How to Start an Online Mom’s Group
Missing the company of other new moms? Our resident writer shares her tips for starting an online mothers’ group
Having given birth last fall, I was fortunate enough as a first time mother to be able to attend two different in-person Mommy and Me classes, the second of which held its final two sessions via Zoom. For mothers who are privileged enough to have the means and access, Mommy and Me is a right of passage. It’s where many women meet lifelong mom friends. For many new moms, it’s a reason to put on pants (albeit stretchy ones) and leave the house during those first few months.
Depending on the program and leader, Mommy and Me can look really different. Some leaders prefer a structured class with lectures that provide information on feeding, sleeping, and child development. Others offer a looser organization centered around peer led discussion and sharing. Both approaches can be valuable depending on what you need postpartum, but the main goal is to learn, share and connect with other new moms. I’ve experienced both types and, honestly, the best part was always getting coffee and catching up with the other moms afterwards.
After months of weekly classes, I started to wonder why I was forking over hundreds of dollars for these sessions if what I most looked forward to was free –– and then COVID happened.
The Mommy and Me I had been attending weekly for two months was continuing to meet virtually but it just didn’t feel the same. So, I went rogue. I decided to put together my own weekly virtual Mommy and Me gathering at the onset of the pandemic. Almost three months later, we’re still going strong. Here’s how I did it:
Gather A Solid Group
This is the best part about starting a virtual Mommy & Me. You can cherry pick a handful of really amazing, intelligent women to share an hour and a half of my week. With location no longer a constraint I opened the group up to friends (and friends of friends) who lived out of state. It’s been great to get perspectives from different parts of the country during such an intense time.
Though it’s tempting to invite anyone you love with a baby, it’s important to keep it to moms with babies within a relative age range. The experiences and issues concerning a newborn are really different than a six-month old. It’s helpful for discussions to stay on topic and be of value and relevance when the babies are all going through the same thing at the same time. It’s also nice to have a small range in age for moms of older babies to offer hindsight to those who aren’t as far along with perspective and recent experience.
One other thing to consider is size of the group. Don’t be afraid to bloat your roster a little. Not everyone will be able to make it to every session, or even for the whole time. Having a few extra moms on deck will ensure you always have enough people to make it count.
Pick A Convenient Time
One of the hardest things about planning anything, virtual or in-person, is finding the right time. This is where having babies the same age also helps. The nap schedule is nothing to mess with, and when everyone is relatively at the same stage, naps typically happen around the same time. We chose a window of 12 – 1:30pm. I say a window because it’s open house style. Moms can come for the whole hour and a half or drop in for a quick ten minutes just to say hi.
We also decided that weekends were the best time to accommodate working moms. I chose Sundays because they seem to be slower. Also, it’s a nice way to open/close a week.
Set Your Rules (Or Lack Thereof)
You’ll need to decide how structured meetings should be. Will someone be leading the group in discussion? Will there be reading or topics established ahead of time? Or, is this really just time to catch up and gab with other moms who get it? There is no right way to organize your Mommy and Me. I decided to have topics planned for the first few sessions in case there were awkward lulls, but wanted to follow the lead of the group. Everyone had plenty to discuss and took turns bringing up topics, so I decided to not implement structure to my group.
It’s also a good idea to decide if babies and kids are allowed. For us, it’s allowed and encouraged, but many moms use the time as a break from their baby to connect with other adults. I usually have my baby with me, but will usually have my husband take him for a bit when he gets fussy and needs a change of scenery.
Get Your Tech Together
You don’t need to be a computer whiz, but leveraging some everyday virtual communication tools can make the experience better. Choose a video conferencing client like Google Meeting or Facetime. Create an account and set up a recurring meeting for your chosen day and time.
Consider creating a complementary recurring calendar invite with all the info, including the video meeting link. This is super helpful for everyone to have the meeting on their calendars, receive reminder notifications, and won’t need to go digging through their inbox to find the link. When you make a calendar invite, it also gives you the ability to easily email all the attendees at once if you need to cancel or start late.
Above all, be flexible and don’t be discouraged if only a couple people at a time can make it. It’s still fun and valuable time spent no matter who shows up.
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