Group offers support and friendship for new mothers
When Julianne Vande Water moved to Columbus, Ind. (pop. 39,059), two years ago, the young mother didn’t know a soul in town other than her husband, Ryan; and their closest relatives were more than an hour’s drive away. Relocating with Ryan’s electrical engineering job, she had given up her pottery store in Madison, Ind., to stay home and care for a preschool-age son and daughter, and was about to give birth to the couple’s third child.
While feeling blessed to be a stay-at-home mom, Vande Water also remembers those days as exhausting, overwhelming and even a little lonely at times—until an acquaintance suggested she join other new mothers who gather twice a month at Grace Lutheran Church to encourage and support each other. At the Wednesday morning gatherings, she discovered about 40 women going through the same joyful but intense experience of early motherhood.
“I wanted a place to make friends, get a break from the kids, and kind of renew myself,” says Vande Water of her participation in Mothers of Preschoolers, or MOPS, a Christian-based organization dedicated to the belief that “better moms make a better world.”
In the process, she was reminded of the three reasons—Oliver, 5, Stella, 3, and Charlie, 1—that she chooses to stay home in the first place.
“It reaffirms that mothering your kids is an important job,” says Vande Water, 36. “You know it is, but it’s reassuring just to have other people say, ‘Yes, you’re doing the right thing.’”
The need for friendship and support among new moms is what inspired MOPS’ founding in 1973, when eight women in Wheat Ridge, Colo. (pop. 30,979), gathered one February morning in a preschool classroom at Trinity Baptist Church. While caregivers watched over their children in the church nursery, the mothers sat on child-size chairs and shared stories of early motherhood. They talked, laughed, prayed, drank coffee, made a craft and passed a basket to pay for childcare expenses.
“From the very start, MOPS was a place to come and find friendship, a creative outlet and spiritual perspective,” says Jan Horner, 67, one of the founders, who now lives in Longmont, Colo.