The New West Moms Group: Finding info, support and friendship on Facebook

Chalk art illustrating the love of the NWMG (New West Moms Group) on Facebook. At almost a thousand members, the women-only group is a dynamic source of information, support and friendship in New West.
Chalk art illustrating the love of the NWMG (New West Moms Group) on Facebook. At almost a thousand members, the women-only group is a dynamic source of information, support and friendship in New West.

When my first child was born, I was the first of my friends and family to have a baby. After he was born, I found myself lost in a sea of questions about what to do, when to do it, and if I was doing it “right.” I tried the local Baby Talk program (run by Fraser Health) but I had a hard time connecting with the mothers there. I took my baby on long walks and out to playdates, but I just couldn’t seem to click with any of the mamas I met.

I found comfort in blogs like Ask Moxie. Reading the comments to Moxie’s posts about baby sleep (and lack thereof) reassured me that what I was experiencing was challenging, but totally normal, but I couldn’t seem to find anyone in New West who would admit to having any of the challenges I was struggling with. It took me over a year to find local mommy friends who I could relate to.

The latest wave of New West mamas has an advantage I didn’t have: The New West Moms Group on Facebook. The NWMG is now almost 1000-strong, and includes ladies from New West as well as those who just like to spend time here. Participants discuss everything from decoding weird baby rashes, to family vacation recommendations, to sleep training, to finding nursing-friendly clothing that doesn’t suck. Sometimes the discussion gets rowdy, as when sharing hot photos of a mostly naked Channing Tatum, asking for opinions on sleep training, or questioning why it is so hard to befriend other moms at Motoring Munchkins. But even when the conversation turns controversial, the tone remains friendly and supportive. I am sure this is in good part due to the steady hand of the group’s moderators, who have established and (importantly) enforced clear rules of conduct.

The NWMG has such a strong sense of identity that they have created buttons for members to wear in order to recognize each other around town. And group member and local crafter Allison Baird of Ribbons and Threads has produced and sold custom T-shirts for NWMG members. The buttons and shirts are often available at fellow NWMG member Alicia Mahoney’s business Shnoo And the Pachooch (a boutique toy store at River Market).

I asked some of the mamas to share what they like about the group, and here are some of their answers:

“I love the community that the NWMG provides. Laughs, support, provisions, information, you need it, it’s here. As a first-time mom at 30, I was more than a bit nervous. But all through my pregnancy, I had resources, supplies, support and advice right at my fingertips.” – Jen ‘Jazz’ Phillips

“What I like about NWMG is everyone has a way of making me feel normal…. Whether I’m losing my mind over my kids, husband, or family in general, I find I’m not alone in feeling that way. Someone else is always going thru it too, or has in the past.” – Shannon Holt

“This group reminds me that I am normal. And also gives me an outlet that I can get opinions on the not so normal and not have to worry about being overly judged. I also appreciate the bold honesty that comes from some. It may not be what I WANT to hear, but it is what I NEED to hear!” – Stacey Sweet

“Being new to NW, this group helped me become part of the community. I feel I belong here now 🙂 – Julia Klymenko

“This group is the opposite of mommy wars. It’s amazing how supportive everyone is of each other even when we don’t necessarily agree on the best way to raise our littles. One of the most frequent comments I see is, ‘You know your child best.’ Awesome!” – Jocelyn Smith

“I love being a mother to my two boys, but it can be isolating at times, especially since the bulk of our friends and family are out East. As the saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ NWMG, I think, has become ‘the village’ for many of its members. I don’t know what I would do without that village!” – Diane Duflot

 

For me, I have found so many rich opportunities through the group. Questions get answered, complaints find sympathy, cries of despair win gentle words of support, and – my favourite part – new doors open. For me, I have already found a few moms who share my interest in community activism and politics, a few more to sing with, a few to write with, and a whole bunch to swap recipes with in the spinoff group I created, New West Cooks.

The NWMG is probably just one of many interesting semi-private groups on Facebook. Do you know of any others?

Need a break from the Goo Goo Ga Ga?

Although there are a lot of children in New Westminster, it can be hard for new parents and newcomers to our city to meet other parents and establish a network for social interaction and support. During the summer it’s not so hard – just head out to your local park, the Queens Park spray park or Grimston Park wading pool and you’ll find a ton of parents with their kids.

During the cold, wet winter months, it’s more complicated. While there are a number of well-established local parenting groups, a lot of information isn’t yet online, and most of our groups are not affiliated with well-known national programs. When Googling for information La Leche League, for example, parents have to turn to neighbouring municipalities because there is no representation in New West. 

Some local parents are stepping up to create the parenting communities they seek. Jen from The Arbolog, for example, has created a new Facebook group for parents in New Westminster to “swap, buy, sell, give away, chit chat, and compare notes.”

As Jen wrote in an email to me today:

“The sad thing is there are hardly any parent type resources. I learned the closest La Leche League is deep dark Poco or into Vancouver, so other than the Family Place and the Mom’s morning thing at Olivet Baptist I haven’t found hardly any! I also look at www.yoyomama.ca a lot. Even though its sort of Vancouver-centric they do list NW a lot.”

After our son Wesley was born, I attended the Public Health-sponsored Baby Talk program at Centennial Community Centre (Wednesdays, 1-3pm), for instance. The program is geared towards new parents (though it is mostly moms), and includes a speaker on a parenting-related topic and social time for parents and babies. I didn’t meet a kindred spirit through the program, but it was great to check in with the public health nurses, weigh my baby and just plain get out of the house.

It was through Baby Talk that I learned West Coast College of Massage Therapy occasionally has free baby massage classes for parents. I can’t find any information about it online, but if it interests you, give them a call and ask if/when they’ll be offering it again. When I went, it was loads of fun. I’ve never seen so many babies in one room!

I also attended Olivet’s Mom’s Daybreak group a few times. I had a good time, and they have the HUGE bonus of providing free childcare for the duration. Unlike most other groups, the point is not for you to socialize your child, but rather to get a break and have some adult conversation! Olivet’s group also has speakers and craft sessions to keep things interesting. They are not especially ‘churchy’, although when I attended they did include a short Bible story session. Despite this, I felt no obligation to attend the church or even be a Christian to participate.

The Family Services of Greater Vancouver site lists a bunch of parenting resources for our community. There are drop-in programs in pretty much every community centre for parents of kids under the age of six, plus some interesting specialized programs. Running quickly through the list, a lot of programs seem to be targeted at Aboriginal parents, and also single parents and teen parents.

Some programs that I haven’t experienced personally, but which sound interesting are:

 As I was doing some research for this post, I came across the Tiny Tots Coupon Book again, which is like an Entertainment Book for parents of young children. Little did I know – the ladies behind the Tiny Tots book are based right here in New Westminster! You can buy the Tiny Tots Coupon Book at Dimpleskins and Pedagogy Toys in Sapperton.