By Nicholas Elbers
Children are a blessing, but parenting can be stressful, and in the modern world many mothers feel lonely and isolated in their vocation. This is where parish Moms and Tots groups can be helpful.
During COVID, many groups for mothers and their small children tried to adapt to restrictions by meeting at local parks but eventually stopped gathering. When things started to open up, many mothers were anxious to start the meetings again, and there has been a post-pandemic resurgence of Mom and Tots groups in the last year.
There is no common model for how the groups operate. Some focus on prayer and discussion, while others are more freeform and open, but what they have in common are an emphasis on fellowship, mentorship, and Catholic community.
“It’s great to meet with other women going through similar experiences,” said Veronica Santoro who attends the group at St. Patrick’s in Maple Ridge. “It normalizes life.”
Another mom told The B.C. Catholic, “It’s great to feel like you have a community with like-minded women.”
Lisa Price organizes a Moms and Tots group at Precious Blood in Surrey. Every meeting opens with a prayer and is structured around a topic, such as organizational skills, that she thinks mothers might find helpful.
The goal is to help create a “church-centred” community that helps mothers spiritually and practically in their day-to-day lives, Price said.
The groups do a good job addressing a common complaint for mothers with little ones who have been disappointed with secular groups and activities.
Precious Blood parishioner Keeley Wray told The B.C. Catholic that she had tried going to mom-centered events at the public library or recreation centre but found they were often just a place for mothers to complain.
She wanted a positive, constructive place to grow in a community with other women and said her first experience with a Catholic mom’s group made it difficult to return to the negativity of the public groups. “The other Catholic moms spoke in a positive way” in an atmosphere of growth and purposed, she said. “It wasn’t just complaining.”
Many first-time mothers appreciate the wealth of experience brought to the gatherings by women at different stages of life, including grandmothers, who offer strong mentorship opportunities.
Location is another part of the appeal. By meeting at the local church, the stress is taken away from accommodating a large gathering at home.
During our conversations about what the groups offer moms, the tots themselves were hard to ignore. They were everywhere – literally – in rooms that were often carefully controlled domains of chaos. Yet the commotion never got out of hand.
That’s because everyone in attendance has one eye on the children, and one eye on their coffee. It isn’t uncommon to see women swapping children and carrying others’ babies to give young moms a much-needed break.
“It’s good for the kids,” said Leah Bibby at the Precious Blood Moms and Tots. “There is a lot of focus on the moms, but the tots are a big part too.”
It can be difficult to find modern spaces that make room for children, and Bibby said she is grateful to spend social time in an environment that doesn’t just tolerate but welcomes children and allows them to make friends and play.