Before being a stay at home mom, before being a doula, I was a zookeeper. I loved my job. I worked with great people, and I got to be around amazing animals every day. I poured myself into my job. I came in early, I stayed late. I brought projects and research home a lot. But when I got pregnant I knew I couldn't do both. I couldn't be the keeper I was and be the mom I wanted to be too. Plus, we couldn't afford daycare. It would have been my entire salary for my baby to be in daycare. With no family around, we didn't have a lot of options.
So I made my plans, worked up until a few days before my due date. My co-workers understood when I called and let them know I wasn't returning. My manager was sad. (She was the best boss ever. I mean it.) I was sad to leave, but knew it was the best choice for our family. In some ways, I was ready to leave some of the stresses of my job behind and start a new chapter.
My daughter was born, and I was a full-time mom. With no clue what I was doing. FB groups helped, my doula, Julie Grove, was a godsend. (I seriously texted her at 3 am with a plugged milk duct. She was up with her baby too thankfully.) I felt adrift. I wasn't, “Jessica the Zookeeper”, everyone knew, and I felt like I fell down the proverbial rabbit hole of breastfeeding, diapering and sleepless nights. My friends tried to understand and were loving, but it's not the same understanding as someone who's in the same part of motherhood as you are. I seriously didn't know who I was without my job. What did it mean to be Jessica the Mom?
Along came MOPs (Mothers of Preschoolers). My neighbor, Mandy, told me about it and gave me the time of the next meeting. It sounded great; other moms, hot food and coffee, and both of us out of the house.
I managed to get there about a month later, and I was crazy early. I think I was the first person in the parking lot. When leaders came to the church to open and set up, I was welcomed and congratulated on my baby. I met so many moms; homeschooling moms, working moms, new moms and veteran moms. Someone offered to hold Elena for me so I could eat. People were nice. I felt welcomed. I thought, “This could be good.”
Four years later and MOPs Thursday's are my favorite days of the month. We have friends, we have support. These women have helped shape me as a mom and help me get comfortable in my new role.
Best lessons from MOPS: it's okay to do things differently, forget cleaning your house, and you are the mom your kids need. Whatever that looks like. I'm not Jessica the Zookeeper, I'm Jessica the friend. They've seen me sleep deprived and melting down with my toddler. They have brought meals for my freezer after I had our second baby. We know each other's houses well. It's usually well established to help yourself to anything. Coffee is always on. (And when it's been especially rough, wine.)
They've seen me take a jump and grow into my doula role. They've even been Guinea pigs and let me attend their births. (Thank you Airlia!)
It's a place to be real. I get a break and hot coffee. My kids get to play with friends and make crafts. So why am I sharing this on my doula blog? Isn't this the place where you talk about placenta smoothies and hypnobirthing? (Of course!)
But readers, we weren't meant to do this alone. We can't do everything for everyone, all the time. Sometimes we need to fill our cup. Sometimes we need to reach out from our usual circle to someone else in the same boat as you. We need a tribe, to support and bolster us. Otherwise it's a pretty hard and lonely gig as a mom. Sometimes we need help, all different kinds.
I love mops and all that they do! To learn more about MOPs International or find a MOPs group near you, you can learn more here: