No one ever told me (or else I completely tuned out) just how much parenting demands of you. Being the oldest of eight kids, I watched my mom navigate overwhelming emotions and the sheer chaos of being responsible for eight other lives and all that entailed: spiritual adviser, taxi-service, activities director, referee, cook, housekeeper, therapist, teacher, and the list continues. She had meltdowns at times (who wouldn’t?), but she survived and we thrived and I thought, If she can do that with eight, surely I can handle three or less. No problem.
Maybe I’m weaker, or maybe it’s because I started out later than she did, but sometimes it feels like I’m failing and drowning in this role that I chose for myself.
Chances are that if you have small children, you’ve heard of MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). As is often the case with my tendency to pre-judge, I poo-pooed the thought of joining such a group before the Little Butt was born. For starters, who names a group after a cleaning implement? And spending a few hours eating, chatting, and doing crafts with other women sounded, well, boring.
Funny thing, how much that little bundle of joy will change you.
1. The Childcare
The Little Butt loves going to MOPS. He’s a social creature, so any chance to play with “his kids” (which means anyone under the age of, say, 15) makes him happy. I drop him off to workers who love children, have passed the obligatory background checks, and who often volunteer because they were once living in my shoes and know how much I need this break. At pickup time he’s thrilled to see me, I’m thrilled to see him, and we are both rejuvenated: him through social interaction and me through the reprieve.
In our group, childcare begins with babies 4-6 months old, so this fall I’ll be dropping off Little Miss, as well. But if your children are enrolled in preschool or daycare, you’re welcome to attend on your own.
2. The Food
Each MOPS group is unique and they meet at different times of the day (ours is a morning group), but usually the first part of the meeting is grabbing a plate of food, finding your assigned table, and eating without anyone tugging at your sleeve or requiring you to dash for a roll of paper towels. Just picture it–sitting with several other women who put out almost as many fires as you in order to make it to that table clothed and in somewhat of a right mind, eating food that someone else prepared and knowing that you don’t have to clean up after you eat. It’s downright heavenly.
3. The Community
This is a group of women who are tired like you, overwhelmed like you, and want to survive and thrive as mothers. Over the course of the year, we open up to each other, sharing the nitty-gritty truth about our struggles and realizing that we’re not isolated in our feelings. Some days it’s you being encouraged, and sometimes you’re the one building that other woman up. If you’re a quieter person, that’s ok–you’re welcome to simply sit and be you. Or if you’re like me and can’t keep your mouth shut for long . . . well, you’ll fit right in at my table.
Each month features a speaker who addresses the designated topic with expert advice. Some of my favorites over the years have included a local cooking instructor, moms of older kids sharing their survival secrets from the past, licensed counselors, and that’s just the beginning. While not every talk is applicable (if you know me, you know I avoid cooking at all costs), each one is entertaining, informative, and timely. After the speaker shares, there is time to discuss our thoughts about the topic.
4. The Fun
I’ll admit it, when the Little Butt was littler, the idea of doing a “creative activity” sounded stupid to me. That was before I realized how therapeutic creativity can be. Now I head into the meeting looking forward to whatever our craft might be.
But the fun isn’t confined to whatever we’re doing or making that month. There is laughter. There are chances to meet up outside of meetings, both with and without kids in tow. If you want to pack out your calendar with MOPS activities, there’s something going on almost every week. Or, if you’re like me and are juggling all you can handle, you’ll be warmly welcomed to the one outing you attend.
5. The Themes
As I mentioned in this post, the first year I joined MOPS our theme was “A Beautiful Mess.” Last year we were encouraged to “Be You, Bravely” and throughout the year we discussed ways to embrace our personal stories and grow.
The 2015-2016 theme is “Fiercely Flourishing,” which I found a little odd both in wording and concept. But once we began digging into it, I realized that our three main objectives for this year are golden: to celebrate lavishly, embrace rest, and notice goodness. Especially the embracing rest part. Are you with me?
Hopefully I’ve given you enough reasons to click on over here to the MOPS International site and begin looking for a local group. Do it now. Many groups fill up quickly due to childcare needs, and I’d hate for you to miss out.
And if you’re already part of a group, I’d love to hear about some of your favorite MOPS speakers, activities, or memories in the comments below. Our group is always looking for new ideas.
Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter givaway for a signed copy of MOPS CEO Sherry Surratt’s book Brave Mom (here on Amazon) or the 2015-2016 theme bracelet. (The first name drawn gets to choose which item she would prefer. Due to shipping costs, this raffle is limited to the USA.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway