mom of: Hannah, 3
Hometown: Tempe, AZ
Why I started it: After my maternity leave three years ago, when I returned to work as an administrative assistant, I realized that I didn't know anyone nearby who was also a mom. Although my friends were great, they couldn't really understand what I was going through. I wanted to talk to other women who'd get it: the frustrations, worries, and joys. For a few months, I searched for a playgroup to join, but they all met during the week. So I decided to start my own.
How I found other moms: I Googled "playgroups" on the Internet and came across such sites as MatchingMoms.org and OnlinePlaygroup.com, where moms who want to join or start a playgroup can post messages. I contacted a few working moms who were looking for groups in my area; they told their friends, who told their friends, and so on. It helps that I'm not shy!
Who we are: There are 13 moms who all work outside the home for at least 30 hours a week and 14 kids ranging in age from 15 months to 4 years. We're a 15- to 20-minute drive from one another.
What we do: We get together two Saturdays a month. From October to April, when it's beautiful outside here, we meet at a park or the zoo -- anywhere the kids can run around. Once it becomes too hot, we stick to play areas in malls, indoor playlands, and our homes. We occasionally get all the families together (including dads) for a barbecue, and sometimes we'll have "moms' night out" and escape for dinner and a movie without the kids.
How we keep in touch: I set up a website that's accessible only to the group's members. I post information about playdates for the next two months, and anyone can post messages about anything, whether to announce a daughter's successful potty training or to ask for an easy recipe suggestion.
The best part: We've become such good friends that we think nothing of calling one another for an impromptu outing to go shopping or to request emergency babysitting. If I've had a tough day and need a shoulder to cry on, I know that someone will be there for me. We even recently went away together for a "just-us-girls" weekend without the kids. I can't imagine life as a mom without my wonderful playgroup friends. Of course, Hannah loves the group too. She always tells me that she can't wait to see her pals.
Words of wisdom: The toughest part was finding moms who were a good fit for the group. (There was no shortage of people who wanted to join, but some of the initial members drifted off after several months, so I started to become more selective after that.) When you talk to potential candidates for the group, screen them by explaining your objectives, and ask about their expectations, their kids' ages, their schedules, how far they're willing to drive, their hobbies, etc. If you take the time to get to know each other beforehand, you'll have a better chance of finding a great match.