Whether you just had your first child or you’re a seasoned mother of three, surrounding yourself with other mothers can give you a lifeline of emotional support and priceless grass roots parenting advice. For more than a decade, support groups for parents have been springing up across neighborhoods, inside churches, across online cyber meet-ups, at local playgrounds and during Mommy and Me classes.
Where there's a parent, there's a need for an understanding listening ear, practical and sage parenting advice and a shoulder to cry (and laugh) on. Yet even though as mothers we all share universal needs, the desire to raise happy, healthy children (while trying to stay sane!) joining or starting a special interest niche group of like-minded mothers can be particularly rewarding. We are drawn to mothers who understand the unique circumstance we face, that another mother we meet may try to understand, but cannot.
So, how do we find like-minded mothers?
Niche Parent Support Groups: Decide What You Need
Begin by getting introspective about what you need from a support group right now. Your needs will change over time. Decide for example, if you're interested in a group that supports parents with children with special needs (preemies, a particular illness), children of a certain age (ah, the special joys of parenting toddlers!), working, stay at home or single parents, parents with twins or triplets, moms interested in long term breastfeeding support, mothers within a particular race or ethnic group and so on.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do you want a group that focuses on your emotional and social needs, a group where your children can socialize or one that meets both needs?
- Do you want to bring your child(ren) with you to functions or do you prefer an evening adult-only group, or some combination of both?
- What are your parenting perspectives, interests and needs? Are you, for example, a strong advocate for breastfeeding and do you need on-going support from La Leche? Are you a mother of multiples, involved with holistic/natural parenting, attachment parenting? Are you a single parent, gay or lesbian, a stay at home mom, working part or full time, divorced, interested in aligning with a particular religious affiliation? Are you a woman of color? Do you have a special needs child or do you struggle with physical or emotional issues such as post-partum depression, OCD, anxiety or diabetes?
- Do you want a group whose mission includes advocacy and outreach work on behalf of mothers?
As women, we're complex beings with a variety of interests and needs that motherhood instantly reorders and then amplifies. Motherhood presents brand new challenges to our existing identity as a spouse, a daughter, a friend. Perhaps you're disabled, a CEO of a large corporation or a caregiver for your own aging and ill parents. Each of these roles, combined with the daily demands of raising a child, can be incredibly overwhelming.
Mothers need mothers who understand exactly what they're experiencing, who offer advice that's not necessarily out of a book, but comes from common sense.
So, go inward and sense what you need and go find a parent group that resonates with you. If there isn't one in your area or online, start your own. There's a mother like you around every corner looking to connect with someone who understands.
Finding Parent Support Groups
Our age of instant online connectivity has expanded the number of specialized parenting groups exponentially. Online sites like SheKnows message boards, Cafemom or Meetups offer cyber networking communities for parents to find other parents who share common concerns and challenges. Mothers in these online communities will then sometimes form geographical meet up groups and meet locally.
There are a number of specialized national mother support groups around the country that offer national membership. Many of them also offer local chapter support. Some of these include:
- Mothers and More: Mothers & More is a grassroots, volunteer-driven organization, connecting mothers via a network of both virtual and local communities throughout the United States. They are committed to creating a place for mothers to feel a part of a larger community of women who are experiencing the challenges that all mothers face, not only in raising children but also in fulfilling their sense of self and self-worth. They believe this begins with a sense of belonging, a space where women feel safe among friends, where they are able to utilize their gifts and celebrate their uniqueness -- where they can truly be themselves.
- MOMS (Mothers Offering Mothers Support) Club: MOMS Club offers a support group that understands your special needs as an at-home mother. It is the first, largest and fastest growing support group specifically for ALL at-home mothers.
- National Organization of Mothers of Twins Club: The National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, Inc., is dedicated to supporting families of multiple birth children through education, research and networking. In partnering with local support groups, health care providers, researchers and educators, and with the highest standards of integrity, respect and professionalism, we endeavor to aid parents of multiples and to raise public awareness of the unique qualities of multiple birth families.
- Holistic Moms Network: The Holistic Moms Network connects parents who are interested in holistic health and green living. They encourage moms to trust their instincts, parent from the heart, use their innate sense of what is best for their children, live in balance with the Earth and learn about the pros and cons of all healthcare and parenting options.
- Mocha (Mothers of Color At Home) Moms: Mocha Moms, Inc., is a support group for mothers of color who have chosen not to work full-time outside of the home in order to devote more time to their families and communities. Mocha Moms serves as an advocate for those mothers and encourages the spirit of community activism within its membership.
- MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International: MOPS stands for "mothers of preschoolers," but MOPS is about meeting the needs of moms -- urban, suburban, rural, stay-at-home, working, teen, adoptive, special-needs, single and married moms and is for every mom, from conception through kindergarten. MOPS groups are chartered through local faith-based organizations, including churches and parachurch ministries. While each group is different, the MOPS program is built on several foundational principles.
- La Leche League International: La Leche's mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.
- Northern California Mothers' Clubs: The San Francisco Bay Area and surrounding regions offer a wealth of support groups for the mamas in the area. Check out this list of more than 40 Mothers' Clubs in the top half of California.
- National Association of Mothers Centers: The National Association of Mothers' Centers recognizes the challenges, realities and value of mothering. Since 1975, their community-building model has laid the foundation for hundreds of Mothers' Centers programs around the country. These programs offer moms and other caregivers a sense of camaraderie, peer support, empathy, information and resources. Through their Mothers Ought To Have Equal Rights public policy initiative, they also advocate for the economic support of caregiving.