It’s a universal fact that mothers of small children tend to be strapped in the time-for-themselves department. Why not band together with your friends so more of you can get a break more often?
That’s what Philadelphia native Chamor Thomas did when she needed a few hours away from her one-year-old and three-year-old. “I have a core group of moms I feel comfortable with, and I’ve definitely relied on friends so I could take some time for myself,” says Thomas, who recently founded the local mom community Mama’s Mark.
Thomas came up with the idea for a self-care club for moms as a community-based alternative to traditional babysitters, which can be costly and sometimes tough to book. It’s kind of like a playgroup—but at each gathering, one or two of the moms can leave and go do her own thing while the other moms hang out with the kids. Here’s how you and your friends can give it a try.
8 Steps to Start a Self-Care Club
1. Start small.
Your club should be intimate enough where it’s easy for everyone to gather for a playgroup, but not so small that a meeting would fall apart if one or two people couldn’t make it. Five to eight moms is a good place to start. Don’t all know each other already? Consider having everyone fill out a short Q&A to share a little bit about themselves and their kid(s). In addition to the basics like your name, address, and your kids’ names and ages, “it could mention kids’ food allergies or other special needs, if a mom is CPR certified, and what the mom’s hobbies are,” Thomas says.
2. Set fixed playdates.
Your group might opt to meet, say, every Tuesday morning, or the first Saturday afternoon of each month. Whatever you decide, pick a regular time that works for everyone and put the dates on a shared calendar. Set firm start and end times too.
3. Find a meeting space.
Small groups could gather in people’s homes, rotating each month so no one mom has to host too often. Prefer to gather out and about? Local playspaces, VFW halls, YMCAs, or even houses or worship might be willing to host groups. Parks and playgrounds can be good options for warm weather, too.
Drying your hands is as important as washing them. Wet hands transmit bacteria more easily, so especially during cold and flu season, take the time to dry them thoroughly.
4. Give each mom equal time off.
For each playgroup meeting, one or two moms can take off while the others watch the kid(s) at the playgroup. You can pick names out of a hat to decide the order of who goes when, or have moms choose based on what works or them. Whatever your method, just make sure everyone get equal opportunities to take off—the same few people shouldn’t be dropping off their kids every week. “Keep a calendar to track when each mom has a turn,” Thomas says.
5. Establish a leader.
Pick one mom to be in charge of maintaining the schedule, sending out announcements, and taking care of other housekeeping issues. If it’s too much for one person, consider rotating leadership duties on a quarterly basis.
6. Set some ground rules.
Having a few basic policies in place can help you feel comfortable about leaving your little one with friends. For instance:
- The moms who go out should let the group know where they’ll be and when they’ll be back. Emergency contact info is a must, too.
- Establish a photo and social media policy that everyone is comfortable with. Not everyone wants pictures of their kid posted on Facebook without consent.
- New members have to be vetted by the group before being allowed to join. (More on that in a sec.)
7. Be a little exclusive.
Together, decide on if the group should admit new members and how they’ll be vetted. Maybe moms can only join if they’re referred by a current member, Thomas says.
8. Keep in touch.
But consider setting up a private group on Facebook or WhatsApp instead of relying on the oft-dreaded group text. You can use the group to post announcements about upcoming meetings, but it’s also a fun way to share updates about what’s going on with you and your kids, throw out crowdsource-able questions (which sneakers won’t fall apart at the playground? Does anyone know if library storytime is on for today?), or just vent about the #momlife. “All of us moms are thinking about the same things,” Thomas says. “You don’t always realize there’s a whole group of women who feel the same way as you.”
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