One of the thing every new mom wants (other than sleep) is some mom friends. Maybe you're lucky and all your BFFs had babies about the same time as you did, but more than likely you're wishing that you had someone else who was going through the same things you are.
Enter the baby group. Sometimes hospitals will arrange groups of new parents that meet periodically throughout baby's first year, sometimes there are informal neighborhood groups, and sometimes you can find a local group through parenting forums like CafeMom. Other people swear by church groups like MOPS or La Leche meetings.
And sometimes it's wonderful. One large hospital here has an active parenting program that arranges baby groups, and several of our friends made some of their very best friends there and loved it; our experience was, let's just say, radically different.
How can you tell your baby group is just not for you? If you encounter ....
- Mean-girl behavior: Sad as it is, some people do not leave high school behind when they graduate. Our group had an alpha female who sort of dominated, and made it very clear who was in and who was out, going so far as to talk about social events she'd had with other group members in front of people who were not invited and use subtle put-downs on other moms. New parenting is a time when your identity is radically changing and it can cause feelings of insecurity; sadly, some people mask theirs by playing on others'.
- Know-it-alls: Watch out for any group that talks about issues that are debatable as hardcore fact. Whether it's "Crying it out is child abuse" or "Co-sleeping will kill your baby," know-it-alls tend to lack the social skills that make a truly good friend and the wisdom to give good advice. Even if they could not be more aligned with your philosophy, different things work for different kids and you could find yourself suddenly on the outs if your rigid beliefs have to bend down the line.
- Huge differences in age or lifestyle between you and the rest of the group: We were the second-oldest in our parenting group, and the only couple older than us were very wealthy; like " 'Should we meet in the library, the media room, or the solarium?" Everyone else was fairly newly married, fairly young, and sometimes struggled with giving up their youthful partying ways for parenthood. They were perfectly nice people for the most part, but we just didn't fit.
- Show offs: If anyone brags about their baby being "advanced" or goes on and on about their prenatal Mandarin classes or preschool prep for their 9-month-old, run, don't walk.
- Over-scheduled meetings: I know someone whose group met every morning for two hours. If you have things to do and don't want to sit around with people you don't have that much in common with beyond having babies the same age, look for a less intense schedule.
How to know you've found a good one? You'll know, because you'll feel accepted for who you are. And honestly, here's a little secret: by the time your second kid arrives, none of this matters.
Do you belong to a mom group? What has your experience been like?
Image via TedsBlog/Flickr