By Lauren Deal
If you were to ask an average Middle Georgia mom where she turns for parenting advice, friendship, and support, she’d probably tell you about MAMA. She isn’t talking about her own mother (although she’s glad to have her, too), she’s talking about Moms Around Macon Area, a support group for mothers of growing children.
Bobbie Hyun started MAMA as an online community with its own Facebook page.
“I created it in April of 2012, when my first [child] was just a few months old,” Bobbie explains, “I didn’t have any friends with kids around and I was eager to find someone to connect with. I searched for groups but at the time, I couldn’t find anything that fit.”
At the time, all of Macon’s support groups for mothers were narrowly targeted to specific situations: “One group was a group for homeschoolers, another was for moms of daughters only.” Bobbie didn’t fit the criteria to join these groups.
“I decided to try creating my own group, so I started a Facebook page and advertised it on Craigslist. I wanted a place that all moms, regardless of their age or that of their children, could come together and connect with other local moms. Within a month, we moved to a group format and it grew rapidly from there,” she says.
One of the best features of MAMA is that there is a Facebook page where mothers can post their questions, concerns, or ideas, and get feedback from other local mothers. Moms form friendships in this online forum, and many become friends offline. MAMA also has a thriving social community, with group meet-ups for moms and their children to get together at playgrounds, libraries, and restaurants for socialization and fun.
“We had a group meet very soon after starting up. It’s been so long it’s hard to remember, but between May and June of 2012 was our first meetup. We met at a small neighborhood park on Houston Road. Most of the members at that time had babies 6 months old and under,” Bobbie says. The first meetup was a huge success.
“After that, we regularly explored new locations together. The children’s museum that was located downtown was a favorite location at the time,” Bobbie recalls. “While the group was small, members would volunteer to host play dates at their house. We had a mock baby shower to gather items and donate to the Macon Rescue Mission. We also had music playdates and holiday get-togethers.”
Diana Mertens was one of the original members of the group, and she is still active today. “I joined MAMA in 2012 after finding an ad in Craigslist,” she remembers. “It was about ten members then. My daughter, Annika, was about eight or nine months old and Bobbie’s son, Andrew, was a few months younger.” As Diana and Bobbie formed a close friendship, their children made a special bond all their own. The two became best friends.
“They’ve been going on playdates ever since. From the way they carried on, we joked for years that they’d get married someday! Bobbie has been a great friend through all this time,” Diana says.
Today, MAMA does a variety of activities each week, including breakfast playdates at various Chick-Fil-A playgrounds, coffee shop meet-ups, and gatherings at playgrounds and parks.
Even as the group has grown, Bobbie has maintained most of the leadership responsibility. “I would say I organize about 75% of the events. I’ve always said that if anyone wants to volunteer to host, then please feel free. We’ve had a handful of volunteers over the years and currently growing.”
“Our current meetup group is really well established, it practically runs itself. If something comes up and I can’t attend the playdate, the other moms know each other well enough it typically goes off without a hitch,” Bobbie explains. “They are also very welcoming to new members, so our group continues to grow and bond.”
While breakfast and coffee meet-ups generally draw around a dozen women, outside playdates bring as many as twice that number of moms, or more. There are also special Mother’s Night Out dinners, which draw a sizeable number of moms for child-free bonding. On the Facebook page, there are 1,787 members, with new members joining daily. Many mothers join the Facebook page before they even move to Middle Georgia, from as far away as Arizona and California. Other women join before they have become mothers, seeking advice while they are still pregnant. The online community is as helpful and welcoming as the offline community.
“I try to spend a few minutes each day checking on the group, and updating event info. This past May, I asked several members to assist me with the group as summer was beginning and I was looking to eliminate technology distractions while my oldest was home from school,” Bobbie says, “They help monitor group posts and approve member requests. They continue to assist at this time.”
Liz Ford moved from Virginia to Georgia when she was 4 months into her first pregnancy, and she joined MAMA for advice and support. “I had no friends or family here, so it was a hard transition, especially with my first baby coming. I joined the group not expecting too much because–let’s be honest, moms don’t have time to do anything,” Liz shares. “Plus being a younger mom, I didn’t think I would make mom friends too easily, but man I was wrong! After I had Aidan via emergency c-section in November 2016, I had really bad PPD (Post-Partum Depression) and PPA (Post-Partum Anxiety). and I felt really alone.”
Liz went to a post-partum support group hosted by Warner Robins-based doula Britney Asbell, where she met several MAMAs who were also struggling with PPD or PPA. It was a relief for Liz to meet women dealing with similar difficulties.
“I also recently met 2 of my now-best friends on the group, moms my age with kids who are close to Aidan’s age. It’s been great!! We haven’t been able to attend a ton of the play dates due to my work schedule but when we can Aidan loves playing with his best friends,” says Liz.
Member Angela Scully has been fortunate to enjoy the weekly gatherings with other MAMAs, and she has built friendships that have expanded beyond the group format.
“I try to go to either the weekly coffee or Chick-Fil-A meet ups and I’ve met some great friends through the group,” Angela says. :One [of my closest friends] I met when my oldest was 2 months old and her daughter was 3 weeks old, and we have monthly play dates with our girls!”
Angela feels that MAMA makes motherhood easier: “Between having a place (the Facebook page) to ask questions and meet-ups to just be around other moms, it has been encouraging and a huge relief. Being home with just kiddos all the time is exhausting and overwhelming!”
On the MAMA Facebook page, members post about events for children in the Middle Georgia area. These range from reminders about children’s consignment sales, health fairs, festival schedules, and sports activities. It’s a great source of information on fun things to do with kids of all ages.
Cathy Greenwood Berta was introduced to MAMA by Bobbie, who is her cousin. She was reluctant to become involved with the other moms. “I can be shy at first, but I’m so thankful I joined. I went to plenty of playdates, not just for my daughter, but for me also,” she says, “I get see my daughter interact and make friends, and I feel like I made new Mama friends. I don’t feel so alone, I get to share my life with a little one to people that understand. I have opened up so much and I’ve made strong connections. It’s nice to have a group of moms that have your back when you feel defeated.”
For member Stephanie Hatcher, MAMA has been nothing short of a blessing. “These ladies have helped me transition into becoming a mom. My son is two now and I can say we both have made lifelong friends. These ladies are so inspiring and very helpful. I don’t feel like I’m being judged when I ask for advice. I truly believe we empower each other.”
For more information, visit MAMA: Moms Around Macon Area on Facebook.
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