Community Play Group
Many years ago, when my children were young, I really needed to have other adults around. It started when my 2nd child, my daughter, was born with colic. For 6 months, I got very little sleep, felt like I was doing everything wrong and was living in my world of overwhelm. My 2 year old son was helping me with the laundry and trying to help with housework. I felt as though I was doing everything wrong. One night after I'd been up for hours with the baby, I finally got her to sleep. I stepped into the hallway to find him dragging his sheets out of his bedroom. "What are you doing?" He replied, "sorry mommy, I made a mess." awe... It was a crazy time.
So, I found a couple of friends who were interested in getting together for little play dates. We met every Thursday morning that year, rotating the location, and having a fun time with the kids playing and us moms drinking coffee and sharing ideas together.
As the next year started, we decided to find a bigger location; the kids were needing more running room as they were growing older. I had just started going back to church , so I had a connection. We started meeting in the church basement, with our little group needing to get organized as more moms brought their little ones to join us. There were 4 of us moms who were kept busy. Barb looked after making coffee. We charged only $1/week, often with someone bringing some type of treat for the parents. Each parent also brought treats for their own kids so there was no worry about allergies. Tracy was a part-time nursery school teacher, so she brought the music and sing-song fun to the morning. Deb was our morning greeter and helped set up the toys that the church allowed us to use from the nursery. We also brought bigger toys from home and created play stations throughout the basement. I prepared simple crafts for the kids to do if they wanted to get creative. The moms stayed in the room, and a community was created. We needed each other, and it was like a nursery school but affordable for those who didn't have funds. One mom even asked her babysitter to bring her kids when she was working so they wouldn't miss spending time with their new friends! We mentored and learned from each other as our little ones grew from one stage into another.
Each month, we had a party day. eg. teddy bear picnic, pj day, everyone wear red (valentines theme), Easter party (we had a real bunny visit), Christmas, etc. At the end of each year, we were able to bless the church with some new toys for the church nursery with the coffee money we'd collected over the year.
After a couple of years, I developed a few extras for the moms. A quarterly newsletter was written to include seasonal ideas and encouragement, and we also had a moms-only summertime evening and Christmas party. So many friendships were created during those years!
By year 5 we had developed a real problem. Although we'd never advertised, this was a community playgroup, and word had spread throughout our city. On a party day, we'd have about 150 people show up! I tried to divide the group into Thursday morning and afternoon, but that didn't work. Then I attempted Tuesday and Thursday mornings, but that didn't work either. The group didn't want to separate. But it was just too big.
Looking back, I realize that we were all doing some self-care! Building our confidence, our emotional and mental health benefited from being with other moms, we were learning and sharing new ideas and our kids as well as us were making a bunch of new friends!
Many memories...many new friends...and the power of community. Like the women of years ago who would go to the well for water, or the women who would get involved in the local quilting bees, we need to gather with each other. We are women.
Like I say - we were never created to do life alone - we are created for community.
This is an example for young moms. But its an example for all ages.
How are you encouraging and connecting with others?