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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Finding My Place

As the days are cooling off and darkening sooner each day, I am surprised to see that fall is already upon us once again. I look back at the beginning of my parenting relationship when motherhood for me first began, noting how much things have changed in the past 5 years,
since the birth of my first-born son. Back then I had just started feeling this strong desire to connect with other moms around me, joining a variety of groups in my hometown in an attempt to connect with the other women experiencing the same new role I was. I was a young mother, 19 when my son was born. This made it hard to relate with a lot of the other moms around me since most of them had already graduated from college, experienced a career, and had had the chance to be married several years before becoming pregnant. I didn't quite connect with the younger moms my age either -- many of them still lived at home with their parents or had broken off the relationship with the child's father. My then boyfriend and I decided to get married before our baby was born, and from then on my life was never the same... but in the best way possible. Motherhood transformed me into a much more responsible, mature, loving individual. It was hard on me to initially put school on hold after having only experience two
semesters of college, but for me it was important to concentrate entirely on my baby during that particular time of my life. My existence became dedicated to researching anything and everything on breastfeeding, child-rearing, and parenting -- completely thrusting myself deep into the roles of motherhood.

I unexpectedly got pregnant again when my son was only 13 months old, still such a baby in our eyes. It was initially a shock, especially after having gone through a quick marriage and surprise pregnancy just the year before. When my son was only 25 months old, my daughter 3 months old, we made the life-altering move from the metro-Detroit area to Wilmington, North Carolina. It was unbearable for me as a stay at home mother to be stuck inside our home from October-March during the frigid Michigan winters, and it was getting to the point where we
needed more room than the 1500 square feet of our two-bedroom apartment. In a span of three days we drove through a bad winter storm in the Midwest, arriving in Wilmington with a dirty, salt covered car in the beginning of January, and being greeted by nothing but sunshine and mild "Spring-like" weather. It was a very lovely change, yet still so new and foreign for us. The next few years were all about adjusting to our new surroundings -- getting to know our town, our beaches at Carolina and Wrightsville Beach, and our new way of life after never living outside of Michigan. It was a big adjustment for both my husband and I to move to a new area knowing
nobody but his parents, who had retired 9 years ago and moved to Southport, about 45 minutes from where we now lived.

I jumped around a few different moms groups when I first moved here, but nothing seemed to click right. I created my own local mom's group on an online parenting website, yet the style of it was very basic with only the ability to make general posts with titles, and maybe add a picture if you wanted. I planned many play dates by posting on my newly created site, but without any kind of online calendar it was hard for people to keep track of when events were. There were many times where I was the only person that showed up... which didn't only humiliate me, yet also intensified my loneliness. As someone who has always had a hard time initiating friendships in the past, I was finding it very hard to connect with other local mothers the way I wanted to. Another group I joined met at a church once a week, yet it had no online communication, which made it hard to get to know anyone during the other six days in-between. Once again, nothing was seeming to click right.

Then one day there was a special event that my husband's work participated in -- A festive green St. Patrick's Day parade that took place in downtown Wilmington. A group of women pushed their children along in creatively decorated strollers and wagons, all wearing different shades of green and bright, happy smiles on their faces. Two of the women carried a large banner stretched out at the front of their group, a sign that read "WilmingtonMommies - The Mommies
Network." I had come across the "WilmingtonMommies" group online in the past, and had even joined, yet was new to the online forum style so never really "got the hang of it." It was also a time when the activity level of the group was lower so I put the idea of it out of my mind at that time. After actually seeing some of the women in person from the group march in the parade I felt a renewed sense to join in and become a member. Perhaps I would have better luck in their group than I did with the others I had attempted. As soon as I got home from the parade I sent in a new request to join the group and tried it once again.

I introduced myself in the "introductions" area and right away felt connected with the other members. At this point the group had really seemed to start growing while also becoming more active, much more so than when I had first attempted to join it months prior. After getting over the initial learning-curve of the online forum style of the group I learned to really love the way the site was laid out. I felt very fortunate to have some great moderators on board -- women
with intelligence, class, and of course mothers that were there for the right reason -- to make friends; not to create drama. If I was feeling down about missing my relatives I had moved away from, I could easily "hop on" the website and make a post in the "relationships" section of the group. If I had an idea for an event I could post it on the "events and happenings" area, and soon enough was able to add my own events to the calendar after joining "The Events Planning
Committee." The structure of the forum-styled website worked so much better for me, while the online calendar proved to be a great tool for organizing events from week-to-week. There was no waiting in-between play dates to connect with people. The convenience of the group being
at my finger-tips was incredible! If I was feeling lonely it was very easy to pop in and "check in on the other mommies." I was thrilled to finally find a group that I could connect with in both the "online world" and in "real-life" during play dates and other moms' events.

I have now belonged to WilmingtonMommies for over 2 1/2 years. I have taken on some leadership moderator roles within the group, which I feel very comfortable now doing. I do not think that this group would be what it is today without all the hard work from the dedicated
co-developers of it. I am so appreciative for all the hard work they have put into it to make it what it is today. I strongly believe that mothers need other mothers to help guide them through the process of parenting, and without The Mommies Network I may have never found the
group that clicked for me the best. Moving can be a very daunting experience, especially when it comes to forming new relationships. Thanks to WilmingtonMommies I have formed a book group, a babysitting co-op outside of the group with some of the WilmingtonMommies members, as well as having had the opportunity to form some very solid relationships with women who experience the same things I do on a day-to-day basis. Life would not be the same without the many birthday parties, play dates, and mommy get togethers that I have had the chance to be a part of. As my car magnet states, "I am proud to be a part of" If you ever happen to see me out there... give me a flip! I promise to do the same to you, too.

Bridgette Wagner is a busy stay-at home mom to an almost 5 year old son, Gavin, and an almost 3 year old daughter, Adeline. When she is not participating in TMN events and activities she is working hard on her school work, reading, journaling, scrap booking, taking her kids to the park or hitting the beach. Bridgette is an active member of

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