From left, Paula Tuttle, Niki Kashner, Mary Jane Allison, Tiffiny Kost and Lyn Campogan work on an activity during a MOPS meeting in Waikoloa. (PHOTO BY LISA DAHM| NHN)
A MOPS sign directs women to the meeting at Waikoloa Community Church in Waikoloa. (PHOTO BY LISA DAHM| NHN)
“I first started (with MOPS) because I was a new mom and I needed to find friends that were in the same season of life,” said Jill Pires, now a mom of three in Waimea. “I heard of MOPS through a friend and I decided to go and check it out. “
Not only did Pires find the friendships she needed through Mothers of Preschoolers, but she also joined the group’s steering team and has been a co-leader for two years.
MOPS is an international group that began more than 20 years ago. Since then, it has spread through the country and internationally as a place where moms – in the life stages between journeying through pregnancy and sending children off to kindergarten – can meet several times a month for food, fellowship and fun, with childcare provided.
According to Pires, MOPS is a great way for new moms to build friendships, to gather parenting and relationship tips in a non-judgmental environment, and to enjoy a little time away within hearing distance of your children.
“I have met lifelong friends through MOPs,” Pires said.
After starting with a social time, each meeting offers a relevant guest speaker that deals with topics related to “children, womanhood, marriage and more.” After the speaker is a time for small group discussions and often a craft fun or unintimidating activity.
According to Pires, there are eight areas of development the MOPS steering team hopes to help moms identify in their lives and to help them strengthen. They are: personal identity, growth, intimacy, instruction, help, recreation, perspective, and hope. The steering team plans and organizes the year over the summer, and they serve as table leaders for the women who are arranged in groups.
“For me, the most important thing is just sharing in the journey of motherhood and forming connections and bonds with the moms,” Pires said. “Without those connections, where would our group be?”
An important aspect of MOPS is the mentor moms — women who have made it through the pre-school years and lived to tell about it.
“The mentors are in place to help the mom see that, ‘I have been there, I got through it – so can you,’” Pires said.
Mentor moms are available to give advice, to listen, to offer friendship and to be a positive, stable force to the women.
Pires said MOPS is not only geared for women who have been on Hawaii Island for many years, but it is also for those who have just arrived, or are only here for a short time.
“We become each other’s families and help each other,” she said. “There is a good mix.”
Nicole Kashner joined MOPS nine years ago when she first moved to Waikoloa and her twin boys were babies.
“I never heard about MOPS and didn’t I know much about it,” she said. “A mom kept approaching me, but it took a lot for me to get out of the house with two babies.”
Once she attended a meeting, she said she loved the camaraderie and felt accepted.
“It was exciting to meet other women going through the same season that I was going through,” Kashner said. “Just to be making friends and to have an adult conversation.”
According to Kashner, an important part of MOPs is its wider, national and international parent base. There are more than 3,900 MOPs groups meeting throughout the United States and in 35 countries around the world, according to the MOPs website.
Kashner started off as a steering team member and now is a mentor mom and field leader for MOPS International.
Children are enrolled in their own classes next door to the adult room, called Moppets, run by a team of volunteers in three groups – babies, younger children and preschoolers. Two-hour classes for the older children are run in a pre-school-like environment complete with snack and an activity and lesson.
Waikoloa MOPS is sponsored by Abundant Life Ministries in Waikoloa, and members of the church help with childcare and serve as mentors for the women.
“They are all volunteers,” Kashner said.
Nicole Betts has one 2 1/2 year-old-daughter. She is relatively new to MOPS, but she said she enjoyed the group from the beginning.
“I was actually really impressed,” Betts said of her first meeting. “I thought it was going to be more of a playgroup, but I like that they are bringing in guest speakers with a variety of topics, and I like how organized it is.”
Betts said she also enjoys the accompanying childcare and that it offers a learning as well as a social environment for the children.
“We get a break for a while, but the kids are right next door,” she said.
Waikoloa MOPS meets from 9:15 to 11:15 a.m., on the first and third Fridays of the month, from September through May at the Waikoloa Community Church, Waikoloa, at the end of Paniolo Avenue, across from Waikoloa Elementary School.
The cost to register is $50, though no mom will be excluded from participating.
Enrollment includes a copy of MomSense magazine from MOPS International. Childcare is provided.
To register or for more information, visit bigislandmops.com, call 883-9512, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.