Finding Friendship

Albert Einstein said there is only one important question we must all ask: Is the world a friendly or a hostile place?

Albert Einstein said there is only one important question we must all ask: Is the world a friendly or a hostile place? Although intrigued by this, I never gave it much thought until my experience with Midshore Mothers’ Center. This answer is often colored by what we experience in our home communities, and whether we view them as friendly or hostile.

We live in a world where e-mail has replaced handwritten letters, Facebook is our morning coffee companion and texting moonlights for conversation. Our means of communication have multiplied, yet we seem to have lost the art of truly listening to another human being.

When I became a new mom, I was certainly feeling the strain from this lack of community. My work friends were all, sadly enough, at work. And I realized that I was spending an unusual amount of time talking to the mailman and the UPS delivery guy, neither of whom shared my penchant for discussing the virtues of breastfeeding.

Around this time, a friend suggested we sign up for a discussion group at Midshore Mothers’ Center (MMC). Not knowing what to expect, I reluctantly agreed. Of course, it turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The backbone of MMC comprises groups where moms can discuss anything and everything while their children are gently learning to separate in a nearby room under the guidance of a trained childcare worker. Something magical starts to happen in these groups, and in the center as a whole. Just as the incongruent ingredients of a cake congeal into something delightful, so too do the moms combine into something bigger than themselves. You put a group of women together and mix in honesty, shared stories and a dollop of guidelines to steer the discussion, and something wonderful rises out of that.

Imagine at your next Thanksgiving dinner or PTA meeting that the following guidelines were contemplated.

  1. Non-judgmental attitude: Embracing this creates an environment where moms are able to share things that would seem unthinkable to bring up elsewhere. The real bonus is that when we learn to see others in a non-judgmental light, it casts a kinder hue on ourselves as well.
  2. Confidentiality: Similar to Vegas (but without the alcohol, gambling and show girls), what is said at the Mothers’ Center, stays at the Mothers’ Center.
  3. Responsibility for the group: While there are two facilitators who run each discussion group, there is no hierarchical structure. Whether she joined last week or ten years ago, each member is equally encouraged to participate.
  4. Air space: People from all walks of life are encouraged to neither monopolize nor neglect her end of the conversation.
  5. Speaking from the I: Many times, our personal opinions include familiar helper words like “should,” “could” and “would” that sound innocuous on their own. If, however, you attach a few innocent little pronouns, they can become downright soul-destroying. At MMC, we leave the “you” and “would-a,” “could-a,” “should-a” at the door.

For more information, visit NAMC at motherscenter.org or MMC at  midshoremotherscenter.org. In photo: A mother and son enjoy a baking class at MMC’s Acts Café.

Back to Einstein’s question. Do I see the world as a friendly or a hostile place? While I have always envisioned the world as friendly enough, my experience at Midshore Mothers’ Center has greatly expanded this view. My friendly place now includes moms of every type and variety who are working, staying at home, single, married, joyful and just plain overwhelmed. I am going to be bold in saying that I know what Einstein was trying to teach us by posing this question in the first place. He knew that viewing the world as a friendly place informs more than just our own experience. Because as he or any quantum physicist will tell you, when we evolve our perception of where we live, we also transform the world as a whole.

How the Concept of the Mothers’ Center Became a Reality:
1975 - Mothers involved in a research project open the doors of the first Mothers’ Center in Hicksville.
1983 - The Mothers’ Center in Massapequa opens. This later becomes the Midshore Mothers’ Center, currently located in Farmingdale.
1991 - The Mothers’ Center network forms an independent national nonprofit organization, the National Association of Mothers’ Centers (NAMC).
2001 NAMC is chosen as Organization of the Year by the Long Island Women’s Agenda.