Welcome to the Parent Club

Re: Parent groups, first-time parents' survival tactic, Hops and Pops

When they say "It takes a village," they were not kidding around. If you're not a part of a parent group, join one, or form your own. Rally a few confidants who are driving the same struggle bus, dying to exchange notes without judgement, and will be there in case of emergencies. Your kids will thank you for all their birthday buddies too!

Let’s be honest, nobody likes cliques…unless you’re in one. In this case, the one I stumbled upon vaguely resembled an AA meeting, but with babies, more nutritious snacks, changing stations, and baby scales. I mean, if this parenting thing doesn’t go well, we may all end up alcoholics anyway, but that’s beside the point. And like many meeting of strangers / networking functions, it started off by giving mixed impressions of hope for nonjudgemental support, dabbled with “oh great-another place where I have to put on a front and try to be likable.” But damn it, my 2.5-month-old and I need to get some information on how to sleep better, and I need more friends who can relate as we milestone our way through this delirious stage of life, so I stayed..and then realized everybody else stayed for more or less the same reasons.

Under different circumstances, we probably would’ve never crossed paths, but surviving year 1 with them - with our flaws and nursing babies/boobs out in the open - has been the privilege of a lifetime, and I’m not sure I could’ve survived any other way. Our bond is strong because it was forged in the trenches; through blood, sweat, tears, vomit, smeared poop on face, and an ever-diminishing number of f--uries to give.

Let’s Talk Mom Bond:

It doesn’t matter what you were in high school, what label you and your besties gave yourselves in college - once a Mom, you’re a part of a whole support system based upon candidness and understanding that we all went through the incredibly gruesome process of giving life!…at least once! Those stretch marks, stitches, peri bottles, witchhazel pads, and gushes of blood are not easily forgotten. In fact, the birthing experience gets brought up over and over again for the rest of our lives, and if the trauma is not handled with the utmost care, it can be scarring for life. PPD is a real thing, baby blues are a real thing, hormonal changes are a real pain in the butt, baby phat, mastitis, postpartum hair loss, birth control options…OMFG! It’s like going through puberty all over again, but so much worse! You know NOTHING, Jon Snow.

Yes, women can be catty, but the postpartum shared experience has a way of filing down the claws and converting that nonesense into strength and compassion for one another. If you can find fellow Moms who gave birth around the same time you did, hang onto them for dear life! Not only do they make great sounding boards for venting sessions, I’ve also relied heavily on them as a source of information for whether our kids are supposed to be abusing us while nursing, or whether they are ready for baby-led weaning, or if it’s normal that our toddler negotiates how much screen time she gets in exchange for bed time, etc.

Sometimes, the conversations aren’t even about the kids, but rather status updates on Covid 19 restrictions and developments - in case we missed it in between spitups - or WTF to do about a bad work situation, or news on mergers and acquisitions of local companies that might influence our purchasing power. Who’s on the job market? Who can pass a resume forward? Who needs a pick-me-up or a midday lunch smack talk? Who needs more wine? Which vineyards have farm animals!? Who needs what from the store as we volunteer our husbands for grocery runs? Who knows a person who can handle more complicated tax filings? Moms.

Hops and Pops:

Even the most antisocial Dad will still want to know if he’s totally mucking up the Dad job or not. Their need for other Dads as a point of reference may - or may not - be the result of us not cutting them enough slack in the midst of diaper changes, cooking, dish washing, and other household chores that they took over when Mom became a bonafide milk / feeding machine. Yes, Moms will always have it worse, but that’s also exactly why Dads need other Dads. They can’t complain about childcare to us…we/I will chew them out if they say something stupid like, “Man, I only got 6 hours of sleep last night,” especially when we’re at our wits end trying to keep it together!

To their credit, Dads - at least the good ones - are right there by our side, hussling to fulfill our ever craving, massaging our swollen feet, hovering over our pregnant bellies to make sure nobody - and I mean NOBODY - harms their child, waking up in the middle of the night to rock the baby so Mom can get some shuteye…all the while holding down a day job. Yet, at the beginning of their parenting journey, Dads seem to always feel like they pale in comparison to Mom, but without them - and some of my single Moms can attest to this - Moms will have no “self care” to speak of.

So how do I show some support and appreciation for the Dad of the house? I toss him out into the wilderness with our children. Just kidding, not kidding. Let me tell you about “Hops and Pops,” created by a group of Dads in the neighborhood, who meet up with their babies and sip beer on tap. Who knew breweries could be so awesome?! They are family friendly, chill, and usually have board games (choking hazard warning-depending on your child’s age) or some kind of fun entertainment for the kids…and a food truck or two parked outside. My husband would go there without me - if he had to babysit on his own - just to “grab a beer” - AKA feel like an adult again and not just some kid’s playtoy.

Nowadays, “Hops and Pops” is just a name we use - not an actual group - to imply that it’s time for Dads to chillax with one another. With a little encouragement from Moms all around, we can enable a gathering of Dads - usually with their respective baby in toll as ice-breakers - to exchange notes, share some horror stories, and come home happy and responsibily tipsy. The key word being “responsibly,” because as much as we want our Dads to have fun, gone are the days when we have the energy to clean up after them if they come home a mess. Eventually, Dads start to organize hangouts on their own - to bond over the occasional whiskey & cigar, beer fest, or (my personal favorite) culinary ambitions - and we can show our support by taking the kids then.

Bottom Line:

Watching our kids grow up together is just a whole new level of joy. The bonus perk? One day we can all look back on our journey together and reflect on our “parent game”: definitely imperfect and usually delayed by naptimes, yet we are forgiven.

If you’re a parent, I’m/we are here for you! Holler if you need us. If you’re in the Santa Barbara area, I’d start with SB PEP (Postpartum Education for Parents), or simply join some parent groups on Facebook or Reddit and start asking questions. Don’t know of any? I’ll add you to mine.

During Covid-19, our parent friends have shared - in between venting sessions - groceries & grocery runs, homemade cuisine, parent hacks, hilarious memes, recommendations for baby books, safe hiking trails, kid-friendly activities, and many other legitimately helpful tips. Without them - and Grandparents - these parenting “thoughts” would not exist in writing. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

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