~ By Meg Butterworth, PEPS mom and volunteer
In a world of endless choices, giving back to PEPS was an easy choice for Sloan and Sarah
The decision to have a baby is life changing, as are the decisions and choices you make after the baby is born. Now that you have this bundle of joy, your next mission is to figure out, with a touch of desperation and anxiousness, the best way to care for your newborn. Not to mention yourself. You’re faced with a slew of options and choices that can forever shape the journey you have started. Case in point, the decision to join PEPS! Sarah Cody Roth, not yet a year into her PEPS group and Sloan Chong, a ten year alumna, offer two enthusiastic and heartfelt stories about how their decision to join PEPS has had a positive and lasting impact on them and their family.
During her pregnancy Sarah kept in shape by taking yoga classes at Limber Yoga in West Seattle. A popular spot for pre-natal and post-natal women, she received lots of encouragement from her classmates to join PEPS. As a transplant from Salem, OR Sarah and her husband, Tristan had no nearby family to rely on for help. Nor did they have many peers to turn to, being the first to take the leap into parenthood. PEPS sounded appealing however, they were concerned about how it would fit into their work schedules. Tristan is a teacher at Evergreen High School in White Center and Sarah is the Annual Fund Manager for Compass Housing Alliance. With reassurances from her yoga pals that an evening group would be ideal they enrolled. A month after their daughter, Eleanor arrived they went to their first PEPS meeting only to discover that three of the seven women in the group were from her yoga class!
It didn’t take long for Sarah and Tristan to realize they had made the right choice joining PEPS. They soon viewed their weekly meetings as “family time” when the three of them could enjoy an activity together. Since completing the three months of facilitated meetings, their group now meets once a month on Sunday evenings for play time, which is usually followed by a beer or two among the adults.
In an effort to make the most of their time together, Sarah has recently incorporated music lessons into the gatherings. Everyone brings small instruments like rattles, Sarah plays the guitar and leads the group in a sing-a-long. The group has had a blast so far and parents appreciate being able to use their monthly meetings as a way to expose their children to something new. As Sarah said, “With so many parent and tot classes available and little time to work them into busy schedules, it’s nice for the group to know that they can create their own organized activities.” Swim lessons may replace music lessons come summer!
In addition to their monthly meetings, the group connects through frequent mom’s and dad’s nights and holiday events. It’s clear that new friendships have been forged solidifying the group.
Sarah and Tristan often find themselves saying that, “they could be first time parents without PEPS, but it would not be fun.” Still one of the few among their friends to have a child, Sarah says she values “being able to hang out with fellow parents who get it, it gives me a chance to relax.”
Given the energy of the group and the fact that all of the children have close birthdays, it came as no surprise that they decided to organize a joint first birthday party. Choosing Limber Yoga Studio as the venue seemed obvious! The group rented out the studio, which offered plenty of space for families and their guests, as well as a safe place for the tots to play on tumbling mats and climbing structures. Each family brought a dish and beverages to share. To round out the communal effort Sarah suggested that in lieu of gifts folks make a donation to PEPS. An envelope was available at the party to collect family donations. The party and fundraiser were a success with 100% participation by the group, raising a total of $132!
Everyone was thrilled with the results and are considering turning it into an ongoing tradition. The fundraiser in Sarah is already thinking of ways to incorporate other elements into the celebration, such as a speaker or organized activities, or tying the suggested donation amount to the year or date the kids were born. The possibilities are endless.
Overall, Sarah’s decision to join PEPS has provided her with a lasting network of other parents who, as she said, “are in it with me and give me confidence as a parent.”
Almost a year after joining PEPS Sarah started leading a group herself in March. She’s enjoying the change in roles and the new perspective it gives her. When I commented that her plate is full between parenting, working and now leading a group, she assured me that because she feels so passionately about PEPS it’s easy for her to give back!
Sarah is not alone in her passion for PEPS. It’s been 10 years since Sloan Chong made the decision to join PEPS.During that decade she has lead three different groups and most recently organized a joint 10th birthday party and fundraiser for her PEPS group.
Unlike Sarah, many of Sloan’s friends were transitioning to parenthood at the same time as she and her husband. Yet, with everyone’s busy and conflicting schedules she still saw value in joining a weekly support group. After having her daughter, Audrey she joined PEPS at the suggestion of a friend. Sloan admits that she did not join with the expectation that she would make deep friendships. She was mainly looking for parental guidance, as well as, “something that would force me to get out of the house once a week!”
It didn’t take long for her to recognize that in fact deep friendships did form, thanks in large part to the first meeting when everyone shared their birth stories. Listening to some of the women’s very intense experiences confirmed for her that, “if they can share that then everything’s on the table.”
Despite a few members who moved out of town, the group continued to meet regularly right up until the children reached elementary school age. Many had second children, and welcomed them into the group including Sloan’s second daughter, Piper. During those years she discovered that, “I could call any one of these people in a crisis.” Today, with everyone spread out across Seattle, Sloan’s group stays in touch via Facebook. She continues to be close friends with one of the members who lives nearby and has also stayed connected with one of the group’s facilitators.
It was when she was out with a PEPS friend that she came up with the idea of getting the group together to celebrate the kids’ 10th birthday. She strongly felt it’s a milestone year that deserves to be recognized, as much for the moms as for the kids! Sloan also saw this as a great way for the group to give back to PEPS.
In March, the group organized a Lego party at Math and Stuff and 8 out of the original 12 made it. There were plenty of activities to keep the kids engaged while the parents caught up with one another. They even carved out time to take a group photo of the kids updating the original photo they took 10 years ago at one of their early meetings.
During the party two envelopes were laid out, one for parents to make a contribution to the cost of the party and the other for contributions to the PEPS Scholarship Fund. Parents were asked to donate what they could towards reaching the combined goal of raising $150 to support one new family. As it turned out the group raised a total of $300 to support two new families!
The success of the fundraiser meant a lot to Sloan who had recently finished leading her third PEPS group. As a facilitator she’s been able to see just how economically diverse groups can be with homeowners, renters, apartment dwellers and so on. She confided that despite different backgrounds, “once you start talking about the baby, that’s the common bond.”
PEPS has definitely impacted the past ten years for Sloan, providing her with the support system she sought early on as a new parent and creating long-term friendships for both her and her daughters. A former school counselor prior to having children, Sloan has also found value in being able to apply her counseling skills as a PEPS facilitator.
In a world of endless choices, giving back to PEPS was an easy choice for both Sloan and Sarah.
About the Author
Meg Butterworth lives in NW Seattle with her husband and two children. She joined PEPS in 2006 and still meets with her group to celebrate and share in all of parenting’s joys, surprises, challenges and curveballs. She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening and catching up on all of her favorite shows while the kids are in bed. She has volunteered for PEPS as a group facilitator, fundraiser and more recently as a contributor to the PEPS Newsletter.