MOMS group is an outlet for stay-at-home mothers

NEIGHBORS

September 04, 2001|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN CHRISTINE Connally had her first child four years ago, her life changed. After working full time as a retail store manager, she was home all day with her son, RJ (short for Reginald Jr.). Her husband worked long hours to support their family.

Most of the other adults in their neighborhood were gone all day at their jobs. And most of Christine's friends were still working full time and had no children. It seemed as if there was no one to share her experience of being a full-time mother staying home with her baby.

Connally had heard of support groups for stay-at-home mothers, but she couldn't find any in her Odenton neighborhood. So she got creative.

In February 1998, she placed an ad in the local Pennysaver, asking whether other area mothers would like to get together.

"What did I have to lose?" she recalled thinking. Maybe no one would respond, but at least she would have tried.

To her delight, response was strong. A lot of people seemed interested.

On March 3, 1998, seven women met to discuss a support group for mothers who stay at home with their children. Initially, they set up weekly play groups for the mothers and children, and monthly "Mom's Nights Out" for the mothers.

The group continued to grow and in November 1998 decided to affiliate with the international MOMS (Moms Offering Moms Support) Club, made up of similar groups dedicated to the needs of mothers who stay home with their children.

Some of the mothers work part time. Others work from their homes. All are at home with their children during the day and can take part in daytime children's activities.

The group sponsors two weekly play groups, one for babies younger than 18 months and the other for children of mixed ages. During the monthly Moms Nights Out, members have gathered in a variety of places, including the Inner Harbor, to socialize in a "nonkid" atmosphere.

Field trips are another club highlight. Sometimes the trips are for fun, such as a picnic in a park. Sometimes they are a way to learn about businesses and organization. During a field trip to Pizza Hut, the children learned how to make a pizza. A visit to the Odenton fire hall was a great opportunity for firefighters to talk with the children about fire safety.

The club has been a valuable resource for mothers who have moved from other places. Sometimes their families are far away, and the group has been a great source of ideas and support as they raise their children. One of the club's projects, the Sunshine Committee, provides help to members at special times in their lives. If a mother has a baby, the committee will bring meals to the family and offer other help.

Community service projects have become another focus as the club has grown. The group coordinates a child safety seat program with the local fire company and sponsors two car-seat checks a year. Connally, who has been certified by the National Highway Transportation Administration to carry out such checks, determines whether the car seats are properly installed and whether recalls have been issued for car seat models.

The group has sponsored fund-raisers for Sarah's House and collected food for the Anne Arundel Emergency Baby Pantry. On Oct. 21, members plan to hold a Children's Trading Post at the Odenton Volunteer Fire Hall. Anyone interested in selling gently used children's and maternity clothes, toys and baby items may rent a table for $15. Proceeds will benefit the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company.

Sometimes, said Connally, media reports make people think that everybody works outside the home. As she discovered, "there are a lot of moms who are at home." By February, the Odenton group had grown to 60 mothers, larger than they thought was best for the personal nature of their group.

So they "sistered" a second group in Piney Orchard, which has grown to 60 members. The two groups are considering "sistering" again to form a new group for the growing number of mothers staying at home.

Membership in either of the MOMS groups is open to area mothers who are at home with their children. Dues are $20 a year. Anyone interested in the clubs is invited to attend two events, such as a play group or a monthly meeting, before deciding to join.

Information:Christine Connally at 410-674-9772, or on the Web site www.homestead.com/odenton momsclub.

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