Well, ladies, the data is in and it appears that American moms aren’t faring so well. Oh, we’re doing just fine in our mothering ... Our kids adore us and choose us as the person they admire most. Their test scores are up, and spending time with us is what makes them the happiest. What we are flunking is a critical subject: “How to take care of ourselves.”
This should come as little surprise, but a whopping 96 percent of moms feel they are far more stressed than their own mothers. Reports say moms today are constantly sleep-deprived, caffeine addicted, chronically fatigued and lonely. So what’s causing this new lonely mothers’ club trend? Here are a few changes over these last years that have reduced our crucial mommy support systems, leaving us feeling more alone and stressed:
- Moms working at home.
- More moms work at home to be with kids, but there goes the co-workers.
- Single moms. Four in 10 moms are “single” parents; 36 percent of all births are from unmarried women.
- Divorce. One in two kids will live with a single-parent family at some time in their childhood.
- Military deployment. More parenting partners are now deployed than in the last 40 years.
- Time. We spend more time per week with kids: 14.1 hours in 2007 vs. 10.2 hours in 1965
- Working dads. Longer hours away, business travel.
- Mobility. “The job search” uproots families further away from grandparents and relatives.
- Crunched economy. Moms cut back as finances get tighter.
- Less female support. At the end of the 19th century nearly 50 percent of mothers lived with another female, such as a mother or sister, who helped with housework and child rearing. That number is now down to 20 percent.
So what's the solution to cure the lonely mom syndrome? It’s time for moms to start up their "Momtourage": A support group of moms who benefit a specific mother need.The truth is we devote so much time to our families, we forget to take time for our social needs. Sure, we love to be with our men and our kids, but we also need female companionship. Girlfriends really help reduce our stress, restore balance and serve as the support system we need to reduce our loneliness. Think of these women as your "Momtourage." Best yet, joining other mothers can also save you money and time! Here are five steps to start your own "Momtourage":
- Identify your "Momtourage" need. Exercising, losing weight, learning a hobby (like knitting or gardening), a book club, meal planning, kid advice. What kind of support do you need?
- Find at least one mom who shares your need. A neighbor, relative, church group member, or the mom from your kid’s playgroup, T-ball team, school. Start the search.
- Designate a convenient meeting spot. Your home, her home, the library, a playground, the gym, the Internet, or via phone text. (A "Momtourage" does not have to meet face to face.)
- Set a consistent meeting time. Try cutting just one activity (that’s an hour a week) that isn’t that crucial. Or do something you already do with another mom. Cook a weekly meal with a mom. Ride bikes with your kids and her kids. Practice T-ball together with your sons or daughters.
- Do it! Meet for the first time together via phone, Internet, or face to face and start planning!
A "Momtourage" can meet just about any motherly need. It's just about actually getting up and putting one together. Take a look at some of these common bonds that can bring your "Momtourage" together:
Exercise groups. Put your toddler in a stroller and walk each morning with other women. Join a mother-daughter yoga class or have your girlfriend come over each day, pop in that "Buns of Steel" tape and go, girl!"Mommy and Me" groups. Find one mom and plan little outings. It doesn’t have to cost a lot and it’s healthy company for you as well as your kids.Book clubs. If you and your kids like to read, why not start a mother-daughter (or mother-son) book club? Instead of reading apart, you can enjoy the company of each other. Mom chat groups. Online chat groups are so hot these days, why not set up a time for a 20-minute chat with your girlfriends? You can stay connected without leaving your house.Car pooling. Coordinating any car pooling saves you time and gas. Find just one mom who needs to drive her child somewhere on a regular basis. The kids in your car pool do not have to be friends or even the same age. The only criterion is that everyone is going to a nearby area. Just add 10 minutes onto the car pool for the other mom to stop in for coffee. Baby-sitting co-op. My sanity saver was a baby-sitting program among a group of 10 moms. We watched each other’s kids and kept track of our hours. The kids loved playing with their friends and the mothers loved having the few hours to go shopping or out to lunch with a girlfriend, to the gym or on a date with their husband. Nag partner. Need encouragement to lose weight, exercise more or eat healthier? Just ask a girlfriend to “gently” remind you of your intention by giving you a once-a-day call. Meal planning. Plan weekly meals together, swap recipes, or cook meals and freeze a few. Mommy hobbies. Want to learn to knit, garden, paint, write, scrapbook? Join another mom and learn the craft together!Coffee clutch. Going out to lunch may be tough, but why not rotate morning coffees at each other’s homes? Each mom can even bring her own snack, coffee cup and kid.The bottom line: Don’t lose sight of your own social needs, Mom. What your kids really need is a genuine, healthy and energized woman who enjoys not only her family, but also herself. Let me know what way you’ve joined up with other mothers to form your own ." I’d love to hear your ideas!