Posted by Andrea Fein
Early in my initial meeting with Debbie Whitehill, Director of the Lauren and Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program, I realized that facilitating one of the many JF&CS parent and baby support groups would be a great fit for me. I have been facilitating the group that meets at Temple Israel in Boston (on the Fenway) for about a year and a half. Every week when family and friends ask how my group was, I can honestly say, “Terrific!”
What makes the JF&CS groups great is not that anything earth-shattering or life-changing occurs (although that is possible), but rather that we are there to support and to be with new moms and dads at this particularly vulnerable and tumultuous stage of life. The birth of a baby and the ensuing effect on the parenting dyad is life-changing. Books and articles galore exist about this stage of life, both about the baby and parent(s). Yet, there are nearly as many opinions and “facts” about infant development and care as there are babies. So, the JF&CS support group model fills an important niche, different from an educational or therapeutic group.
As facilitator, I am working to let the moms and dads know that no one may (or even, should) tell them how to go about parenting. Group members are encouraged and empowered to think for themselves, share ideas with each other, and develop more confidence in parenting. The group is a safe, inclusive, and confidential space in which to discuss concerns, joys, and accomplishments, as well as to just be who they are with their babies. Women and, sometimes, men from disparate backgrounds bond over the shared experience of new parenthood, and this is beautiful. Friendships may form, and women in my group (and others) often leave together and take a walk or have lunch. Group members sometimes stay in touch during the week.
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