Calling all moms: support group wants to connect
By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
By the time Lauren Gonzalez turned 28, she had traveled, established a solid marriage and completed her graduate degree. With the items checked off her bucket list, motherhood emerged as the next natural step.
Ready to take the plunge, Gonzalez braced for the dirty diapers and sleepless nights. She was ready to deal with the colic, breast-feeding challenges and ear aches. She was ready to raise children, though she hadn't considered the intangible aspects of the job, and that's where life took her by surprise.
“It was the negotiating responsibilities and parenting rolls with my partner, the shift in priorities and schedules that distanced us from a lot of our friends, and the isolation and self-doubt about every single decision,” she said. “The worst part for me was the sneaky loss of parts of my identity – the parts I really loved and valued. I just got lost in motherhood and everything it required of me.”
If new business ventures start with an idea capable of providing a untapped service, then Gonzalez has discovered her niche helping mothers reconnect with life while dealing with the intangible aspects of parenting – a job that pays nothing, comes with little respect and forces women to answer to “demanding tiny bosses” that never relent.
Gonzalez, who earned a masters degree in conflict and dispute resolution, looks to bring mothers together through coaching groups and monthly retreats, all while helping them rediscover their dreams and passions.
She pitched her plan this week to a roomful of entrepreneurs, most of them women and many of them mothers. The concept was well received.
“I'm proposing a multifaceted program that helps moms create a thriving mom life without losing themselves in the process,” she explained. “We'd have monthly group coaching where moms get to reconnect, take a breather and discover the dreams and passions they've forgotten or put aside.”
It's that later part that touches Gonzalez personally, and while she can laugh about it now having reconnected with life, that wasn't always the case. For her, motherhood has at times been isolating, and while each experience is different, she knows other women feel the same.
And she's looking to help.
“There are some women who wake up years down the road and they don't recognize themselves in the mirror,” she said. “They wait and wait for the day when their life can begin and they can have their own dreams again – when they can reconnect with their friends, feel valued and supported, socially connected and alive. For those women, I want someday to be today.”
Gonzalez described her husband as a strong communicator who supports her dreams. Still, she said, something was missing. She felt isolated, unhappy and unfulfilled, and she knew she wasn't alone.
From experience and talks with friends, she also knew that navigating partner rolls can present unexpected challenges to well-intended couples. Maintaining intimacy isn't easy when children are young, she added, and making time for friends and personal pursuits can at times seem impossible.
But Gonzalez doesn't believe it has to be that way. She has already formed the basis for her business, Family Connection, by helping new parents build a life together that doesn't create resentment.
While she's applied her own education and experience to empowering families, she's now looking to grow the concept by creating a team environment that offers mothers a variety of services, from pampering to counseling.
“There are a million right ways out there to be a mom, but to do it well, you have to do it on your own terms, and you have to create a life you love around it,” she said. “If you believe children are our future, you have to believe that supporting and enabling empowered, fully alive mothers is paramount.”
Gonzalez has scheduled a “Mother Loving Bash” for June 4 from 9-11 a.m. at the Loft in Missoula. As the first step in taking her concept to the next stage, she looks to bring mothers together to talk about parenting, love, life, pursuing dreams, and balancing it all with raising children.
Sharing stories is a good place to start, she said.
“I think sharing wisdom among women is huge,” she said. “We have so much wisdom to share, but we don't realize it until we get around each other.”