By Julie A Cajigas
Being a parent can be lonely. This is especially true when you’re in that no man’s land between your breastfeeding support group and the preschool PTA. Even by the time your children reach kindergarten, it can be hard to find moms you can relate to.
I often have flashbacks to my awkward dating years when I’m trying to make mom friends. “So, um, would you like to, um, meet up and do coffee while the kids play in the play place…?”
Much like dating, sometimes trying to find mom friends comes with rejection — for both the parents and the kids. It can be nerve-wracking trying to build your village.
That’s where mom groups can save the day.
Read archived Hell Raisers content here.
Some mom’s groups, like the one I wrote about a few weeks ago, are informal groups of like-minded moms. Others are facilitated by trained leaders, and offer mommas a more support-group-style experience with a variety of learning opportunities beyond playdates and social time (though, they offer those too).
Interested in finding a group like that?
Enter the MOPS.
MOPS stands for “Mothers of Preschoolers,” but the international group has since expanded to include mothers with children of any age, though the local Akron-area chapters focus on children from birth through the first day of kindergarten.
MOPS International offers local in-person groups, as well as a variety of virtual groups, including some with a general parenting focus and others with specific themes for moms with unique concerns and needs.
Their coordinators have access to educational content created by the international organization, including specialized content for groups that have elected a focus on specific issues like infant loss, blended families, divorce and more.
The group is a Christian, faith-based organization, but welcomes moms from any faith-background or walk of life. MOPS has groups in more than 69 countries.
“We want every mom,” said Sarah Ferraro, online groups and membership manager for MOPS International. “It doesn’t matter where she’s been or where she’s at today – the point is community and support and that’s what we’re driving.”
MOPS has moved online during COVID-19, allowing moms from multiple locations to meet up in both general and specialized groups online through their members-only site.
“We wanted every mom to be able to go to the site and feel like there’s a place for her,” Ferraro said. “There are eight to 12 women in each group, and each has a leader.”
The participants watch a live event together and then discuss what they learned and how it connects to their own personal experience. Leaders will often meet in between the live events to offer specialized content to their group.
“We’ve also added things like digital content bundles, prayer gatherings, workshops and more to support parents,” Ferraro said.
Anyone can join a virtual group at any time via the MOPS website by becoming a member with dues starting at $32 annually. The basic membership includes access to a variety of workshops, workbooks, digital series and online groups, as well as in-person groups.
Additional membership tiers offer swag, enhanced content and an opportunity to support the MOPS mission.
“Connection is even more critical during COVID,” Ferraro said. “Statistics are showing higher and higher rates of loneliness because of quarantine. It doesn’t matter how we gather, but that we do gather.”
Both of the Akron-area MOPS groups have started to meet in-person again with COVID-19 precautions in place.
The first meeting for MOPS Stow was Oct. 13 from 9:30 to 11:30 am at Stow Alliance Church at 4460 Stow Rd. in Stow, and they will continue meeting during that time frame the second Tuesday of each month moving forward.
The Copley MOPS group is having their first in-person meeting at St. Luke’s Church at 3810 Ridgewood Rd., Wednesday, Oct. 21 from 9:30 – 11 am and will continue to have meetings the first and third Thursday of every month.
Both chapters focus on all moms with children from birth until the first day of kindergarten. “We are open to any mom, that’s what we do, we minister to moms,” said Amy Milletti, Stow MOPS coordinator. Some of their members have older children as well, but all have a younger child.
The groups meet regularly and meetings often feature guest speakers who address topics like marriage, mental health and more. The MOPS also do playdates and casual dessert meetings at mom’s homes, though those activities have been suspended during the pandemic.
Moms interested in attending a meeting don’t have to sign up for a membership first, they can just drop in, according to Miletti. “Moms can just walk into our meeting if they are interested, and we’ll take it from there.”
Just be sure to bring your mask.
“We are trying to get back into things slowly, with caution,” Miletti said of the upcoming meeting. “We are requiring masks and encouraging social distance for safety.”
Both Copley MOPS and Stow MOPS also have Facebook pages where moms can find more information and connect with the group coordinators.
“MOPS is a pretty unique organization in the sense that truly it’s all moms,” Ferraro said. “No matter how differently we may do things in regard to parenting, we always have something we can learn from one another. That’s the beauty of mothering together.”
To learn more about or contact a MOPS local chapter, visit their website or Facebook page:
To join MOPS International, or find out about virtual mom’s groups, visit their website here:
Julie is a mother of three and Professor of Practice at The University of Akron. Her hobbies include singing in the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus, Instagramming her kids and sleeping standing up.