Before having her two kids, Andrew, 12 and Katy, five, healthcare executive Kim Dahlman and her husband were both working long hours. She says they would both would often “leave in the dark and come home in the dark” to their home in Sammamish.
"It can be difficult to connect with neighbors, when many of them both work outside of the home and you don’t have kids yet,” Dalhman says. And when they started their family, none of their friends had infants. Suddenly, she says, “I felt like I was all alone with an infant and I needed support.”
Many plateau parents can identify with Dahlman. They may have no family in the area having moved here from somewhere else, often to work at Microsoft, and lack friends with young children, so feel especially isolated after starting a family. Luckily there are many resources on and near the plateau to plug into for support during those especially challenging years of child rearing from infant to Kindergarten age.
Dahlman did what many smart parents do when she realized she needed support—she asked her heathcare provider for recommendations of resources.
And that is how she found PEPs, the Program for Early Parent Support.
PEPS groups meet weekly in small, neighborhood based groups that are facilitated by a group leader. Groups meet formally until the babies are four months old and can graduate into groups for parents of five-month- to one-year-old babies. Many groups then choose to continue to meet, some staying connected as their kids move into elementary school and beyond.
From her PEPS group, Dahlman says, “I got emotional support, friendship and I felt less isolated and like I was the only parent who didn’t know what she was doing.”
Dahlman was so grateful for the support of her group that she has now been a PEPS group leader three times. You can find more information on PEPS newborn groups online. Moms often register while still pregnant, as the groups are popular and fill up fast.
Dahlman also recommends another group she and her two children participated in, Mothers of Preschoolers or MOPS. MOPS groups typically meet at the facilities of local faith communities. Here on the plateau MOPS group meet at the and and .
Dahlman says another way to connect with parent support is to call the hospital where you delivered.
“Both and have resources for new parents at their facilities as well as connections to other organizations,” she says.
Dahlman advises keeping in mind when you explore different groups for support, that each group is different, and suggests that if the group you are visiting doesn’t seem like a good fit, to keep exploring other options.
Children’s photographer Meagan Mehlum is also an eastside mom of two children, Oliver, age five and Sofie, three. Mehlum continued working after the birth of Oliver but when Sofie was born decided to take a break to be a full time mom.
Many moms she observes meet other moms of young children in Gymboree or Kindermusik classes, but she wanted a lower cost resource to meet her family’s budget.She was delighted to have a friend refer her to the Redmond Toddler Group, a parent education co-op located at 17725 NE 65th street in Redmond, affiliated with the Lake Washington Institute of Technology. RTG classes meet once a week during the school year. The group recently moved to a new facility located at 17725 NE 65th Street in Redmond, near the east entrance of Marymoor Park.
RTG has been serving eastside parents for many years. Anita Jefferson has taught at RTG for twenty-five years, where another long-time teacher, Ginny Bearson, joins her and teacher Ann Gugat. Last year was a challenging time as the Institute of Technology cut much of its financial support to the program, but the group recently moved to a beautiful, freshly remodeled facility and Bearson says, “the teachers and the board members have worked very hard over the past few months to make sure that Redmond Toddler Group will remain the strong and vibrant program that the community has come to know.”
Mehlum says she is really pleased with how participating in the group benefitted both her and her daughter. Sofie is “very attached,” she says, laughing, and being with her in a classroom environment, playing and socializing with other kids has helped her get ready to participate in preschool.
“It is also nice to be around other moms. We build friendships for ourselves and make play dates for the kids.”
Being a member of the RTG board and helping the organization with fundraising has also been a valuable experience, says Mehlum.
“When you become a mom it is easy to get sucked into this one identity where there isn’t lots of validation and support. When you volunteer, you receive affirmation of an aspect of your life where you aren’t a parent and that you have a multifaceted life.”
Mehlum invites parents who are curious about the Redmond Toddler Group, and the many plateau parents who are alumni of the group, to come to the grand opening of the group’s new facility from 10 am to noon this Saturday, Jan. 14.