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Advice to new moms: get thee a Mama Tribe

August 23, 2010

Five years ago I shuffled tentatively into Durango’s Family Center to attend the playgroup for parents with children under 6 months old. We new Mamas sat in a circle, nursing our downy-head babies, swabbing at spit up and discussing infant sleep patterns as if they were etched in eternity. I regarded the babies who sat on their diapered haunches–upright!–as exotic prodigies, secretly wondering if my own boy, mired on his back like a beached whale, would ever achieve such mastery over gravity.

Every Thursday morning we met, toting our sling-dwellers and their steamer trunks of necessities into the Family Center. I’d park Col on the rug, my mind fogged with sleeplessness and worry that the stippled rash suddenly blooming on his bottom was the hallmark of some horrible childhood disease. Then some Mama would say something so comforting and funny and true, I’d forget about the rash that, like so many causes of 5-alarm worry, disappeared on its own.

Mariah, Col and Ella grubbing like toddlers at a playgroup picnic, summer 2006.

The same trio, summer 2010

Our babies quickly became toddlers. After a year of drooling side-by-side they began locomoting, snatching each others toys and hoarding engines at the Family Center train table. They learned each others names and had fleeting moments of shared play that us parents excitedly labeled “friendship!”

By the time the playgroup gang turned three, a whole crop of younger siblings were crawling around stuffing their cheeks with wood chips at the Triangle park. The older siblings were suddenly impossibly mature with their long, scabby legs and underpants peeking out over their britches. Where did the time go? Those grannies at the bank, compelled to point out how fast it all goes, were absolutely right.

Col and his buddy Mathew, 2006, when Col was still on oxygen

Col and Mathew, 2010

How lucky we’ve been to have this tribe of families to grow up with. I don’t know who’s benefitted more, me or the kids. Col counts these kids who once slobbered on his oxygen cord as his best buddies, and I feel the same about their mothers. There’s safety in numbers and a pack of moms and kids is always a soothing balm for the diaper rash of motherhood, the kind that flares up under the historically uncommon pairing of a mother and her children alone together.

Col, Mathew and the younger sibs

But what’s itching at me right now is how fast our babies are sailing right into their kindergarten chairs. I distinctly remember admiring Mariah’s head control as her 4-month old noggin teetered perfectly a top her baby neck. Well, Mariah just lost a tooth; Elliot can read; Ella does ballet; Sebastian rides the BMX track; and Mathew, who was late to talk, is now a walking encyclopedia of semi-accurate information.

Today our playgroup includes a brand-spanking June newborn, many of the original 5 year olds, and every age between. Thank you to the Durango Family Center and to all the playgroup kids I’ve known since they were toothless. Thanks to the coffee-swilling Mamas and Ryan (our only stay-at-home dad who can hang in the estrogen-rich environment). Lets all ditch kindergarten Thursdays – see you at the park!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2010 6:53 am

    absolutely beautiful. and SO true!!

    i taught prenatal yoga when i was pregnant with my first and the “yoga mamas” became my tribe. i could never have survived those early years without them!

    “There’s safety in numbers and a pack of moms and kids is always a soothing balm for the diaper rash of motherhood, the kind that flares up under the historically uncommon pairing of a mother and her children alone together.”

    yes! yes! this really struck a chord with me. love how you worded it.



  2. Emily permalink
    August 23, 2010 7:06 am

    “There’s safety in number… historically uncommon…” also spoke to me. Not only am I the second person to comment, but the second person to comment on that phrase! yes! thank you for again putting into words what I can’t say even when face to face with those awesome allo-parents of my own children.


  3. August 23, 2010 10:26 am

    The rash with no name! You’ve nailed it.

  4. Ellen permalink
    August 23, 2010 10:32 am

    Oh dear. Does kindergarten mean the end of the play group?

  5. Karen Rothfus permalink
    August 23, 2010 12:40 pm

    So very true. I started a mothers group when my eldest was just a few months old. Quickly those of us who laughed when our babies popped another little ones binky in their mouth, when it had fallen to the floor, banded together and those who gasped in shock were weeded out :)

    This year those babies will be eighteen and still we are friends. Some of us have gone on to start a bunco group where we can still meet on a regular basis, while some have moved out of state. Yet every day I “speak” and “see” them on the internet. How grateful I am for their friendship although we talk about needing reading glasses, colleges and what we are going to do as a group when we are old. lol.

  6. August 23, 2010 7:34 pm

    Yes, yes, yes. This could not be more true. I too started meeting with a moms’ group when my oldest was small (very small–about seven weeks), and I continued for two years until we moved to a different country. Over this past year I’ve really started to solidify my new “tribe,” and it’s like water in the desert–I cannot get enough of these mamas.

    How nice for you to have the same tribe from birth through kindergarten. I hope not to move again, if for the sole reason that I want to keep my mama tribe.

  7. Sara permalink
    August 24, 2010 7:34 am

    Power-filled and oozing with the kind of love we are all attached to… the energy of community. We all want to be loved and heard and here you explain that in a way that truly touched me. Thank you for that. May you always share your wisdom. The world is calling for it.

  8. August 24, 2010 11:20 am

    As a mom of four, I couldn’t agree more with this advice. When my oldest was born I didn’t know many parents with babies. Connecting with other moms was invaluable.

  9. August 24, 2010 12:09 pm

    I loved this….. I see we’ve both got boys starting a new adventure :)

  10. August 25, 2010 10:15 am

    I wish I had a playgroup with mamas and babies who are as close as the ones you described here. These bonds, between parents and babies, are so precious that I hope to be able to create them for my little girl. And for me.

  11. August 25, 2010 11:04 pm

    A+ would read again

  12. ell.uu permalink
    August 28, 2010 10:51 pm

    absolutely! I have been blessed with an amazing sisterhood of mamafriends since becoming a mom. I have the most wonderful tribe and would not survive motherhood without them.

    • 6512 and growing permalink*
      August 29, 2010 9:42 pm

      Right! It’s a matter of survival.

  13. Sheryl permalink
    September 2, 2010 11:46 am

    Rachel- So so sweet. I have been wanting to get on and read this for a while now, so glad i did today.
    Thanks for all your sweetness, all your stories and all that you do. We are so lucky to get to share in your world through your blog! Thanks.

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