separate supervised area. Because this is a Christian group, there is generally a religious slant to all meetings and discussions, and leaders are required to sign a "statement of faith".
MOMS Club (email@example.com) has nearly 1000 chapters world-wide. Daytime meetings are open to moms and their children of all ages. There are also playgroups, babysitting co-ops, and full family outings and service projects.
If none of these groups offers quite the type of companionship or support you are looking for, it might be time to try starting a group of your own. When doing so, consider the following issues:
- What is the purpose of your group? Is it merely a playgroup? A book discussion group? Craft group? [Note: Knitting circles, aka Stitch 'n' Bitches, are very popular right now and have given me the best support group I've ever had. My best friends.--Ed.]Coffee and cake?
- What sort of group do you want? Will activities involve bother mothers and children, or will they be separated for individual activities? Are stay-at-home dads welcome?
- Where will you meet? Many churches or community centers are willing to make meeting areas available at little or not cost. Alternatively, you could meet in group members' homes.
- How will you advertise the group? Some suggestions: store bulletin boards, church newsletters, local La Leche League meetings, local newspapers (many allow group meeting announcements).
- How often will the group meet? Weekly? Monthly?
Don't be surprised if it takes time to get your group off the ground. As you know yourself, it's not always easy to go places with children, and schedules don't always work out. If you're afraid of burning out too quickly, before the group gets going, enlist the help of one or more other interested parents.
Finding the right support network may be difficult at first, but with some perseverance, you're likely to find at least a few other moms (or dads) who can help make the day-to-day difficulties of being at home easier.
Noël-Marie Taylor is a freelance writer located in Columbia, Maryland. Her work has appeared in many magazines, including PC Magazine and The Mother Is Me. A stay-at-home mom to two children, she is also the designer of several cross-stitch kits for children.