A glimpse into the North Toronto Moms Group
I will be honest, I have been very slow to try and build this type of support group for myself. It took me into my third pregnancy to really search for and seek out a group of women to share in this journey we call motherhood. Typically I had turned to family, neighbours and existing friendships for support but once I sought this out, I had serious regret about waiting so long.
I heard about the North Toronto Moms Group from a few friends who were members and they had recommend that I check it out. I put NTM group in my calendar in November of last year and set a weekly reminder to attend a meeting. I am embarrassed to say that it took me until May to attend a meeting for the first time. Life’s busyness always seemed to creep into Tuesday mornings and the NTM group meetings got pushed.
Looking back on it now had I prioritized going when I originally planned, I would have experienced what a wonderful group of women attended and created this friendship base so much sooner. Now I know that building a “mommunity” should have taken priority over the day to day busyness. It lifts my spirits on days that I feel a sense of isolation within motherhood.
After attending a few meetings and a social night, I really saw what the group was all about and loved it.
Through the group I had the pleasure of becoming friends with two women who are co-chairing the executive committee this year. Charlotte & Heather are both smart, hard working women who have been members of the NTMs for a couple of years now. I asked them if they could provide some of their insight and wisdom into what the group means to them.
Heather & Charlotte…The floor is yours!
Prior to you joining, how did you first hear about North Toronto Moms?
Heather: I heard about the North Toronto Moms from my sister who also lived nearby and was on her second maternity leave when I had my first. I had heard a lot about the group from her involvement over the previous few years and thought it sounded so great!
Charlotte: I first heard about GKSS, (Great Kids Stuff Sale) from some members of our run group. I went to that sale and was blown away by all the awesome clothes and toys for amazing prices. Nevertheless, the best part of it was how kind and helpful all of the volunteers were. A number of them mentioned the group and encouraged me to join.
When in your motherhood journey did you join NTMs?
Heather: I think I came to my first Tuesday meeting when my son was about 2 weeks old!
Charlotte: Unfortunately, even though I heard about the group at the sale in April, I had some conflicting commitments with my spring schedule so I didn’t start with the group until September (10 months into my first maternity leave). I loved the group so much and continued on as a social member until my second maternity leave. I was so happy to be a part of it again and I was at a Tuesday meeting and a Friday playgroup when my baby was one week old.
Tell us about your very first meeting. What was it about that meeting in particular that enticed you to attend? Who was the speaker? What did they speak about?
Heather: I remember very clearly my first meeting’s speaker, she was talking about safety, first aid, and CPR. As a brand-new mom, it was a little overwhelming hearing all the terrible things that could happen to my precious baby! But it was actually super useful, as it encouraged me to talk to my husband about it and make sure that we were as prepared as we could be. To this day, I still remember her saying a baby is way more likely to suffer from being too hot than too cold, and I take that into account when dressing my kids!
Charlotte: My first meeting was the September kickoff in 2017. There was no speaker, just a meet and greet and introductions and explanations from the executive team. I was nervous to go on my own and enter a group without knowing anyone but people were so friendly. I remember being approached right away by a super kind and friendly member and then I was welcomed into a number of conversations with people who are now close friends.
With a mixture of speakers and breakout discussions throughout the year, do you gravitate towards attending one or the other or enjoy both formats? For those who don’t know, can you shed a bit of light on what a breakout discussion is?
Heather: Coming on Tuesday mornings just became part of my regular routine, and I focused less on the speaker or format for each week. The variety of speakers is great, and I always learn at least one new thing. Breakout sessions I also enjoy, as it’s a chance to chat with other moms about a specific topic, have your questions answered by people who are in the same boat, or just get some sympathies and laughs. We’ve had them about parenting challenges, behaviour, travel tips, etc.
Charlotte: I love both formats and am so happy to have a place to go on Tuesdays to meet with amazing women, eat treats and receive some inspiration. This can come from speakers or from group members. Instead of a more formal presentation, breakout discussions are sessions for members to share ideas with one another on a specific topic. Past topics have included connecting with your partner after children and childcare arrangements.
What has been your favourite speaker thus far and why?
Heather: Alyson Shafer last year was fantastic! She is a parenting expert so has great information and advice, but she is also really engaging, funny, and relatable. She was speaking about getting out the door in the morning, something I’m sure we all struggle with. I can’t wait for her to be coming back this September!
Charlotte: There are a lot that I have really enjoyed and I particularly like the variety of topics. One that sticks out to me was Alyson Schafer as I took away a number of strategies that were very easy to implement and effective for things like getting out the door in the morning with young children. She was a phenomenal speaker too with a very engaging style.
So much LOVE for Alyson!
Alyson is scheduled to speak on Tuesday September 17th, 2019. Don’t miss out on this parenting expert. She is clearly a crowd favourite and will be giving away a copy of her book, Honey I Wrecked the Kids to a lucky attendee.
Other than the meetings on Tuesday mornings, what else does NTMs offer their members?
Heather: Playgroups are the number one to me. Being connected with a group of moms and babies of the same age. This is the best way to really make some new mom friends. My playgroup from my first maternity leave still meets up and I am so thankful for having that support group. I am also part of a book club which is a fun way to meet some other moms, maybe read a few books, and get together to chat over drinks and snacks. There are monthly social events, including some evening speakers, pub nights, potlucks, etc. This is great for those who can’t come on Tuesdays, but still want to be part of the group. We have a lot of “social members” so there really is something for everyone!
Charlotte: So much! Seriously, this group fills up my time in the best way. There are playgroups, which is one of my favourite things. Our group of about eight moms with babies of similar ages meet weekly at rotating houses. I love the laid back nature of these sessions, seeing the babies grow together and learning so much from moms going through similar stages. I am also a member of a book club that came together during my first maternity leave and we continue to meet monthly, read great books and enjoy wine and treats. There are monthly socials ranging from local pub nights to “Cocktails and Conversations” (a special evening speaker), mani pedis and workout classes. Further, I have met so many incredible moms in this group that then make plans for park outings, coffee walks and runs.
Tell us about the ways that NTMs have offered support to those in need?
Heather: It really is a special community of moms, and part of that is supporting each other, as well as the broader community. Through our Helping Hands program, we often bring meals to members who can use a little extra help – if they just had a baby, for example. To support the broader community, we’ve held toy drives and diaper drives; last year we helped fund holiday gifts for some newly arrived refugee families. And through the Great Kids Stuff Sale, we donate all the unsold merchandise to many different charitable organizations across the city. Tens of thousands of items of clothing, toys, and gear go directly to organizations that support moms and families in the GTA.
Charlotte: I was blown away by the support this group offers to new moms or those experiencing some challenges through their Helping Hands programme. I was touched by the kindness and generosity of the moms who delivered amazing meals for my family when my second son was born. My favourite aspect of GKSS is when we pack up all of the outstanding items for 17 charities in need around the city. I love filling up massive bags with lovely clothing and toys knowing that they are going to a family in need
What made you want to help out and sit on the executive committee as co-president? What do you look forward to most this year?
Heather: I’ve been on the executive for a few years now, and was asked to co-chair this past year when I went on mat leave in the fall. I’ve enjoyed it and am happy to be staying on for the coming year and to have Charlotte joining me! It’s great to be able to give back and help lead an organization that I’ve enjoyed and gained so much from. I’m looking forward to a great year – I hope we’ll have lots of new and returning members! The new 10am start time will be great for me so I can squeeze in a morning nap for my 10-month old before coming over.
Charlotte: This group has given me so much and has truly shaped my motherhood experience. I have another full year of maternity leave so thought it would be a great time to be involved. This is my first time on the executive so I certainly don’t have a lot of experience but I am learning a lot from Heather and the executive team. The thing I look most forward to is working with these amazing women and also meeting new members and seeing the connections they make.
What are the changes that members can expect to see from years past?
Heather & Charlotte: The big one is the change in start time to 10am. We hope this helps with morning nappers, and those that just have a hard time getting out the door in the morning. (That’s all of us, some days!) You can pop in late, or sneak out early, when needed. We have a more defined social calendar for the year, so people can know in advance what’s planned for each month and keep their calendars free! We’ll also build on our “cocktails and conversation” series, which brings some favourite speakers to an evening setting, and we’re really trying to build up our instagram presence this year.
Please follow along! @ntmoms
What has been your favourite aspect of joining the NTMs?
Heather: It’s really about all the amazing women I have met and become friends with over the years. I hardly go anywhere without running into someone from the group, and I love that sense of community it builds. These moms have become dear friends, here for the good and tough times in this crazy parenting adventure we’re all on.
Charlotte: When I had my first son, none of my friends had kids yet. I moved into the neighbourhood when my son was 5 weeks old and knew nobody. Joining this group has connected me with the most inspiring group of kind and fun women. I now have a large network of close friends who have been with me through the ups and downs of motherhood. I found that I felt quite isolated at the start of my first maternity leave and this group changed that completely.
If women out there are still unsure about becoming a member, what kind of encouraging words can you offer to help take some of the intimidation out of attending a meeting for the first time?
Heather: I’ll be there every Tuesday and would love to meet you! Even if you don’t know anyone, you now sort of know me after reading this Q&A. It’s such a great group and has made the world of difference to me over the past 5 years and I hope it will for you too!
Charlotte: Just do it!!! If you want to email firstname.lastname@example.org to set it up, I am happy to walk in with you (or connect you with another exec member (if lots of people choose this option). Or you go in on your own and know that you will meet many friendly faces. You have a child so you are already a superhero and you can find your people to mom with!
Thank you so much to Heather and Charlotte for taking time from their busy schedules to help with this article. I hope that it offers some insight into what a wonderful group of supportive women make up the membership and executive team of the North Toronto Moms Group.
The first Tuesday morning meeting will be held on September 10th, 2019 at St. Timothys Church (100 Old Orchard Grove, Toronto) at 10am. Instead of a speaker, we have organized a mom and baby music class. Should you wish, there will be babysitters on site to allow you to mingle with the other women baby free prior to the music class commencing.