While many of us are focused on the start of a new school year, lots of other local moms are gearing up for a new year with Mothers of Preschoolers.
The international church-based program provides childcare for the kids and fellowship for the moms throughout the school year. And there are many MOPS programs in our area - 36 within 50 miles of Raleigh, according to MOPS International's website.
Most offer regular meetings twice a month on weekday mornings. Some offer evening hours for working moms. They all provide a place for moms to find support, advice and a couple of child-free hours.
Connie Bossert, a mom of two, has been involved in three MOPS groups and now is coordinator of the program at Holland's United Methodist Church, which sits south of Raleigh.
"I didn't have local family. I had stopped working," she tells me about her early days of motherhood. "Being a stay-at-home mom was a quiet, single, lonely task. It was a really great opportunity for me to meet with other moms, share stories, laugh, cry, pray, whatever it would take to get through that season of parenting."
The group at Holland's invited me and my kids to an open house last week. Holland's MOPS, now in its second year, has plenty of room for new members, Bossert tells me.
Bossert and some other moms moved the program from Church Alive after it folded a couple of years ago. Faced with a future with no MOPS for herself and other moms in the community, Bossert said she knew it had to continue. The leadership at Holland's, which is on Ten Ten Road, was quick to agree to allow the group to meet there.
It started small, but eventually grew to include 27 moms and their 54 children.
"We have women in the group who are cancer survivors, who lost a baby, whose husband left them," she said. "You see these women come together and support each other in special ways ... You have so many ways to just reach out and help one another. You see that here and that's why I didn't let it stop."
Bossert, who didn't attend church as a child, but always felt like she was seeking something, said the program was a good introduction to the church.
"For me, it was a way to explore Christ in a safe environment," she said.
The group welcomes all, she says, including Holland's members, members of other churches, non-Christians and agnostics.
"God loves all his children and so we've opened our doors to all of his children," she said. "If people come here with an open spirit, we welcome them."
Holland's MOPS meets from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of each month from September to May. Members also get together all year for playdates, moms' nights out and volunteer projects, among many other activities.
Paid childcare workers, many of them stay-at-home moms, provide care for newborns to kindergartners at Holland's MOPS. It also has a room for older children who might be tracked out from school.
"For many moms here, it's the first time they have dropped their child off," Bossert said.
As I wrote above, I know there are many other MOPS groups in the area (I know Crossroads MOPS in north Raleigh has openings). For details about other groups in the area, go to MOPS International's website. I also asked Go Ask Mom's Facebook fans to share details about their groups.
Thank you to Connie, Kristen and all of the other moms at Holland's for having us out last week!
Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.