I don’t like the word tribe.

It’s a trendy, overused word that needs to be retired in 2022 (along with adulting, the use of littles as a noun, and the phrase level up). However, the concept of a tribe, especially for early motherhood, should never go out of style.

We Need Friends

As moms, we need friends who are a few steps ahead of us in parenting, and friends who are in the trenches with us. We need a friend we can text, Meet at the park in 20 min?, who we know will be buckling her kids into their carseats before she’s had a chance to respond yes! Sometimes, more than anything, we just need someone to hold our baby so we can go to the bathroom alone.

MOPs

Enter MOPs, a group where you can expand your village, or begin to find it. Short for Mothers of Preschoolers, MOPs is a global organization with local chapters, for moms of children ranging from newborn to elementary age. Meetings always include a hot breakfast (with plenty of coffee) and childcare (if you need it). Most weeks feature a speaker, or some sort of craft. Moms sit around a table with other mamas of similar-aged kids, and a “mentor mom,” a woman with adult children and a generation of wisdom and perspective.

MOPs is a Christian-based group, but it’s one where women from various (or no) religious backgrounds will feel comfortable. At the group I’m a part of, we have women from diverse faith traditions and family structures.

I Finally Said Yes

Years ago, a few mentor moms at the church I’d started attending, invited me to MOPs. For months, I resisted. MOPs sounded too cookie-cutter, and brought to mind silly icebreakers and tenderhearted devotions. Thankfully, these women kept prodding me, and I finally joined and found out I was completely wrong.

At MOPs, you come as you are, in a full face of makeup because it’s your first time out of the house all week, or in spit up-stained sweats and a fog of sleep deprivation. However you arrive, you will be cared for, celebrated, and embraced. 

When I was a newer mom, I struggled profoundly to be anywhere on time with my two toddlers. On one of my early MOPs visits, I pulled into the parking lot 40 minutes late, haggard and red-faced with shame. A mentor mom met me at my car, whisked my girls off to their classrooms, and ushered me to a seat where someone had made me a plate of food. At MOPs, you can snuggle or wear your baby for the entire meeting, or hand her off to the welcoming arms of another mom while you eat a long and leisurely brunch.

Around the Table

While in the throes of raising young humans, it all can feel so crushing and overwhelming. How do I get my kid to eat something other than Goldfish crackers? Why can’t I stop talking about myself in the third person? Will my son ever willingly leave the house without his ratty Superman cape? All I do all day long is make milk! How do I get the PAW Patrol theme song out of my head? These are the exasperations you are muttering into the void at home. Better to air them out to a table of moms who’ve been there, or who are right there with you.

You’ll also hear relevant, inspiring words from the speakers MOPs brings in. I’ve learned from experts in parenting, relationships, postpartum health and fitness, as well as authors and founders of businesses and non-profits. Most speakers are local leaders who are doing meaningful work in our community, and I’ve filled pages and pages with notes from their discussions. But I learn and grow the most from the moms around my table. 

Come Find Yours

MOPS is a mosaic of women, one that is richer and more brilliant for its diversity. It needs your voice, your perspective, and your unique approach to motherhood. There are eight in-person MOPs chapters in and around Ventura County. January is when most groups begin a new session, so it’s an ideal time to join. No matter what new word-of-the-moment comes to replace it (hive, flock, battalion, gaggle?), a tribe will always be an indispensable part of motherhood. So come find yours.

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Ashlee grew up in Newbury Park, and returned to the area after studying journalism at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and teaching English in Santiago, Chile for two years. She spent three years as a working mom, before leaving the corporate world to become a full-time, at-home parent. Her daughters are 5 and 6 years old, and she relishes getting to experience her old childhood stomping grounds through their eyes. An Enneagram 4, Ashlee enjoys reading, running, music, collecting vintage fashion magazines, and sharing a fun cocktail with her husband after work while their kids sit/jump beside them on the couch and watch "Pinkalicious." She is a whole-hearted believer that “it takes a village” not only to raise a child, but also to raise a mother. She is grateful for a supportive family, friends, and community, and is passionate about the power of writing to connect us and let us know we’re not alone.

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