From the plethora of tiny footprints leading up to Jen Macakanja’s front door on Dec. 17, you’d think the north Spokane resident had been visited by lots of Santa’s elves.
However, the piles of boots, mittens and coats stacked just inside her front door, combined with the excited shrieks of small children, revealed Macakanja was hosting the monthly meeting of MOMS Club of Spokane-North.
Moms Offering Moms Support Club was created in 1983 in California, by an at-home Mom who wanted to connect with others like herself. The organization found quick success and currently boasts thousands of chapters in the U.S. and abroad.
With her 16-month-old son, Nicholas, balanced on her hip, Macakanja said the nonprofit, nonreligious support group is a “super resource.” Though primarily for at-home moms, the group includes many mothers who work part time or have home-based businesses. “It’s for moms and kids of all ages,” she stressed. “We’ve got moms with kids in college, and moms with brand new babies. It’s a very diverse group.”
The North Side club usually meets at Spokane Friends Church, but the church wasn’t available this month. As the happy chatter of moms and the energized shouts of children grew louder, member Meegan Ware laughed. When they meet at the church, she said, “It’s not less chaotic, there’s just more space for the chaos!”
Brooke Wilson found a relatively quiet spot to cuddle her 17-month-old daughter, Dakota. Wilson found out about MOMS Club on the Internet. “I was looking for something to do to get out of the house,” she said. “Believe it or not, being a stay-home mom can be very lonely.”
As a toddler rushed by brandishing a stuffed fish, Jennifer Melton agreed that isolation can be the bane of many at-home moms. But with MOMS Clubs, she said, “There’s something to do almost every day of the week if you need it.”
In addition to their monthly meeting, the club has many subgroups. There’s a book club, a cooking club and even a walking club. And because most of the activities are kid-friendly, Melton said, “Everyone gets interaction.”
A break from children is provided by the monthly Mom’s Night Out gathering. That’s a time reserved for mothers to enjoy uninterrupted conversation and fun. Sometimes they go out to dinner or a movie. Other times they meet at a friend’s house and share appetizers. These outings provide vital connection.
Kelly Throckmorton is president of the MOMS Club of Spokane South/Valley chapter. She said the best thing about the group is the camaraderie she feels with other moms. “Everybody’s going through or has gone through the same headaches.” Belonging to MOMS Club offers her “Someone to laugh with.”
The club also provides practical help. When Meghan Bradley moved to Spokane from Cincinnati, she said, “I didn’t know anybody.” By joining MOMS Club she found a ready-made social circle, play groups for her kids, and assistance finding her way around her new city. Macakanja said, “We put together a ‘Best of Spokane’ list for our members.” The list includes pediatricians, dentists, shops and child-friendly restaurants.
Philanthropy is also important to MOMS Club. Each chapter is required to participate in at least one service project per year, and the $20 annual dues go toward that project. But Ware said their group regularly helps a variety of local causes. She said, “So far this year we’ve given money or items to Toys for Tots, Tom’s Turkey Drive, Spokane Guilds’ School,” as well as many other organizations.
While moms sipped hot cider and their children munched on Christmas cookies, Karen Rissman reflected on what this organization has meant to her. As 7-month-old Sidney nestled against her shoulder, she said she really appreciated the meals club members provided for her family when she had Sidney. “If you need help, all it takes is an e-mail and help arrives.”
Meegan Ware found that out first-hand. In November, the active mother of three suffered a brain aneurysm. “Within an hour of me calling one of my local board members about my need to go to the hospital immediately, she had arranged lunches and dinners to be delivered to my family for the next week and a half.” That wasn’t all. “People provided snacks and treats for my kids and a hospital survival pack for my husband,” said Ware.
As she recalled that frightening time, she said, “This is what MOMS Club is all about – one phone call asking for help and 60 plus women coming together to do whatever was necessary for me and my family. I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends.”