Julia Calkins is a new PEPS Group leader! She and her husband Jeremy have been married for 4 years this summer. “Our little guy is 19 months old. We were in an evening group starting when Gus was about 8 weeks old and it was so helpful in so many ways!” she said.
Like many PEPS parents, they didn’t have many close friends with kids, besides her sister Emily, Emily’s husband Mark and their baby girl. “PEPS was a great way to meet people who were in a similar stage in life as we were,” Julia said, adding, “We don’t see our PEPS group very often any more but their support during the first few months was so important to us.”
Julia is a community behavioral health nurse. “My clients are recently homeless and have a severe and persistent mental illness. Besides nursing, I love to cook, particularly with whatever comes out of our garden,” she shared.
That ability to be vulnerable about the struggles and successes I was having really helped me transition into my role as a parent. I hope I can help create a similarly comfortable environment for another group of parents. –Julia Calkins
Julia just started leading a group this summer. It’s her first experience as a PEPS Group leader and she decided to share the load with a co-leader.
When asked what inspired her to lead, Julia reflected on her experience at PEPS with co-leaders: “The leaders of mine and my husband’s PEPS Group did such a wonderful job and always made me feel so comfortable sharing the up and downs of parenting, particularly the more difficult parts. That ability to be vulnerable about the struggles and successes I was having really helped me transition into my role as a parent. I hope I can help create a similarly comfortable environment for another group of parents.”
Co-leading with a twist
Julia’s story as a new group leader really caught our eye at PEPS. When she attended the group leader training with Polly Jirkovsky Gual, Community Connector at PEPS, it was surprising – and exciting – to learn that Julia would be co-leading with her sister Emily. Julia said, “Emily and I are leading our first newborn group right now. We just had our first meeting last week!”
I thought that combination of shared and very different experiences would make us good leaders. –Emily Calkins Cheryk
Emily asked Julia to co-lead with her. It’s also Emily’s first time as a group leader.
Emily and her partner Mark have been married for almost 9 years. Their daughter is 15 months old. Emily said, “We were part of an evening couples group when she was a newborn and had SUCH a positive experience. Our group still gets together about once a month, and we really appreciate that participating PEPS built our community – we love running into PEPS friends at farmers market (or, let’s be honest, at Target).”
So, how did this co-leadership idea get started?
“When Julia and I talked about our PEPS experiences, it was obvious that they were really different but important for both us and our partners,” Emily said. “Since our kids are so close in age – just four months apart – we’ve been going through a lot of parenting stuff together, and I thought that combination of shared and very different experiences would make us good leaders. Plus,” she added, “I knew we’d be able to work out any issues that came up as co-leaders, since we’ve been working out issues for 30 years.”
Emily is a librarian who specializes in connecting books and readers through recommendations, author events, and more. She adds, “Most days it doesn’t feel like there’s time for much beyond that!”
After their first meeting, Emily reported, “Our group jumped right in and started getting to know each other without any prompting! As a PEPS participant, I remember being really nervous at our first meeting, so I was impressed with how quickly they opened up.”
“I’ll second what Emily said. Our group really made the most of our first meeting and started getting to know each other right away. It made our job easy!” Julia said.
“I’m looking forward to getting to know our families more in the weeks to come,” Emily concluded.
The sisters’ big takeaway? Those babies are so amazingly cute!