by Alejandra Molina
photography by Sylvia Castellanos
Heather Hoines runs around her San Dimas apartment trying to keep up with her 1-year-old toddler Charles. With a pair of pants in hand, she gives chase, striving to dress him in time for their appointment.
Not far from Hoine’s apartment, Mani Kapa woke before dawn, just after her husband left for work. She rouses 14-year-old son Kishor and takes him to school. Getting back just before 8 a.m., Kapa barely has time to catch her breath, let alone get back in bed. She has a full day ahead. Wash laundry. Pay bills. Life stuff. And not to be forgotten is 4-year-old Kalana, who requires much attention.
Hoines and Kapa are stay-at-home mothers, each with a life, a family and a hectic schedule. They would have never crossed each other’s path and never known of the enormous support they would provide each other had it not been for the MOMS Club (Moms Offering Moms Support), a non-profit organization with chapters around the world.
Both are members of the MOMS Club of La Verne and San Dimas, a social group supporting the mother-at-home. Its primary purpose is to bring together local mothers to network and socialize. A proven hit, the club appeals largely to new mothers adjusting to a lifestyle of being at home.
“If I didn’t have the club, I would have gone bonkers,” Hoines contends. As soon as Hoines readies Charles, she drives him to a club member’s house where about 10 mothers are gathered with their children. Moms mix and socialize, while the children do what comes naturally; have fun and play games with each other.
For recent mothers and longtime moms alike, events such as these play dates are an opportunity to mingle, learn and relax. At the play date with Heather and Charles are women all in different stages of motherhood. Experienced mothers share their sage wisdom with new mothers who vigilantly trail their children with camera in hand, snapping picture after picture like baby paparazzi.
It is the comfort level that puts these mothers at ease. While one mother breast feeds her daughter, another gives pointers as to best pediatricians, the best stores to buy children’s clothes and the best place to gain a child’s haircut.
Hoines loves every minute of it. She talks to Sonia Iacobacci, a patient and caring mother of two who Hoines says is her idol. Hoines met Iacobacci through the Club and describes her as the perfect model mother with incredible patience toward her children. Through the Club, Hoines says she has learned the dos and don’ts of raising a child by talking to other mothers.
It’s about community. While support networks once occurred naturally in the human village, it takes an organization like the MOMS Club to bring women together in the contemporary world where everyone is a stranger.
“I didn’t have any friends I could hang out with,” Hoines says. “One of my friends just got married and my other friend is a working mom.” Hoines was laid off from her job in food service sales during her second trimester of pregnancy. With her husband at work, she found herself home alone most of the time.
Accustomed to the demands of a career, she had planned eventually to open her own restaurant. But sometimes the deck gets reshuffled, and she needed some way to ease the transition. That’s when Hoines found the Club, which offers her guidance and support.
Christy Hanks, another stay-at-home mom, describes the same difficulties as Hoines. She says that when she had her first child, she was clueless about how to raise him and also cope with the change in her life. Moving to a new neighborhood only increased her growing sense of loneliness and isolation. Being a stay-at-home mother, Hanks had no interaction, and nobody to turn to for child raising tips and support.
It was not until after the birth of her second child that she learned that there was support out there; that she did not have to be alone. Through a girlfriend of hers, Hanks also found the Club and with it the solution to her problems.
“It was great to meet mothers around the area who stayed at home,” she says. With a ready smile and a perky personality, Hanks looks forward to the meetings and events the club hosts, taking the opportunity to socialize before things get underway.
While it may seem a small luxury to some women, for Hanks and the rest of the mothers, the chance to interact is a tremendous help. Hanks says she no longer feels alone. “I joined after my second child, I only wish I joined sooner.”Now, when she has any doubts or questions concerning her family, she has immediate support.
In addition to play dates and general meetings, the moms take field trips with their children to parks, museums, the zoo and plays. They gather for walks to Bonelli Park, through the mall or around town. The exercise is welcome, but so is the company. A hit with the members is “Moms Night Out,” which allows the women to take a break from mothering as they relax over dinner or enjoy popcorn and a movie. “You just need an outlet,” says Hanks.
Soon after Mary James founded the MOMS Club in 1983 in Simi Valley, California, word spread, and the club went national in 1985. D’Ann Smith and Vicki Tiedge, two mothers yearning to get out of the house and network, brought the club to La Verne and San Dimas. They started the chapter with six mothers and seven children.
Kapa, current club president, had the same desire as Smith and Tiedge to have contact with the outside world. “There was no one there, no friend, no nothing,” Kapa remembers. “You don’t want to talk to your child all the time.”
Currently, there are almost 100 members in the club, and they always welcome more. “People need the MOMS Club,” Hoines says. “It’s not so much that the club needs more people.”
Although the child raising tips and parental wisdom the club provides are invaluable, mothers in the club claim it is the friendships and role models, such as Hoines and Iacobacci, that are most important.
Helping rebuild part of the support structure our society has forgotten, the MOMS Club is a modern solution to the earliest of problems. Without it, these mothers, although only minutes apart, might as well be worlds apart and would have never found each other and the enormous impact the club has made in their lives.
For Moms Club contact information, call (909) 394-4644 or visit www.lavernemoms.org.