Becoming a stay at home mom was the first time I didn’t have friends forced on me. In high school and college, I saw the same people every day in my classes, so just figured why not make friends? I did not want to be that one awkward person in the cafeteria who’s hovering over a half-eaten sandwich and reading a textbook with bated breath. After grad school I got a “big girl job” and spent the entire day perched at my desk where I was literally surrounded by wonderful people who were eager to offer support and advice. As annoying as that was, I decided it wouldn’t kill me to make a few friends. Surprisingly, the popularity of a child protection worker ranks right up there with telemarketer and tax collector. The stress of the job forced workers to band together for sanity, validation, and support. I looked forward to the day when I would become a mother and be able to relax at home all day (seriously, that’s what I thought I’d be doing).
So we had little Co and all my dreams came true. For the first few months I ‘relaxed’ at home mopping up the mess that kept spewing from this angelic being, stuffing my face, and binge watching the Bachelorette (did Kaitlyn seriously just have sex with Nick!?!?). 74 days later, we left our comfortable friendships and supportive family to pursue a life in Howard County, Maryland (AKA HoCo). Somewhere around this time, relaxing at home with my BFF/ baby Co stopped being so relaxing and started to feel a little isolating. Thats when I came across this amusing article, 10 Rules for Membership in My Mom Tribe on Scary Mommy and it all clicked. I needed to have more fulfilling conversations. Ones that didn’t involve repeating the same syllables half a dozen times and making farting noises with my mouth. For the first time in my life, it was completely up to me to form a tribe with other members of the parent culture.
This seemed like a slightly daunting task given the roughly 287,085 people within HoCo’s 253 square miles compared to Strafford County, NH, (our previous home) which has roughly 123,143 people within its 384 square miles (according to Wiki). After six months of intense research observing the HoCo parents in their natural habitat, I have discovered great resources for following their migratory patterns and prime opportunities to stage meetings. I can’t say baby Co and I have a fully formed tribe after just six months, but we are meeting a lot of people who can relate to ‘our situation’ and we are having a lot of fun along the way. In case you were wondering… these are not groups or places that have given me money, or gifts, or cookies to promote them (but how awesome would that be!?) and I’m sure they have no clue that I am doing so.
- Meetup is a very popular way to join local parents at various events. Howard County Parents Of Little Ones (HoCo POLO), is free for parents due to local sponsors who cover the annual costs of hosting the site for the opportunity to offer the parents information on programming for their children. Another local group, Columbia Moms, involves a $12/ year fee and offers regular opportunities for local walks and small group socialization.
- Columbia Families In Nature (CFIN) has a website and a Facebook page where they offer weekly outings that emphasize play and education in and about nature. What I really like about this group is that they have a smaller group of “seedling” events specifically designed for babies through age two.
- Facebook is generally a great way to learn about events and resources in the area. Some of the Facebook pages I have found useful are the Columbia Moms Group, Macaroni Kid, Howard County Moms, Howard County Moms Talk About It, Howard County Mom Hub, 365 Things To Do In Howard County MD, Local Kids Day Out, Howard County Recreation and Parks, Howard County Toddler Playgroups.
- There are several options in Columbia, MD for paid structured classes with the littles. Gymboree has various class options including play and learn, music, art, sports, family fun, and school skills as well as opportunity for free play with equipment that is safe for infants and young toddlers. Similarly, My Gym offers weekly classes that incorporate music, dance, games, and free play to support overall development in a setting that provides equipment geared toward slightly older toddlers and preschoolers. Kindermusik is a weekly music class that includes song, dance, imaginative adventures, playing instruments, and reading stories that is well suited for young babies and toddlers. Music Together is a more formal parent-child music class offered through the Olenka School of Music where sheet music is provided and the focus is on developing a basic understanding of music (notes, melodies, rhythms). Musik Garten is a more casual music class for infants and preschoolers that focuses more on having fun with music (such as though singing silly songs). The Yoga Center of Columbia offers drop in classes or full session options for every stage, age and ability. The Happy Yogi offers both prenatal and mommy and me yoga classes in a smaller class setting. My Spanish Academy, in historic Ellicott City, has classes for 0-2 (Hola Bebe) all the way though 15+ (Adultos). MANY OF THESE PROGRAMS OFFER A FREE TRIAL CLASS!
- There are also a few groups/programs I am aware of that offer parent/ family support. Healthy Families is a program that offers support to first-time parents from prenatal through the first three months. Parents as Teachers offers in-home support to educate and support parents in their roles as their child’s first teacher. La Leche League has a chapter that offers breast feeding support group meetings in Columbia.
- The Columbia Association offers (for a cost) a full list activities in addition to 3 fitness gyms with childcare: Columbia Athletic Club, Columbia Gym and Supreme Sports Club with 4 indoor swimming pools and 23 outdoor swimming pools including two Mini WaterParks • Columbia Art Center • Columbia DogPark • Columbia Ice Rink • Columbia SportsPark and SkatePark • Fairway Hills Golf Club • Haven on the Lake • Youth/Teen Center at The Barn. It’s worth noting that these activities are mostly geared toward older children, preschool and up, and membership requires a contract that you can not get out of even if your child is not responding well to the program. Other popular options for fitness facilities include Life Time fitness in Columbia and the YMCA in Ellicott City. In the summer, many parents have talked about the Roger Carter Community Center for their indoor/ outdoor pool, which has a $5 drop in fee.
- There are a few websites/email lists that will keep you informed of local happenings if you are just looking to get out of the house. Baltimore’s Child has become one of my go to magazines for events and entertainment! The best part is that the full monthly issue is available online (scroll to the bottom of their website where it says “our digital magazine… read online now). Totally Hoco lists a lot of local community events and offers an email list. Chesapeake Family Magazine usually advertises events a little bit further away, but I sometimes find gems in their monthly email. The Columbia Flyer is our local newspaper and usually lists the week’s events just before their sports section.
- The Robinson Nature Center is a great resource as it offers a children’s discovery room with activities and live aquatic animals and reptiles, interactive exhibits, a domed theatre, an outdoor play area, trails, and scheduled events. The cost is $5 per adult and $3 for children older than 3 (Wednesdays are no longer free).
- The Howard County Library System offers daily classes and events throughout its various branch locations, including the very popular Play Parters: stories, games, and activities for infant through 23 months.
- The MOMS Club and MOPS are both support groups for stay at home moms. The groups provide opportunities for regular meetings, play dates, and moms nights out with a small, consistent group of local moms who have young children. Both groups have local chapters in Howard County.
So there it is, what I believe to be a stellar list of resources. Probably not every resource. I would love to hear more in the comments section of this post! After all, the point is to help and support each other on this crazy journey of parenting.