“How often should couples be, um…” starts a woman at the mom group I’m attending, inciting up a chorus of chuckles. “Intimate?” asks the evening’s expert, psychologist Kimberly Moffit, at the same time the woman finally blurts out “having sex.” Cue more laughter.
About 30 women sit in rows facing Moffit for the evening’s Baby-Proofing Your Marriage event thrown by a new Toronto company called Social Common. Run by friends Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer Thompson (tonight’s event is held in her home), Social Common is a social club “where like-minded moms connect, inspire and grow within a social and entertaining environment.”
This definitely isn’t your mother’s mom group. Upon entering Natalie’s home, I’m greeted by both Catherine and Natalie, and offered a glass of wine by a waitress. The town home’s generous foyer quickly fills up with polished-looking women wearing outfits most moms save for date night – heels, skinny jeans, a pretty top and a stack of bangles – and the chatting is reaching a volume that would send most men running.
“We wanted to provide an experience,” says Natalie. “A nice night out away from the kids with a glass of wine – we deserve a civilized experience.” “Because,” chimes in Catherine, “when you’re at home with your kids, covered in yogurt, you don’t always feel so civilized.” But Social Common is more than just a night out in the clothes that are reserved for special occasions. “It’s a purposeful evening,” says Catherine. “We want women to feel inspired and to give themselves time for in-depth, meaningful conversations.”
And the ladies of Social Common aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Mom groups all over Canada are getting a modern makeover. The focus – meeting and socializing with other moms (and dads) – hasn’t changed, but the format has.
“I encourage self-care in all parents,” says Dr. Tamara Glen Soles, a psychologist in Westmount, Que., who runs parent-child groups for moms of babies up to two years old. “I hope that they can each find ways of taking care of themselves the best way possible and to be the best parent they can be to their child.” Whether this means joining a mom group and talking about the joys and challenges of parenthood, signing up for a moms-only sports team, or going out for drinks and dinner with girlfriends, the way moms are unwinding is changing. Goodbye tea and mommy tips. Hello wine and girl talk.
“I try to make it out at leastonce a month for a nice meal with mom friends. We love doing play dates with the kids but also enjoy being able to relax and just chat,” says Lisa Canning, an interior stylist in Toronto with three kids under four. “Being a mom is hard work,” she says. “It’s a job that requires practice, discipline and endurance. A little time away makes me a better mother as I come back refreshed and renewed. It’s an investment – and a necessary one.”
Vancouver-based Angela Santoro and her business partner Jai Onofrey host mom events under the aptly named Modern Mama brand. A social and educational resource for moms, Modern Mama has eight branches – four in Alberta and four in British Columbia, including Santoro and Onofrey’s North Shore division. Events often include nanny service so those who can’t find a sitter can still take part in a relaxing spa day or educational workshop. Prior to starting her business, Angela says she took her kids to some drop-in playtimes at community centres and story time at the library, but she wasn’t making any meaningful connections. “I’m not the only first-time parent who found it difficult to get out of the house, make connections with other parents and really feel like a part of my community,” she says. “Modern Mama gives us the opportunity to fill this gap for other parents in our area.”
Filling that gap can be vital to many new moms. “Some parents feel isolated, especially in the early years. Having that connection to other parents can be a lifeline,” says Dr. Glen Soles.
By hosting their events in the evening, Catherine and Natalie intend to continue that lifeline beyond moms with toddlers. They found that traditional daytime events meant that moms who had gone back to work missed the kinds of connections they had made during mat leave. And of course, their events are designed to do more than just connect mothers. Natalie says, “Our events allow women to get dressed up, go out and be who they are – not just as mothers but as wives, friends and people.”
Even though it was 9:30 p.m. and I was running on four hours of sleep, when I left that evening’s event in my heels and favourite silk top, I felt refreshed and reminded that I am in fact, a grown-up, despite being surrounded by sippy cups and teething toys all day. And it felt good.
Getting your partner out of the house with Baby doesn’t just give you a little me time, it’s beneficial to both dad and baby as well!
“Bonding with other fathers within a group allows men to have an outlet for the various challenges of parenting, a sounding board to bounce ideas off and the confidence to choose to be better fathers and partners,” says Robin Wilcock, instructor of Daddy & Me classes run by Baby & Me Fitness in Toronto. His fitness classes have the added bonus of “more energy, better sleep and more patience” – all very important when you have a little one at home.
Want your partner to join a dad group? Why not introduce him to the husbands of your mom friends and hope they hit it off?