Moms Group making a difference

Mothers of young children get together to help

OBSERVER Photos by Marilyn Kurzawa Above: Moms Group members meet twice monthly to discuss their concerns at the First United Methodist Church in Fredonia. Pictured at top from left as they are getting ready to leave are: Rebecca and Myra Rose Joy; Lindsey and Hudson Parker and Liam Barnes and his mom; Caleb Brautigam with his backpack.


OBSERVER Lifestyles Contributor

“Motherhood is a choice you make every day to put someone else’s happiness ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure of what the right thing is….and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” Donna Bell

If ever there were a quote to describe how many mothers feel about their roles, day in and day out, this one is it. The Moms Group members who meet twice a month at the First United Methodist Church in Fredonia would probably agree.

This support group for the mothers of young children is led by five women who take turns planning meetings and bringing refreshments for them. Since the group does not meet during school vacations, this means that there are about two months (four meetings) a year for which they are responsible.

Their most important allies are the church volunteers who lovingly watch their children so that the moms can have (mostly) uninterrupted time to converse, learn new things, make crafts, chat, and even have a massage once a year. On the day that I attended the meeting, I met Karen Lewis, Norene Schulenberg, Karen Kwiatkowski, Karen Mathewson, and Eleanor Hobbs who played with about 10 children that morning.

The facilities at the church for the children are a true bonus for both the moms and the kids. There is a nursery school room filled with toys, games and books; an activity room with larger riding toys in it; and a room that is used for snack time and perhaps quiet time for those who need a break from the inevitable noise of children playing together. It was easy to see how much the children benefit from the Moms Group and how much they love being there. According to one young participant, “This is my favorite place to be.”

Once the children are safely ensconced in their play area, the moms retreat to a room upstairs where they can learn from each other, share experiences, and talk about some of the more complicated issues around the topic of raising children. Everything from potty training, sibling rivalry, differences between children, separation anxiety, and problems finding babysitters is shared among these intrepid women who have become friends and allies in the challenge to raise children with positive character traits who will become good citizens and loving, active participants in the world.

In addition to “chat” sessions, there are program speakers to discuss a wide variety of topics. On the morning that I attended, Denise Szalkowski, assistant to the president of SUNY Fredonia, spoke about the many opportunities offered to the community by the college. Included topics were the new Excelsior Scholarship program, the offerings at the college, activities on campus available to the public, employment opportunities, and part-time college programs to help the moms complete a degree or start one.

Other programs have included a talk by a master gardener about keeping house plants alive; a stocking exchange around Christmas time that involves the recipient’s decision to keep what they received or swap it with someone else; and the much-anticipated massage provided right before Mother’s Day by Martha Lesch of Therapeutic Massage in Fredonia.

When asked what the moms appreciate about being a part of this group, to a person they agreed that it’s the non-judgmental attitude that all bring to the table and the willingness to lend a helping hand whenever needed.

The advice they receive from each other may or may not fit their parenting style, but at least they have another perspective that can help weigh in on their decision about how to handle tough situations.

Not every talking point is about parenting problems, though. One mom relayed the sheer joy of spending two hours with other moms for adult conversations.

“Much of the day spent with children involves seeing the world through their eyes and discussing it with them. Their vocabulary is limited, as are their world-views, so it’s not the same as talking with other adults. I’m not down-playing the joy of talking to three-year-olds, but having no other adult conversations is limiting to the brain.”

Some of the moms rely on each other to babysit during the day when doctor’s appointments are needed or emergencies arise.

“I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have these women to call when something urgent arises. With no close family living in the area, these women are my almost-family in times of need.”

They also share child-rearing stories; they laugh; they cry; and they become the important support person when things aren’t going well or when there are milestones to celebrate. They also share baby clothing, toys and equipment.

In fact, as I was leaving the parking lot, two moms were carting bags of clothing from one mom’s car to the other’s…in the rain. Just like the U.S. Postal Service, “Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow shall keep us from our mission.”

When asked, “What is the best part about being a mom?”, the responses were well considered and heart-warming.

“One day they (our children) will change the world, and you can look back and think about all you did together.”

“You are starting a project you will not see the end of.”

“Until they handed me my son in the delivery room, I had not experienced love in the same way. It was deeper than anything I had imagined.”

“I’m living the dream of motherhood, and it’s not always pretty.”

“They teach me more than I teach them.”

“Watching the milestones.”

“Knowing that no two children in the same family are the same.”

“Celebrating together new discoveries.”

In other words, everyday events and dramatic “firsts” are all a part of being a mom.

The hardest part, according to these moms, is “Trying not to laugh when you need to be serious and stern with them, but finding that what happened or what they said is really funny.”

“When two children want your attention at the same time.”

“Realizing that you are never ‘not-mom.’ It’s constant duty.”

That’s right, there are no paid or unpaid vacation days!

The first mothers’ group in Fredonia that the members knew about was founded at Harvest Chapel in 2006 as an avenue for moms to chat, find support as a stay-at-home mom, obtain advice from more experienced moms, and to have conversations with adults with the same concerns. In 2013, the group moved to First United Methodist Church where it meets today.

According to Elizabeth Hunt, “the greatest barrier to increasing the size of this group is the need for volunteers to care for the pre-school children while the moms meet.”

Current attendance at meetings ranges from eight to about 15. At the meeting I attended, the moms were Rebecca Joy, Elizabeth Hunt, Kim Guziec (meeting leader), Lenore Rivera, Lindsay Poutler, Erin Lamp, Denise Kropp, Shelly Brautigan and Mary Miller.

To learn more about the group, interested moms can call Elizabeth at 467-7603.

“There will be so many times you feel like you’ve failed, but in the eyes, heart, and mind of your child, you are Super Mom.”

Here’s to all the Super Moms (and Super Grandmoms) with the hope that they have a very Happy Mother’s Day.


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