We told each other how relieved we were to find each other, to grasp at new motherhood together and to have adults to talk to during our overwhelming day.
And for the next four years a few of us met every Friday morning for a three-hour playgroup at one of our houses. We shared kids’ birthday parties, field trips, baby showers, holiday events, Gymboree classes and couple’s nights out. We gave advice and sometimes we took it.
These moms were dear friends and a cherished part of my parenting life. And for that, I’m grateful. And yet somehow they were never enough.
Often when my daughter was a baby and I told them how much I loved my weekly date nights or that I needed to find another sitter so I could go out many of them said, “I don’t leave my baby with anyone.”
When I complained that I needed more time to myself and that I put my daughter in two concurrent pre-schools some said, “I could never do that. They’re only young once.”
When I said I might go back to work part-time because I was bored at home no one seemed to feel the same way. One woman often referred to working mothers as selfish even though I told her most parents had to work and that many just wanted to. She said, “I didn’t have kids so someone else could raise them.”
And although I stayed in the group for four years, after the second year I decided to look for a mom support group that spoke to who I was as an individual.
I wanted a group that embraced all moms, regardless of whether they worked or stayed home. I wanted a group that insisted members don’t judge how moms should parent or how moms should feel when they parented.
I wanted a group that understood from a visceral unspoken place that ambivalence as a mother is not only okay, it’s expected.
I wanted a group where moms felt safe to talk about their private truths, their postpartum depression, their feelings of isolation, anger, anxiety, frustration and that sometimes they actually hated their screaming child.
I wanted a group that felt free to admit that our sagging breasts, new fangled vagina’s and sporadic-if-ever sex drives didn’t always feel like the earned “badges of honor” some mothers claimed.
But most of all, I wanted a group that recognized mothers deserved to be as happy as their children. That this must be so.
I needed a group that understood that we all loved our kids so big and scary that it hurt to think about it sometimes. And so we didn’t need to compare mother love by how we parented. We didn’t need to validate our different choices because great kids happen despite or because of, all sorts of parenting pathways.
For 14 years our chapter grew from a handful of members to nearly 80 thanks to my extraordinary co-leader Judy and countless tireless, enthusiastic, creative hardworking leaders and volunteers. And although like most chapters our numbers steadily dropped, our dedication and friendships didn’t.
Sometimes when people asked me about our chapter I laughed and told them, “Oh, we’re that selfish mom group.” I said it because someone once kind of said it to me. “I’ll join your group when my kids are older and it’s about me. Right now it’s all about them.”
Our chapter offered all the same membership benefits as the other groups in town. We had age by age playgroups, family outings, holiday events, mom’s nights out, getaway weekends, newsletters, multiple committees and charitable work. But our monthly meetings were at night and without kids so moms could get a break and working mothers could attend. Our national office offered important advocacy opportunities to help mothers, and our message was unique.
“We believe mom’s need to be as happy as their kids,” I told parents who stopped by our information table at events around town. Most of the mothers smiled and grabbed a brochure. They understood, too.
Over the years Mothers & More has become like a loving and wise Aunt who whispers firmly but soothingly in my ear. She reminds me that I am a good mother and that I deserve. She reminds me that I must listen to my own voice, and that I must help others mothers find theirs.
Her words are my comfort and guide. Her words are reminders of the work still to be done on behalf of all mothers. Her words leave a legacy, a clear footprint for my daughter to follow, and to one day expand.
Mothers & More has become a part of my DNA. Her strength is woven into my being. She is simply, and will always be, part of who I am.
Laura G Owens
Orlando Area Mothers & More – Chapter #216
*Laura Owens is a writer, blogger and long-time Mothers & More champion, living near Orlando Florida. Laura held many roles in her now defunct chapter, as well as nationally. Laura was instrumental in helping to launch Mothers & More’s community outreach program, and is always an active participant on the Power Loop. Laura’s work centers around wellness, especially for mother’s well-being, including mental health awareness, and is a strong advocate for mother’s being heard – and nothing sugar coated or hidden behind what Susan Maushart calls “the mask of motherhood.”