For many, one of the most difficult transitions in life is the one from singledom to parenthood.
Whether it’s because access to resources and supports are limited, or parents are — understandably — unprepared for the challenges to come, learning how to adjust to a new life can be a struggle for many.
Thankfully, free peer-to-peer supports are available in Newmarket and across Canada, thanks to dedicated volunteers — and parents — who believe in paying it forward.
Life With A Baby, a Canadian organization and registered charity for “real parents, real challenges and real help,” aims to support new moms and dads by providing educational workshops, programs, events and social meetups. Parents from the community are brought together weekly to “navigate the rollercoaster that is raising kids,” connecting, supporting, learning, crying and laughing together “every chance” they get.
Founded by new mother Claire Kerr-Zlobin in 2008, Life With A Baby started off as a series of intimate first-aid classes for mothers seeking a larger social support network. Today, LWAB is Canada’s largest peer-to-peer network of mothers, with more than 77,000 total users and 5,000 in the York Region North chapter alone.
LWAB today serves 23 different communities across Canada, with options to meet both online and in person.
“It’s a great way to meet moms in the local community, as well as make friends for yourself and your child,” said Connie Butera, community manager of the organization’s York Region North Chapter, which serves Newmarket, Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Sharon, Mount Albert and surrounding areas.
Butera started the Life With A Baby York Region North chapter in 2010, following the birth of her first son. Previously, she had founded and ran the Newmarket Goober Gang, a similar play group for new moms and their children in the area.
“Twelve years later, my son’s a teenager, almost, and I’m still creating that village in our local community for other moms, so they can benefit from the same services that I had,” said Butera.
Currently, the local chapter is offering infant and child first aid and CPR classes, playground play dates, educational workshops, an upcoming Easter Bunny breakfast, and more.
When the weather gets nicer, they hope to host bubble and sidewalk chalk parties, park play dates, lunch dates and more, as well as restart the Parenting Confidently program, which teaches new and experienced parents everything they need to know about bringing home a baby.
A full list of upcoming events can be found on the chapter’s website.
“The main reason Life With A Baby started was to be a support network,” said Allison Flynn-Bowman, foundation manager at Life With A Baby. “We know that if moms have a strong support network, they have less suffering from any postpartum mood or anxiety disorders. It’s actually preventive.”
Flynn-Bowman first joined Life With a Baby as the community manager of the Niagara region in 2017, after the birth of her second child. Unable to find groups that supported mothers of both a baby and toddler, and looking for a scheduled activity to manage her postpartum anxiety, Life With A Baby fit the bill. A “great” group of friends, she said, were developed through Life With A Baby’s events.
In addition to hiring personnel to assist with events, fundraisers and special initiatives, the foundation side of Life With a Baby organizes events for community managers and deals with all financial and digital management. It is currently working on recurring social support groups for mothers experiencing deeper levels of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.