June 5, 2009

Inspired Friday: MOMS Club

Not a great new blog discovery, not a beautiful art print for this (2nd) Inspired Friday. Instead, it's something that's such a mundane and everyday part of my life, I hardly think about it.
That something is the MOMS Club, or at least my neighborhood's chapter of this international organization.

The MOMS Club has been much on my mind for the last week or so, though, because our neighborhood chapter has been very, very close to closing up shop and ceasing to exist. MOMS (moms offering moms support) has been a vital part of my adjusting to and feeling part of this community. When we moved here almost exactly five years ago, I knew no one, had a 2 year old daughter, and was expecting my 2nd child. Initially I was okay with things -- absorbed in outfitting and overhauling our new home, finding my way about town and preparing for the birth of my son.

Shortly after his birth though, I started to feel crazily isolated and miserable. I'd made no new friends, my neighbors were standoffish -- if they even acknoweledged us at all. (Five years in, the neighbors just to our right, across the greenbelt, have never spoken to me or my children.) The town, which still leans conservative, was even moreso back then -- Bush had just been re-elected to his 2nd term, I felt like we lived in Texas, for godsake, and I, who had initiated this "great idea" to relocate here, was full of regrets.

Now, I am not a joiner, and have never been too comfortable identifying myself with any particular group. But I was desperate for friends and a friendly face, friends whom I didn't need to load up and drive an hour back into Orange County to visit. Because I'm not a joiner and am basically an introvert, I had a tough time with the couple of informal, loosely organized play groups that I'd stumbled upon at local tot lots. The women were somewhat friendly, if a bit aloof, but still welcomed me to meet up with them at various parks around town. After two or three stabs at this, I gave up and let it go, sensing I was just not a good fit.

Enter the MOMS Club: an ad in a local paper announced that local chapters were having an "open house" at a park to attract new members. I figured that any club organized enough to hold an open house event must be pretty large and established, and so I went --- and joined up that very day. If nothing else, I figured that ponying up the $25 annual dues would force me to attend and try to participate. (Not that this idea works very well with my gym membship...).

I was immediately placed into a playgroup, joining 6 or 7 other moms who had children close to Lily's age. On a weekly basis, I was invited into the other women's homes, offered coffee and snacks and (initially) strained but adult conversation. My kids and I went to Halloween and Christmas parties, craft events and tours of pizza joints, grocery stores and the like -- along with the weekly playgroup.
Lily & Tucker at a MOMS Club tour of a local dairy farm, Fall 2007

My kids each made friends. Crazyily enough, even I made friends, and started to place a lot of names with a lot of faces in and around our neighborhood. A year into it, myself and another fairly new member were roped into serving as Co-Presidents of our chapter (each year there is an "executive board" of volunteers who keep the group on track).

Almost 4 years into my membership, the club is still a part of my daily life and routine. I'm currently the editor or our monthly newsletter, still in a playgroup with my son Tucker, and bump into women all over town who are friends, or at least passing acquaintences, because of our shared experiences in the club.

Earlier this month, I wrote a bit of a farewell/warning note to our members in the newsletter, stating that this was likely their last issue, ever. The term of the current board is ending, and nobody (besides me) had stepped up to be on the board for the 2009-2010 term. Getting volunteers to step up to what sounds like the scarily officious "executive board" is never easy in any given year. This year has been different, though -- the economy has forced a lot of stay-at-home moms back into the workplace, we enlisted NO new members, and a bit of taking-it-all-for granted apathy among our members have all contributed to the problem. Also, children get older and move on to play at the school yard, rather than in back yards, and this too has caused us to lose literally dozens of members of late.

But, as I learned today, there have been several eleventh-hour commitments garnered at the last minute, before the higher-ups in this huge organization had to take moves to officially disband our chapter. Even though part of me would be all too happy to give up the monthy chore of compiling the newsletter, and felt that the lazy laggarts in the club were getting what they deserved if the club shut it's doors.....

Still, I am happy by this news, and inspired by the women volunteers who have stepped up to help out again. Corny as it sounds, I'm touched that they, like me, value the club and the role it's played in our lives enough to keep this show running for at least another year. And I truly believe there are brand-new moms around here, moms whose families have scored great deals on some of these sad foreclosures around us, who are looking around in a bit of desperation for a friendly face and for just somewhere besides storytime at the library to take their kids to meet other children. Maybe even moms like me, who will look backward in a few years and marvel at how social and involved and busy they've become, all due to joining the MOMS Club.
Summer '08: 4 families, 8 kids, tent camping near Crestline. Good friends all, and all met through the club.

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