Several Montgomery County moms got a head start on their Mother’s Day celebration thanks to archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS).
CSS’s Family Service Center in Norristown hosted a “Mom’s Day Out” on May 3, treating attendees to chair yoga sessions, a buffet lunch, flowers and gifts, along with a chance to win an infant car seat and stroller.
The center, one of five operated throughout the Philadelphia area by CSS, offers a wide array of services to support families, including parenting classes that incorporate five protective factors that can prevent child abuse: social and emotional competence; knowledge of parenting and child development; social connections; concrete support and resilience.
The factors are part of the Strengthening Families program, an internationally recognized social services model originally developed in the 1980s by psychologist Karol L. Kumpfer and now implemented widely throughout the United States. CSS utilizes the program at a number of its agencies, including its Catholic Community Services and Out of School Time (OST) sites.
At the May 3 event, parent educators from the Montgomery County center gave presentations in both English and Spanish on stress reduction strategies for mothers.
“We’re talking about emotional refueling for moms, and how they can build up their energy with their baby around, while being aware of the things that take away that energy,” said parent educator Mary Agnes Klenk.
Klenk and fellow educator Doris Morales used plastic Easter eggs to represent both the daily stressors that can quickly deplete mothers, and the actions they can take to refresh themselves while raising their families.
Morales noted that Latino women in particular can expend themselves as mothers while neglecting their own need for downtime.
“They don’t know what to do to relax,” said Morales. “They’re always busy, busy, busy, and they don’t take time out for themselves.”
Klenk said that there are plenty of “little things moms can do to refuel,” such as taking a five-minute shower, sitting on the front porch, or simply going into the next room to relax while their children are asleep or at play.
The May 3 gathering also gave moms a chance to trade parenting notes based on their own experience.
“They’re developing the solutions,” said Klenk. “We start the lesson, but the moms all join in and share what they think.”
Although mothers instinctively put their children and families first, focusing on their own needs can ultimately make everyone at home happier, said parent educator Kate Walsh.
“When mom has good self-care practices, her stress is lower, her anxiety is lower,” said Walsh, who is expecting her fourth child. “Her patience is higher, she’s better rested, and she’s able to do better for her family as a whole.”
Walsh noted that it’s particularly important to provide first-time mothers with self-care strategies.
“If you can learn that as you begin your motherhood journey, you can really avoid a lot of the pitfalls that come from being burned out,” she said.
The CSS event also provided much-needed fellowship for area mothers, whose daily schedules can sometimes leave them feeling isolated from the larger community.
Stacy Callahan, who is enrolled in CSS’s weekly parenting education classes, was grateful for the chance to “sit, relax and talk to new people.”
“It’s a chance to learn about being better parents, and to just socialize,” said Callahan, who attended with her three-week-old daughter, Lillian.
Walsh said that CSS works to provide mothers with “one-stop shopping” that offers a range of resources.
“You can come here to have your food and financial needs addressed, but you can also just come to be with other moms,” said Walsh. “And that’s a critical part of the parenting process that we sometimes forget.”
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