Since having my second child I have become patently aware of just how easy I had it the first go round. Not to discount the travails of first-time parents. Those were some tough days. And yet now that I’m responsible for the well being of two little creatures, I often find myself marveling at all that free time I must have had before, when there was just one little one demanding my attention. But somehow I don’t remember those days as being free and easy and filled with plenty of downtime as I waited for the next feeding or nap time to wrap up.
One thing I do clearly recall is how important it was to find others who like me, were new to this whole parenting thing. And, thankfully, there are plenty of organizations and opportunities out there designed to do just that:
First off, there’s Mothers & More. If I had a dime for every seasoned mom who recommended this organization to me, well, I’d be able to afford a nanny. From the moment you join (membership costs $45 annually) you are privy to a dizzying array of playgroups catering to all schedules and age groups, children’s activities and even mom-only fun. There are monthly member meetings, ways to volunteer and get involved, plus a message board to end all message boards whether you’re looking for advice, to buy or sell baby gear or just want to reach out to others who are in the same boat.
An online forum for moms is NorthJerseyMommies.com, which offers a simple way to connect with local moms for friendship, support and fun.
Mommy & Me classes are pretty standard fare around here. And honestly I feel that with some of them the value is more in that they get you out of the house than in what they purport to do. Music and movement are beneficial to your baby’s development, no doubt, but a lot of that can be done at home for a lot less money. We did the Baby & Me classes over at Shakti Yoga & Living Arts. This was a great opportunity to get a little exercise, meet other moms and still bond with baby. Moms are free to nurse or bottle-feed and diaper as needed during class.
The Parent and Pea Yoga class at Maplewood Karate is the perfect opportunity to introduce yoga into your child’s life. Geared for children aged 2-4 years old, parents and child will stretch their bodies, participate in fun activities like Yoga Freeze Dance and listen to stories in this fun 45 minute class.
The library is also a great way to change up your environment and meet other new parents. Here in Maplewood, both the Memorial Library and Hilton Branch offer Baby Lit Storytime – open to infants through 21/2 year olds. There are other programs for older kids as well. All programs are free, of course. I’ve connected with so many people at storytime while also making our local library an integral part of my daughter’s world which is something I feel good about. I hope to do the same with my son.
Finally MOMentum is an organization with which I have not had personal experience but whose reputation seems to precede it. Unlike the other options mentioned here, MOMentum is strictly for moms: baby stays home while Mom gets to attend monthly meetings where, according to their Web site, “the goal is to duplicate the feeling of an executive retreat…” The purpose of the meetings is to exchange ideas, share trials and triumphs and give honest feedback. Membership is kept to just 17 and consists of both working and at-home moms. There is a monthly membership fee and members must make a 6-month commitment. There’s a true community activist spirit to this organization which I think is admirable. For example, the Maplewood chapters have donated over $10,000 to Harmony Day Care in Irvington.
Elizabeth Takacs is a freelance writer and former contributor at The Local.