A mom who joyfully gave up a gratifying career is unexpectedly assaulted with isolation and panic after bringing her baby home. Here she shares her secret to finding the support system she desperately needed.
Being the stay-at-home/work-from-home mom of a three-year-old boy is, just as I was always told it would be, a rewarding and gratifying experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to catch all of my son’s firsts—first words, first steps, and first falls. I’ve been there to kiss every boo-boo, bake misshapen gingerbread people, and chase away the monsters at bedtime.
When I chose to leave the career world in my mid-thirties and stay home with my son, I knew that, unlike the bi-annual raises and periodic bonuses I was used to getting at work, the rewards I would receive as a mother would come slowly and grow at an almost imperceptible pace. I had given the issue of staying home a lot of thought and was ready to give up, at least for a while, the identity that I had crafted over years of education and work.
Still, nothing could have prepared me for the sense of absolute isolation and panic I felt when, two weeks after I first brought my very colicky son home from the hospital, my husband returned to his job in the city, and I was left to fill the hours.
We had recently moved, and I knew no one in the area. My son cried 16 hours a day for the first six weeks of his life. Aside from my mother, who was traveling around the country in an RV, my son had no grandparents, and I had no one to ask about…so many things.
Sitting alone one day with my little screamer, wondering how I would survive until my husband returned home, I received a phone call from the daughter of my mother’s best friend. I had never met this woman, who had two small children of her own, but, through her mother, she had heard about my pain and felt the need to reach out to me the way some kind stranger had once reached out to her, to let me in on what she called “the secret” to her sanity—a support group she belonged to for stay-at-home moms.
I was sort of moving through quicksand in those beginning weeks and months of my son’s life, so I let a whole season go by before I went to my first meeting of International MOMS Club and found the support system I so desperately needed from women who had also made the transition from being out there to being at-home moms.
For those of you in-home moms who are looking, like I was, for a lifeline or even just an adult conversation or a sense of connection to something out there, here’s the scoop—from me, to you—on MOMS.
The International MOMS (Moms Offering Moms Support) Club
The International MOMS Club, a non-profit community-based support organization, was founded in 1983 by Mary James. With over 2000 chapters in the United States, Canada, Italy, Ghana, Portugal, Nigeria, Slovenia, Russia, and the Czech Republic, it claims to be the largest and fastest growing support group specifically for “at-home” moms.
Members of the local branches attend (with their kids) weekly meetings and monthly business meetings, often held in churches or community centers, where they plan an activity calendar, which includes charitable events, playgroups, outings, and seminars. Many MOMS club chapters have events planned for every day of the year.
“The MOMS club has grown astronomically from a small organization to a huge corporation in a very short span of time,” says Faith Fuhrman, a mother of three who joined the group 11 years ago and is now the Northeast Regional Coordinator.
“Mary James first started the club after moving to Simi Valley when she was pregnant with her second child. She tells the story of the day she walked into a fast food restaurant and, seeing a bunch of pregnant women, she thought, ‘Oh! This is great. There are going to be all these women for me to socialize with when the baby comes,’ and then, when she had the baby, they all seemed to disappear. She never saw any of them again,” says Fuhrman. “So, she decided to start this club where stay-at-home moms could get together once a week with the kids. The first group was just six women, and within a year, she realized she was on to something bigger than just her little local club. She incorporated the MOMS Club, and it’s just sort of blossomed since then.”
Although every chapter has its own identity and interests, Fuhrman says that all of the meetings have one thing in common—they are held during weekdays, and kids are always welcome.
“Most of our husbands are working during that time, and so that’s when we need the support,” she says. “We do make the exception for one evening activity a month, and you can have as many family activities as you want, but the whole goal is to keep the family together as much as possible.”
Fuhrman, a former registered nurse who maintains her license and plans to go back into nursing one day, says the groups’ activities are as varied as the women who make them up—from apple picking or farm trips in the fall, to zoo trips, playgroups, or just meeting for bagels and coffee after dropping off older kids at school.
“We have chapters that scrapbook, ones that have a book or a sewing club. Some chapters have things like yoga demonstrations or speakers. If you have a bunch of mothers with newborns in the chapter, their interests are going to be very different than someone who has older kids in school and is looking for more of a spiritual mid-life sort of thing or something like financial planning. It really just depends on what the membership wants.”
The MOMS Club Benefits the Community and Individuals
Since each local chapter is affiliated with the International MOMS Club and receives a tax exemption number, they must agree to operate in a non-profit fashion and are required to provide at least one community service project that benefits children each year.
“The chapters can put on a fair, or they can have a bake sale or whatever they want to do to raise money and donate it to a charity,” says Fuhrman. “Some of them get really creative. In Hunterdon County, New Jersey, all of the local chapters get together at Halloween to put on a huge festival each year.”
Aside from providing a constant sense of community and moral support, she says that being a part of the MOMS club has helped her and her family through more than one crisis, even having meals sent to her home for six weeks while she was recovering from a hospital stay during a difficult pregnancy.
“My husband was traveling, and I had a three year-old and a five year-old at the time. I had been in the hospital a couple of times, dehydrated. I was feeling like dirt, but I could eat if somebody brought it to me—if I didn’t have to fix it and smell it, then I could eat it.
“One of my friends from the MOMS Club called me up and said, ‘We aren’t discussing this. We’ve already got it all arranged. We’re bringing you and your family meals for the next six weeks.’ So, that’s how my kids and I survived.”
Joining or Starting your Own Chapter of MOMS Club
To find out more about joining a local chapter of the International MOMS Club or starting up your own chapter, go to: www.momsclub.org. Membership dues, which cover all of the club’s expenses, generally run no more than $30 a year.