How to Start an Online Mom’s Support Group
Today’s moms are reaching out to create their own social circles, and online groups dedicated to moms and their interests are popping up all over the web. Meet two trail-blazing moms and see how their online groups have helped women navigate the challenges of motherhood.
Moms To the Rescue
Ariana Jalfen, a Montréal mom to three daughters, began her quest for mommy friendship in 2007 after the birth of her first child. “I felt lonely,” she says. “I would see my husband getting ready for work and I would literally be sitting on the floor with vomit in my hair, overdue for a shower and thinking, this is not what I thought motherhood would be like.” Jalfen realized that she needed to connect with other moms.
Across the country in Port Moody, B.C., Heather Hooton was experiencing a similar situation. In 2010 following the birth of her daughter, Hooton found herself living in a new area with a newborn. “I didn’t have any connection to the community and I needed to get out of the house,” she says. “I knew how important it is for moms to socialize, so that was my motivation – to not only make community connections, but other mommy connections.”
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Dean Mitchell)
Both Jalfen and Hooton fired up their computers to comb the web for online mommy groups. “The idea struck me that other moms would be searching too and I wanted to connect [with them],” says Jalfen. “I found Meetup.com (an online social network that promotes offline group get-togethers) and decided to create my group, Wee Wiggles.” For Hooton, she quickly became the organizer of her Meetup.com group, Tri-Cities Moms, when her fellow members were wowed by her organizational prowess. “Within a week, the group was passed over to me,” says Hooton. Today, Jalfen’s Wee Wiggles and Hooton’s Tri-Cities Moms are two of the most successful mommy groups in Canada, each boasting over 500 active members.
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What Online Groups Offer
Groups like Tri-Cities Moms and Wee Wiggles provide women with the perfect platform for friendship, information sharing and emotional support. “It’s very comforting to know that you’re not alone,” says Hooton. Jalfen agrees, adding that the benefits extend to baby too. “It helps children whether they’re timid or outgoing to interact with other kids in the safety of being with mom,” she says. In-person activities for moms and kids range from play dates, exercise sessions, lunches, health seminars, and moms-only excursions such as book clubs and pub nights.
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Nicholas)
How To Start Your Own Mom’s Group
Internet sites like Meetup.com, BigTent.com and Ning.com host a variety of different social groups aimed at moms. A quick look uncovers groups for moms with kids ages 0 to 5, single moms, women with twins or triplets, mothers of kids with ADD and more. And if you can’t find the type of group in your area that you’d like to join, you can create one. From member fees to the types of activities moms and babies would enjoy, Jalfen and Hooton have the scoop on how to start your own social group:
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“Know yourself,” says Jalfen. “Think about what you’re interested in and the kinds of moms that you’d like to meet, and then write [the group’s website description]. If you would want to join, others who share your interests, life-view, etc. will want to too.”
Have a team. “You can’t do this by yourself,” says Hooton. “I have a fantastic group of ladies that support me and organize events. If you’ve got a couple moms who are social and really organized, it takes away all the pressure just on you.”
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Balavan)
Decide about membership fees. As the founder of a group on Meetup.com, BigTent.com or Ning.com, you will be responsible for a monthly sum. Whether you ask your members to pay a small amount to offset that cost is up to you. While Jalfen’s Wee Wiggles group has a low annual fee and Hooton’s Tri-Cities Moms requests a donation, neither woman makes a profit from her group. Enlisting local businesses as sponsors can also help keep the group financially afloat.
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Dejan Ristovski)
Determine your group’s size. “Are you going to cap the group at a certain number of members, or see how it grows?” says Jalfen “If you leave it open like I did, you’re potentially inviting thousands of moms to participate.”
(Photo courtesy of iStock/cunfek)
Plan plenty of activities. Both Hooton and Jalfen organize a multitude of activities each month to keep members engaged and new friendships blossoming. It’s always smart to offer as many free or low cost events as you can too. Favourite activities include arts and crafts, playground meet-ups, library visits and coffee breaks.
(Photo courtesy of iStock/Dean Bertoncelj)
Connecting with fellow moms through online social groups is a life-enriching experience for the organizers and their members. “Having this forum to make new friends has been fantastic,” says Hooton. “We’re bonding over motherhood and all the crazy and fantastic things that come with it.” Wee Wiggles has been so gratifying for Jalfen that she’s launching an additional venture called MomBeSocial.com – a free resource for moms interested in joining or starting social groups. “It’s a labour of love for me,” she says. Thanks to the amazing amount of support and fellowship these online groups foster, thousands of Canadian moms are sharing the laughs, tears and triumphs of motherhood – and with a simple mouse click, you can too.
(Photo courtesy of iStock/jimiks)