A reader recently wrote to ask me for information about local social groups and support groups for new parents. It's a great question, because in our culture, the early years of parenting can be so isolating that finding a way to connect with others becomes crucial to maintaining a joyful perspective. Many are just for mamas, but options exist for dads too. To figure out what will truly re-energize you, here are a few questions to ask yourself first:
Am I looking for a group focused on a specific activity?
A friend of mine started a local Outdoor Mamas group focused on hiking and exploring with little ones in tow; another friend started a book club for mamas (reading anything other than parenting books!). Stroller Strides provides exercise-based meet-ups for mamas with kiddos in tow. Big Tent and Meetup.com can help you determine if a local club exists for the activity you're passionate about.
Am I looking for answers to parenting questions?
International groups like La Leche League and local support groups like the one at New Seasons Market can offer such helpful information at just the right time. I learned so much about infant care and parenting from these groups, but they're not just for factual questions--the mamas at these groups have become my closest friends.
Hospital-based parent support groups are also good places for new parent tips, answers, and baby weigh-ins, and they are actually open to anyone, not just couples who birthed there. Here in Oregon, Providence and Legacy are among the hospitals that offer baby and me groups, often through the toddler ages. These are dad-friendly groups too.
Do I need something that offers childcare so I can get a break?
Church-based groups are open to anyone and usually offer childcare: MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers, which refers to mamas of anyone under five) meets weekly for fellowship, crafts, and games. My church has monthly speakers for mamas at Mom to Mom as well as providing a weekly women's Bible study you can attend in person or online. All of these ministries have childcare.
Do I prefer a playgroup setting so I can stay with my little one(s)?
Community centers often provide weekly indoor playgroups where you can keep an eye on your child and chat with other parents at the same time. These are great for dads too. I attended one of the Clackamas County, Oregon playgroups and was thrilled to meet a nanny who'd just returned from studying in Lyon, France, as I did!
Your city may also have a local Moms Club that organizes playgroups and other events. My city's Mom's Club is the one type of group listed here that I've never attended, but I've heard good feedback from friends.
Local children's shops may also host parent support groups. Cotton Babies in Vancouver, WA, and in St. Louis, for example, organizes playgroup meetups for dads along with evening playgroups for working mamas.
Do I really just want to be with a small circle of friends whom I already know?
This Huffington Post article by Bernadette Noll gives some great tips for pulling together your own tribe to help you stay inspired.
Where have you found your tribe? Which group has really helped you thrive during these intense years of parenting?