At our company, Sleepy Planet Parenting, we have been offering mom groups for almost twenty years. In that span of nearly two decades, we have created a space where women gather together weekly to navigate perhaps the most important, baffling, and love-filled journey they will ever undertake: motherhood. In group, we talk about not only the nuts and bolts of parenting – including sleep, nutrition, and development – but also a mom’s ever-shifting identity, how being a parent affects the couple relationship, the endless struggle to balance work and home life for those who work in addition to being a mom, and much more. Our intention is to offer a nurturing space where moms receive guidance and information, support and encouragement, and the benefit of the wisdom of other moms right there in the trenches with you.
We aim to create a version of that proverbial village that it takes to raise a small human being, because no mom can do it all on her own.
This is mom group. If you’ve never been part of one, maybe this description doesn’t fit what you imagined it to be. Maybe you thought mom group was a place where moms compared cute baby outfits or where class time was spent singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and other kid classics. Our groups do include those things, too – it’s hard not to ooh and ah over baby Uggs! – but the heart of the group experience is much deeper and broader, and many groups extend years beyond babyhood. The discussions in our groups are as rich and complex as the moms who attend them.
The grandmothers we know marvel at the idea that a mom can have somewhere to go to connect this way; most in prior generations didn’t have this gift (though they did usually live closer to their own mothers, aunties, and other family members who could lend a hand or offer advice, for better and worse). In fact, there are still lots of moms today who either don’t have access to a mom group or choose not to join. This is really unfortunate, because aside from often feeling isolated and alone in motherhood, they are missing out on something key that can make all the difference in a mom’s confidence in her ability to be the best mom she can to her child. That key isn’t the subjects that are discussed in group, the guidance offered, or the friendships that form – though those are all beneficial in their own way. It isn’t even the gift of getting to hear each mom’s own personal story, or tell your own.
The magic of mom group lies in the sisterhood and camaraderie that develop as each mom courageously shares her vulnerability, raw emotion, and truth about her own experience. Over time, as each mom comes to realize that group is a safe space to be and express all that she is, the sum becomes greater than the parts.
The environment of safety and trust helps allow each mom to find her own instincts, voice and path as a mother – not only in group but outside of it. With her tribe behind her, both she and her child thrive.
If you caught the first episode of our new TV show, “There Goes the Motherhood,” last night on Bravo, you saw that it was clear that what the moms in group on the show want more than anything is exactly that: for their children to thrive in every way. The moms on the show, like all moms, would do absolutely anything to make that happen. Mom group is a place where each mom can gather what she needs to accomplish those goals. It’s a place where she can craft and fine-tune her family mission statements, written from her heart. Group is a kind of “mommy think tank” where each mom can openly express her ideas and feelings about the roles of mom and woman, co-parenting with someone you don’t always like and whose parenting ideas may feel vastly different from your own, and the messaging and modeling she wants to give to her children. As group leaders, we can point out where a mom might be missing an important insight about herself or her family, or how her own childhood may be causing her to respond to a particular situation in a way that is not serving her. We may challenge her to stretch, but we won’t let her fall.
Just as in our groups in Los Angeles, there are some common threads in group over the eight episodes of this first season of the show – some heartwarming, some heartbreaking. An example of the latter is the myth of the independent, uber-capable mother who can raise perfectly well behaved kids, schlep those kids all over creation on a daily basis, run the household, be a significant contributor in her career of choice, both nurture and sexually charm her partner, remember to send her mother-in-law’s favorite flowers on her birthday, and be a social butterfly – not to mention look amazing doing it all. The more accurate reality is that this mother is up all hours with her little night owl and still wakes bright and early to get him to school or go to work – but she is still expected to have the body of a supermodel and the cooking skills of a five-star chef. Is it any wonder the moms in our groups are often anxious and overwhelmed, wondering how they are the only ones failing at this impossible mission?
They aren’t, of course, and we are only too happy to deliver that news. Drawing on our graduate work in child development and family systems as well as our years of experience in working with tens of thousands of families, we help moms find their own truths about motherhood, their own intuition and parenting style. We help connect them to the choices and decisions that feel best to them, for each mom is the only true expert on her own child and family. And perhaps most of all, we remind her that moms need each other – to lend an ear, bounce an idea, laugh or cry, celebrate or vent.
We have often wished that we could include every mom in these magical conversations that allow women to express their deepest truths, learn from one another and feel a little bit less alone in the parenting journey. “There Goes the Motherhood” is that dream come to life, and we are giddy with excitement! We feel incredibly blessed to have a way to share our offerings with moms everywhere – and dads, grandparents, and just about everyone else whose lives intersect with moms and families, too.
Everyone is a mother, has a mother, or knows a mother – and we all have important contributions to make in this conversation about what moms need to do their best.
Wherever in the world you live, if you are a mom you have a built-in sisterhood of mothers everywhere. The experiences and circumstances of each mom may vary widely, but what every mom shares is a love for her child that is unsurpassed, and a desire to raise a happy, healthy child. Our ongoing mission is to continue to help nurture the sisterhood in motherhood so that moms can feel united and supported in their common goals, rather than isolated and judged. Here’s to celebrating the tribe!
“There Goes the Motherhood” airs on Bravo each Wednesday at 10/9c, and follows six moms through an eight-week parenting group led by Jill. For more information, please visit sleepyplanet.com.
Jill Spivack, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist. Jennifer Waldburger, MSW, is a meditation and mindfulness teacher. Jill and Jennifer are co-founders of Sleepy Planet Parenting, where they draw from their background in child development and family systems to offer groups and private sessions that help families thrive. Their publications include The Sleepeasy Solution and Calm Mama, Happy Baby.” Please visit sleepyplanet.com or find us on Facebook or Twitter.