Starring in Supporting Roles

Children from Las Madres enjoy a Fourth of July Parade through

When South Valley parents need some encouragement, local
parent-support groups offer just that
By Julie Engelhardt Special to South Valley Newspapers

The thought of becoming a parent for the first time can be daunting. There’s a mix of emotions, including excitement and joy, but parenting can also be stressful and overwhelming. Keeping a child fed, warm, healthy and safe is a challenge, as is teaching a child to interact and share with others.

Kids certainly don’t come with instruction manuals, and sometimes the “how-to” books on the market seem merely like words on a page. Talking with someone who has “been there, done that” can be invaluable, and many new parents find such assistance in parent-support groups.

The South Valley is home to a number of these groups, which are designed specifically for parents – primarily mothers – who decide to stay at home full time with their children. The groups provide a way for stay-at-home moms to connect and discuss the triumphs and trials of parenthood. In addition, children get a chance to learn how to socialize with their peers – even before their first wobbly step.

When Amy Neff joined Moms ‘n Kids in Hollister in 2003, her older son, Max, was 4 months old. Moms ‘n Kids consists of several playgroups, which are divided according to the year a child is born. For example, parents with children born in 2002 meet on a weekly basis, and parents with children born in 2003 do the same.

The club also has an all-ages playgroup and a Spanish-speaking division. Most of the members live in Hollister, but they also have members who live in Tres Pinos and San Juan Bautista.

Neff said she grew tired of watching television all the time and wanted to broaden her weekday activities.

“As I began my journey as a stay-at-home mom, I was able to feed my own need for adult interaction (by joining the group), taking some pressure off my commuting husband,” Neff said. “I’ve also formed friendships with many of the women in the group. Those with older kids share quite a bit of wisdom and have pointed me in the direction of local support and helpful products.”

Parents in the south end of Santa Clara County also have options for parent-support groups: the Las Madres Gilroy Chapter and the Las Madres of Morgan Hill Playgroups, Inc.

Created in the 1970s, Las Madres in Gilroy divides playgroups depending on the year the child was born, like Moms ‘n Kids. Gilroy’s Las Madres has five playgroups and a total of almost 200 members.

Rimppi Rai, co-council president for the Gilroy group along with Christina Sullivan, is enthusiastic about the organization. The group is a way for parents to encourage each other in many aspects of parenting, she said.

“Our goal is to become informed parents (who) will help us raise our children to become people who will conduct their lives with strength, dignity and humanity,” Rai said.

Teaching children at an early age how to act in social settings is another goal of parent-support groups. All three local clubs offer a variety of activities for parents and their children, such as field trips to local attractions including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Casa de Fruta, fire stations, pumpkin patches and the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose.

The clubs also offer “moms night out,” baby-sitting co-ops, movie nights, guest speakers, family potlucks and barbecues, holiday parties, arts-and-crafts days, and music-appreciation sessions.

Along with providing families with social outlets, the groups also help their surrounding communities and nonprofit organizations. One playgroup from the Morgan Hill Las Madres made holiday stockings last Christmas for Rebekah Children’s Services, a child-support organization based in Gilroy. The group also worked with Community Solutions, a nonprofit social-service organization based in Morgan Hill, to provide gift baskets for mothers for Mother’s Day.

“The organization as a whole will also do a fundraiser for a local charity,” said Dana Bruning, council president of Las Madres in Morgan Hill. “Last year, we did a silent auction to raise funds for the children’s area of the new Morgan Hill Library.”

Moms ‘n Kids

Cost: $48 per year (The amount is prorated depending on the month you join.) Info: www.momsnkids.org or e-mail [email protected]

Las Madres

Cost: Playgroup dues are $15 per calendar year.

Info: www.lasmadres.org

For information on the Gilroy chapter, call Jeanie Lieberenz at (408) 779-0189. For information on the Morgan Hill chapter, call Christina Sullivan at (408) 846-7791 or Rimppi Rai at (408) 842-5577.

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