JF&CS News Spring 2018
When Irina* came to the United States from the Former Soviet Union, her support system was simple: her husband and the university where they both studied. Plans changed, as they sometimes do, and she found herself a stay-at-home mother without much connection to the world around her. She struggled to learn and practice English, and found the paperwork required to stay in the country confusing. Despite a supportive partner and a healthy baby, she felt isolated and overwhelmed.
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When Beth’s* twin babies arrived, she and her husband were ready. As a teacher
of young children herself, she knew the ins and outs of playtime and learning, as
well as what to expect in the first year having kids.
What she didn’t expect was just how acutely she would feel the absence of her mother as she became a mother herself. Missing her mother, who had passed away years ago, wasn’t new; but this feeling of loss was different. She wished she had a confidant, someone who had been in her shoes with their own children, to share her feelings and experiences.
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For both of these mothers, being referred to the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program made all the difference. The program links experienced parents with new parents. Volunteers are trained and supervised to support parents who are adjusting to parenthood, isolated, or overwhelmed. The Visiting Mom volunteers meet new
parents in their homes and provide a weekly visit for at least two months or up until the baby’s first birthday.
For Central MA volunteer Amy Drotch, Visiting Moms is a chance to provide a new mom with judgment-free support from a mom who has been there. Amy has been a volunteer for two years, and worked with two very different moms. As Amy explains, she is drawn to the program and the impact JF&CS has on its clients and volunteers. “This program hits on a passion of mine. I have worked with young mothers in the past and being a mother is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. When volunteering, you look for that one special activity; I’ve volunteered for a lot of different organizations, but nothing really stuck or was as rewarding as this. I’m in it for the long haul.”
Every other week, Amy and the Central MA volunteers meet for supervision with Carrie Powers, the Central Mass Visiting Moms coordinator, at Congregation B’nai Shalom in Westborough. The sessions are confidential and provide a chance to share experiences, brainstorm, receive and give guidance, and process any emotions that might arise for the volunteers.
Carrie joined the thriving Visiting Moms program in November. A clinical social worker by training, she worked in community mental health programs for over a decade before transitioning into her private practice five years ago. In her role, Carrie does outreach to referral sources such as MDs and hospital nursing staff members, as well as provides supervision for the Visiting Moms volunteers. “We are eager to expand,” explained Carrie.
In addition to the Visiting Moms program, JF&CS offers a weekly parent support group in Westborough and 10 other communities throughout Greater Boston. The group is open to any parent with a baby up to age one and aims to foster a community of support among parents. The groups are not structured, but facilitated by experienced, trained, and supervised group leaders. Diane Gardner, Visiting Moms Supervisor, explains that a main focus of these groups is to give parents the opportunity to develop their own community. Some parents even leave the group with life-long friends. “The Visiting Moms program and the parent support groups are both fantastic opportunities for parents with newborns to gain footing in the parent world,” Diane notes.
The Visiting Moms program is open to all who need it; you don’t have to be Jewish to volunteer or to participate in the program as a mom. For Carrie, the program is one that fills many needs, including helping a new parent grow. “The program is about listening and helping a new mom develop her own reflective capacity. Our volunteers aren’t therapists or friends, but fill a unique role of bearing witness to motherhood.”
*Names changed to protect privacy.