09/02/09 — Mothers find comfort in group, each other

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Mothers find comfort in group, each other

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 2, 2009 1:46 PM

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Christie Lambert and Melissa Brady laugh together during a Mothers of Preschoolers meeting at Whitley Church in Princeton on Tuesday morning. The group, known as MOPS, was formed so that mothers have a place and people they can turn to for support, friendship and fun.

Motherhood was nothing like Tanya Peck thought it would be.

Sleep deprived, home alone with an infant, she recalls moving from Germany to Virginia, when her military husband left on an assignment. With no family nearby, she felt the isolation that often accompanies being a stay-at-home mom.

That was when she discovered MOPS -- Mothers of Preschoolers -- a program led by mothers and designed to nurture them from the time children are babies until they start school.

"It was just wonderful," she says now. "I actually felt like I was human again. They could relate to what I was going through. Some women don't want to talk about the negative side of being a mom. It was nice to know I was not the only one who felt that way."

Kim Nobles had a similar experience. Except she has been on both sides of the equation, having been a working mom when her first child was born.

Staying at home with her second child, she says, "was not what I was expecting. I had a lot of responsibility in my job.

"I was really looking for support, for women in the same situation I was in. That's hard to find when most women are working. It was an affirmation kind of thing -- I'm just a mom now."

That's exactly why such a group is needed, Mrs. Peck said. So no woman ever feels she's "just" anything.

The only MOPS group in Wayne County began meeting three years ago, at Whitley Church, although participants do not have be a member or even attend church. It's a ministry of the church but it's also an outreach.

The group meets the first and third Tuesday of each month, but also has play dates to incorporate children into the meetings.

Its format centers around socialization and support, with programs featuring discussion topics of interest to mothers. They also do community projects, such as providing car seats and baby items to area agencies.

The local group covers a 25-mile radius, drawing members from as far away as Smithfield and Clayton, says Mrs. Peck, group leader. It has attracted a wide variety of backgrounds, she notes.

"We have women in their early 20s to women in their 40s, women who haven't graduated from high school to an attorney, women who are civilians, work in factories," she said. "But we are all struggling to find out how to be the best wife and parent we can be."

Melody Sheppard considers it worth the drive.

"We had just moved to Johnston County before my son was born," she said. "Nobody else in the church had small children. I sought MOPS out of desperation. You can meet people and get connection with a community."

"That's our hope, that we can help other women get connected to at least one woman," Mrs. Nobles said.

"And if you're having a bad day, then you can call at least one person," said Mrs. Sheppard.

Conversation, encouraging words and exchanging parenting tips are beneficial to all mothers, the women say.

"We have learned a lot from each other, tips on potty training, breastfeeding," said Mrs. Peck.

"Or even just basic functioning -- cleaning, things to keep your child busy, recipes," added Mrs. Nobles.

Often, just comparing notes and adjusting to all the changes that come with having a child can be helpful, said Mrs. Sheppard, who had two children in three years.

"I think it's brought us some great resources," said mom Anna DeVaul, who takes the role a step further, sharing encouraging words on her Facebook page.

Rachelle Odem came to the MOPS group because of Mrs. DeVaul's nudging.

"I was watching Anna's little boy and girl. She had told me about it last year. I had just started going to the church. I have a sick child and was just overwhelmed, afraid his disease would come back," she said. Son Kaden, now 3, had undergone chemotherapy and related treatments.

"But I got in anyway. It made a huge, huge difference. Everyone embraced me and Kaden. When they prayed, I would cry. I just felt like I was being prayed for and Kaden was being prayed for."

That's the way it should be, Mrs. Nobles said -- women helping other women, raising each other up for the journey they're all on.

"My confidence has come back -- my pre-child confidence," she said. "I see the amount I have changed and grown as a mom and as a wife. Sometimes when you're out in public and you see that stay-at-home mom, you think, 'I wonder if she has some support, I wonder if she feels the way I felt.' (At MOPS) they sort of take you in and care for you. I really try to make it an environment where the women come in and feel a sense of family."

"All the moms are looking for friends and connections," said Mrs. Peck. "We want to connect with women, have children for theirs to play with."

For more information on the MOPS group, call 735-5411, ext. 301 or visit www.mops.org or www.whitleychurch.com.