Nothing so quickly eases the pain and isolation of new parenthood like the baby playgroup. You can try to fool yourself that it's for the kids, but everyone knows it's the parents who benefit by participating in an organized playgroup.
Who You Know
New parents, especially those who decide to spend some time at home with a brand new baby, are often thrust into a completely different world. Not only are they now responsible for the care and feeding of a spankin' new human being, chances are this momentous event did not occur simultaneously in the lives of their social circle. In other words, all their friends did not just have a baby at the same time.
Once the cute little outfits have been passed around and the last of the rattle-shaped cake has been eaten, your friends' interest in your baby dwindles. No one wants to hear about the adorable gurgling noises little Timmy made last night. No one cares if you go for disposable or cloth. Your own mother goes glazy-eyed when you try to describe the different shapes of a pacifier. So what's a parent to do?
Enter the playgroup. Here is a ready-made circle of people who get you. Although you may all come from completely different backgrounds, you have a huge common bond: your babies. These people are going through, or have recently experienced, all the things you deal with on a daily basis. You may think a parent never forgets at what month she first gave her child his first taste of rice cereal, but trust me you will. (Forgetting is nature's insurance policy that we will all continue to procreate.)
What You Know
A baby playgroup provides important moral support and a social outlet for parents, but it can also be a vital source of information. How do you get your baby to stop crying? Who is the best pediatrician? Where can you find those adorable booties? Tons of information can be learned from other moms. And with the way doctors seem to change their minds every six months about such things as how to treat diaper rash, how to clean the belly button wound, and when to give milk, it's nice to have a group of people to bounce things off of and get ideas from.
The baby playgroup is so important that many groups have formalized the process. In Seattle, PEPS, or Program for Early Parent Support, organizes groups for new parents throughout the city complete with a facilitator to encourage healthy group dynamics and guide early meetings. From the PEPS website:
PEPS believes that when parents connect kids benefit. We focus all of our efforts towards supporting parents by creating community. Recent studies indicate that in today's society, fewer parents have the advantage of neighbors and extended family to call on when they need help. PEPS works through advocacy, collaboration, and direct services to ensure that parents have the resources and community support they need to be successful.
Whether you get together in a neighbor's living room, a church basement, or a community center, make it a point to connect with other parents. It'll do you and baby good!