When Jenna Pell, 29, and her husband, Josh Pell, moved to Columbia, they had no difficulty meeting new friends. But after the birth of their daughter, Avery, now almost 2, Jenna found herself looking to get to know other mothers with young children. So when their son, Brody, 7 months, came along, Jenna had her mom squad for support.
How did having a child affect your relationships with your friends?
We weren't able to get together like we used to. All of our friends who did have kids didn't live in Columbia, and I wanted to meet local moms I could get together with. I was so thrilled when I became a stay-at-home mom, but going from interacting with other adults daily to just a baby was a huge change. Don't get me wrong, I loved being home with my sweet baby, but she grew up and started showing interest in things that I couldn't teach or have in my home. A huge part of me wanted to get involved with activities where she could meet and interact with others her age, and I could potentially meet their moms and make some "mommy" friends.
How were you able to find other mothers to socialize with?
I started following local activities going on in the community on websites such as Hulafrog and the Tiger Tot Mommies Facebook group. I first posted when my daughter was about 6 months old asking for activity recommendations and things we could get involved with. Recommendations like The Atelier, library, swim lessons, etc. were thrown out there, but no one was forward enough to ask if we wanted to join them. Honestly, that is what I was hoping for. I read all those things going on in the community, but I really wanted someone to openly invite us. That's when I made the decision that if anyone posted something like I had — a cry for interaction — I would be the mom to put myself out there and invite him or her to join us.
I joined the music class at The Atelier and met a wonderful mother and daughter who we met with outside of class for other activities as well. We would meet other moms at activities and ask them to join in the next class or event we had planned. We would do park dates, mall walks, meet at the library for Toddler Time, music classes, art classes, cookies with Santa — the list goes on and on. This mother mentioned a Facebook group called It Takes a Village and asked if I wanted to join. It was a great resource to have and to know you have a "village" of moms there for you because, let's be honest, we all need a village of friends.
One tip I've learned: Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Introduce yourself and your child, and if there is a connection, offer to get together some other time or meet back at the same event the following week. Most moms are afraid to make the first move, so let it be you. We all need a "village" on our motherhood journey.
What has been a time that one or more of the moms in your group has been especially supportive? Or, what considerations do you think are important for showing support?
After I had Brody, I had an outpour of moms sign up to bring us dinners, gifts and ask if they could help in any way. After you have your first baby or baby No. 2, it is extremely hard to find time to even shower, let alone put meals on the table. It Takes a Village coordinated a meal train for me for the first three weeks after Brody was born. I had some moms I had met maybe once before bring me meals. Their generosity, including the time they took to prepare and deliver the meals, meant so much to my family and me. I will never forget the gesture.
Other advice: If a mother is going through a hard time, whether it's the transition into being a mother, her child not sleeping, breastfeeding issues or whatever it could be, show your support and do not give advice unless she requests it. Every child and parenting style is different. You have to just be there for her and ask her if she needs anything or if you can help in any way. If she asks for advice, give her your honest advice. Never judge. Ever.
What are some of your favorite things to do with your mommy cohorts?
I love hosting in-home play dates. I love to entertain, and you really get to know someone in the comfort of your own home — or theirs. We have a whole section for the kids to play and a section for the adults to have snacks, drinks and chat, all while being able to keep an eye on the kids. When you are in a group setting in a class or activity, your focus is on your little one and not so much interacting with other mothers. I think the in-home environment allows you to interact more with the other mommies and get to know them. I also love our art class we do every Friday at The Atelier. The group of moms and kiddos I have become so very close with have their little ones in it, too, so after class every Friday we all go out to lunch.
What do you think makes an especially enjoyable playdate? What are your tips for hosting a playdate or planning an outing?
Have an open space for the kids to play that also is contained enough you don't have to chase after them, and you can actually have adult conversations. Oh, and snacks! You must have snacks. The play dates I've hosted have been morning dates, so everyone brings a breakfast item of their choice, along with juices and coffee.
Have toys laid out and set up and let the kids explore. Plan around the kids' nap schedules. I have found it is best to have morning play dates with my group of moms because with transitions from naps and the different time frames kids go down, it's hard to plan afternoon play dates. We start our play dates at 9:30 and usually go until 11:30 or 12:30.
And bring new moms into the group. I have met a group of moms who does stuff as a group often, but I love when someone brings a new mom or I meet someone and ask them to join.