By TIFFANY RONEY
Sticky fingers, screaming mouths and legs that run faster than their mothers can catch - these elements are all part of being a parent. Babies and young children can drive mothers a little crazy, which is why a local group aims to bring community and support to the mothers of little ones.
MOPS, Mothers of Preschoolers, is an international organization with more than 5,000 members that uses local groups to “celebrate the joys of motherhood and to encourage each other through the challenges,” according to MOPS’ website, www.mops.org.
Laressa Nordgren, member of MOPS, said she enjoys the group because it provides an opportunity to connect with other mothers who are in similar places in their lives.
“If they call and I’ve got a screaming kid, they’re like, ‘Oh, I understand,’” Nordgren said. “I think that helps out a lot, to not feel like you’re going through something alone. You can talk about it. If one of your kids doesn’t want to potty train, well, there’s a mom out there who’s got that, too. It’s nice to know that there’s a group you can go to that knows what you’re going through.”
Nordgren experienced this support not only for common parenting problems like potty training and picky eating. She also received support from MOPS when she and her family went through a tragedy.
Trial by fire
The Nordgrens moved to Abilene in August 2012. Less than a week after moving to town a fire destroyed many of their possessions and rendered them homeless. Like mothers who hear their children cry, MOPS members heard of the need and responded with open arms.
“I had already looked at their MOPS (Facebook) page before we moved here and said, ‘Hey, we’re moving to town, awesome, I’m excited to be a part of MOPS since I’ve been a part of MOPS a couple years back.’ So when we got there, I wrote some other (message) like, ‘I’m sorry you guys don’t know me, but we just had a house fire and I just wanted to know if anyone could help me,’” Nordgren said. “I had probably 20 phone calls that morning and responses on Facebook. ‘I’ve got a washing machine if you need to come wash clothes.’ Someone had some pots and pans they gave to me. They brought me some meals. Someone actually gaveus a house to live in for a month.”
Jenn Frey, social media publicist for the local MOPS group, said she appreciated how Nordgren was able to jump in and receive immediate help.
“It was amazing to see how many people responded so quickly, to the point where I was maybe third to offer help (on Facebook), and she didn’t even get to calling me,” Frey said.
One year later, Nordgren said she looks back on MOP members’ helpfulness with a thankful heart.
“That fire happened on Aug. 8th, so on Aug. 8th, I got back and looked at it, and I didn’t remember who had done what because now I know these people and that year they were strangers to me,” Nordgren said. “It was really neat to see them step out and help someone they didn’t know just because I was a fellow MOP – mom of a preschooler.”
Strengthened to serve
After getting settled into a fire-free home, Nordgren had her third child and received help from MOPS once again.
Whenever a member has a new baby, members cook and deliver meals for the family. When Javan, now 8 months, was born, MOPS members took the Nordgrens frozen casseroles and homemade bread.
Since then, Nordgren has had the opportunity to give back to other new mothers.
“At first I was like, ‘Oh, it’s got to be some big elaborate meal; I can’t do this,’ and then I realized that usually people just brought a main dish and maybe a side dish or a dessert, not the whole course, and I was like, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” Nordgren said. “I’ve had a lot of fun getting to make meals for other moms.”
Emily Engle, co-coordinator of the local MOPS group, said MOPS serves as a support system for many types of mothers including Army wives.
“You move in and you don’t know anybody … so if they’re brave enough to come and try it out, it’s such a warm and understanding group,” Engle said. “If you have spit-up on your shirt, everyone’s going to go, ‘I know.’ Or if you just look a mess, everybody gets it. We feel like we’re a great place for military moms to come.”
Frey said MOPS recently stepped in for a military mom living in Enterprise.
“Her husband just deployed two weeks ago and she posted on (MOPS’ Facebook page) that she needed some people (to spend time with),” Frey said. “She’s already gotten involved with walking with us and with the community of MOPS.”
MOPS members give to one another through acts of service, like meal preparation for new moms, and through handy gifts, like used strollers posted on MOPS’ Facebook page. Engle said MOPS members recognize the value not only of practical necessities for one another but also of time to simply hang out with other mothers.
“The nice thing about those girls is if they know that somebody needs something, they’re so quick to help out, even if that need is just someone to spend time with,” Engle said. “They’re excited to spend time with another adult during the day because you don’t see a lot of adults during your day. So it’s really nice to get some time with another grown-up when you’re used to kiddos all day long.”
Open to all
In addition to nourishment in time of need and sociability in times of seclusion, MOPS offers bi-weekly meetings with brunch, a speaker, Pinterest-like craft projects and free childcare with preschool-style activities. Alongside bi-weekly meetings, MOPS members can participate in mentoring relationships and leadership opportunities.
Additionally, the group occasionally coordinates Mommies Night Out events, wherein members meet up at local restaurants for an evening without children. Every February, MOPS hosts Mops and Pops Date Night: an evening of husband time, bunko games, prizes and free childcare.
MOPS first local meeting of the 2013-2014 school year will be held from 8:45 – 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 1300 N. Vine Street. For more information, search “Abilene Kansas MOPS” on Facebook.com.
“The first meeting is the perfect place to come for the first time because there’s a lot of new people for the first one, so they wouldn’t be the only one,” Engle said. “I always try to encourage girls, ‘Just come. Come two or three times and you’ll feel like you belong.’ When I moved to Abilene, I didn’t know anybody, so MOPS is where I found my friends.”