It seems like a miracle if your shirt is free of baby spit-up or you successfully manage to get in and out of the car without a single fuss. No, it’s not just one hectic day you’re counting down the hours to get through; it’s the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week life of a mom.
The best part? You’re not alone, and Mothers of Preschoolers is the ticket to keeping your sanity. Twice a month, the Columbia chapter of MOPS meets at the Missouri United Methodist Church for a few hours of socializing, moral support and faith-based advice.
“Sometimes moms go the whole day without talking to another adult until their husband gets home,” Mandi Godec, MOPS co-coordinator, says. “You don’t realize how lonely it is.”
This group offers women the opportunity to meet other moms who have similar lifestyles and encounter the same ups and downs during their days. Each meeting, MOPS hosts a speaker who talks to the women about prevalent subjects, including parenting, marriage, finances and even fun holiday party ideas. Afterward, the women are broken up into small groups in which a leader facilitates more intimate conversations, giving more reserved moms the opportunity to share and ask questions. The meetings are capped off with a devotion lead by mentor moms.
“It’s nice that this is a Christian-focused group because you know everyone is on the same page about how they want to raise their children and can relate about daily challenges,” Godec says.
Although MOPS is centered on mothers who have newborns to kindergarteners, some members have yet to graduate even after 10 years in the group.
“My kids are 10, 8, 5 and 1,” says veteran MOPS-goer Jennifer Griffith. “So, technically, I can still come.”
Just like Griffith, Kelli Thomas is another decade-long MOPS attendee. “I love that it gives me a chance to grow with other women,” she says. “I have a chance to have a break and focus on being a better mom and a better friend. That’s why I keep coming back.”
Thomas and her best friend met in MOPS years ago, and they are still close friends today. Their daughters, who met in MOPPETS, the child care during MOPS meetings, are also friends. Even though they attend different schools, the group serves as a connection outside of an educational structure. In addition to organized meetings, the women also participate in Bunko groups, book clubs and Bible studies that have formed as accessories of MOPS.
The calm after the storm
The ambience at the beginning of the MOPS meeting is much like a day care or preschool drop-off. One mom after the other comes in through the Whittler Worship Hall doors, some with four or five kids in tow, others with one child. Little ones are running around, small groups are gathered on the floor playing with toys they brought from home, and some children even cling to their mother’s leg because they are afraid to leave her side. But once the kids are dropped off in their respective MOPPETS rooms, it’s obvious the moms begin to relish these few hours.
Beyond the everyday, unconditional love these moms give their kids and the endless hours the women spend nurturing their little ones’ needs lies the truth about every good mother: Sometimes, you just need a little time for yourself.
“I always feel revitalized after I come here,” Thomas says.
Something old and something new
Before the structural meeting beings, the moms talk quietly amongst themselves at tables and make sure to mingle with members new and old. Abby Wehmeyer, a first-year MOPS mom, chats with her neighbor as she enjoys homemade treats brought by some of the members. With a 6-week-old baby, Wehmeyer decided to join her sister-in-law and friends at the meeting.
“I knew about the organization with my first daughter, but I never took advantage of the opportunity to join,” she says. “With my second child, it will give me an opportunity to meet new moms, be active in my community and form new friendships.”
Thomas, Griffith and a few other women are designated as mentor moms to be a support system for members, such as Wehmeyer, who have recently joined or become a new mother. They are the “been there, done that” kind of moms, according to Thomas.
From an outside perspective, it’s impossible to tell which moms are veterans and who is attending a meeting for the first time. It’s a community of women — and, more importantly, a community of moms.