One of the presents first-time moms often receive is a little “milestones” calendar. It comes with stickers that celebrate things like, “Baby’s First Smile,” or “Baby’s First Tooth.” Modern editions have added ones like, “Baby Slept Through the Night,” showing the makers of these things are beginning to think like parents.
But they need to start commemorating the truly important milestones. “First Time Mom Showered While Alone at Home With Baby” is a huge day. It can take a week or more before you have things together enough to steel a quick rinse while the baby is sleeping … in the carrier, three feet away.
“Left Baby With Sitter,” also a big day. It takes a great deal of courage on mom’s part to make this day happen, but once you’re out of the house, it’s like a giant weight is lifted; you’ve never felt so free.
For me, the first few months alone at home with my firstborn were overwhelming.
But for me, the big daddy of them all is, “Ate a Hot Meal with Both Hands Free.” And that was the first of many gifts MOPS gave me.
Mothers of Preschoolers, or MOPS, is, essentially, a faith-based support group for moms. MOPS chapters meet all over the world, but my involvement had been first in Carrollton, where we lived when our children were born, and since we moved to Lubbock in October, with the Southcrest Baptist Church group. (There are two other area chapters listed on the MOPS International Website, at Live Oak Community Church and at First Baptist Church Levelland. See below for more information on the groups.)
MOPS provides attending moms with opportunities for fellowship, mentorship, creativity, service and … yes please … a little time without kiddos.
“I think it’s a good thing for [moms] to have a moment to just breathe,” said Elaine Hedges, who helps run the Levelland group.
Activities vary and can include breakfast (hallelujah!), speakers, crafts, service projects and social time, all aimed at supporting attendees through a challenging stage in life.
Motherhood is in an odd place in our society. It now feels like a second or third choice, an “easier” path for those who can’t handle a full-time career. It’s also no longer something we prepare girls to do. Rather, we train to learn and do jobs that, if we do later choose motherhood, will vie for attention from our families or be put aside.
‘Creating a community for mothers of young children is … what MOPS does’
For me, the first few months alone at home with my firstborn were overwhelming. I felt hugely under-qualified to take care of this tiny human; I missed doing work at which I was skilled. And I think many women feel the same if they make the choice to be home with their babies.
Mandee Lawlis, Live Oak MOPS coordinator and mother of two, said she also struggled with identity when she first became a stay-at-home parent.
“I think motherhood can be very lonely,” she said.
But at MOPS, Lawlis found other women facing the same struggle.
“They don’t judge you, they understand, they have that ‘me, too,’” Lawlis said. “Somebody gets it, and now I don’t feel so bad.”
Creating a community for mothers of young children is a huge part of what MOPS does, said Allison Maxwell, co-coordinator for Southcrest MOPS. And that MOPS community is made up of more than peers … it also includes Mentor Moms, women who are past the preschool stage of motherhood. MOPS Mentor Moms give advice, hold tiny babies so moms can eat and remind moms they will get through this stage.
“To hear that they’ve been through what you’ve been through … that’s just really reassuring to me,” said Maxwell, “that their kids survived, and mine will, too,” she added, with a laugh.
For me, one of the greatest things about MOPS was having two hours where I could just think for one person, instead of five (my four kids and myself). And during those two hours, I could fellowship with friends, learn from speakers, unleash my creativity with a craft or even have a few minutes to bless someone outside my family with a service project, like I would have in the years BK (Before Kids).
Friends … who could help me remember to give myself grace.
But most of all, MOPS offered me what I so needed during those early days of struggling to adapt to my new job: friends who understood. Friends who didn’t feel particularly good at being moms either, but who loved their babies every bit as fiercely as I loved mine. Friends who were figuring it out, too, and who could help me remember to give myself grace.
Maxwell said she hopes this is every attendee’s experience.
“If you just meet one friend you can talk to about the stuff that you’re going through, I think that’s a win,” she said.
Southcrest Baptist Church
3801 S. Loop 289
Meets twice a month on Fridays, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 14
Membership costs vary; scholarships available
For more information, contact Allison Maxwell at [email protected]ail.com or 806.281.7786.
Live Oak MOPS
Live Oak Community Church
10710 Frankford Ave.
Meets twice a month on Fridays, 9:15 to 11:30 a.m., beginning Sept. 7
For pricing and more information, email [email protected] or visit facebook.com/liveoakmops.
First Baptist Church Levelland
401 Houston St.
Meets twice a month on Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to noon, beginning Sept. 12