In 1972, when Sheila Siderow moved to Westchester from the city with her three children, then ages 5, 4, and six months, she felt trapped in her house. “Unlike the city where I walked everywhere and met other mothers easily, here there was no place to walk, no place to go, and no way to meet anyone,” she says. “It was very lonely.” That’s why when, three years ago, Laura Wiener walked into Siderow’s Chappaqua real estate office, Siderow-Kennedy, and suggested organizing a support group for women who were new to the area and knew no one, Siderow jumped in with both feet. “I was past the mommy stage and had no time to give, but I could help with money and clerical help, so I did,” Siderow recalls. The result was the Chappaqua Parents Preschool Association (CPPA). According to Wiener, CPPA began out of a need to “fill the intellectual void and immerse ourselves in the community.” It offers parents a wide range of activities, from playgroups to organized family events, to social events for couples. It also provides information about schools and community resources. As the parent of an only child, Wiener has formed a sub-chapter of the organization called Only Not Lonely for families with only children up to age 11.
In October of 2001, Kathleen Rapley and Carolyn Sweeney, members of the Chappaqua group but residents of Pleasantville, formed the Pleasantville Parents Preschool Association, also sponsored by Siderow. “I wasn’t sure if Pleasantville was large enough to support our group,” says Rapley, “but we now have over 100 members and are still growing.”
For Lisa Black of Hartsdale, who is now co-leader of Mothers and More, Mommy and Me groups were not what she was looking for. Black, who started researching organizations before her baby was born, found that Mothers and More filled the gap. Its mix of parent education, social activities for mothers and couples, speakers, special events and community projects was just what she was looking for. “The women are very accomplished and tend to be a bit older and we all seem to find what we need in the organization,” she says. “Some of us like the community project work, which leads to even more social connections, and some of us just like socializing in the group and with other couples.” Mothers and More is an international not-for-profit organization. Black’s Southern Westchester chapter currently has 80 members.
Dawn Meglino of Rye worked until the day her son was born. “After I left work,” she says, “I would look at my suits and long to have someplace to go where I could wear them. I felt I was losing my identity. When my old friends came to visit, the first thing they said was, ’You’ve changed.’” Like Black, she felt she needed more than the traditional playgroup. Research led her to The Mom’s Club, an international not-for-profit group for stay-at-home mothers. Since there wasn’t a local chapter, she started one herself, and now The Mom’s Club of Rye Brook has 65 members who participate in all types of activities, from community service projects (they recently raised $6,000 to send underprivileged children to summer camp) to Mom’s Night Out, to parent education seminars. There is a monthly business meeting and newsletter whose current editor, Anke Sulimma, a graphic designer, says has given her a way to stay current in her profession without going back to work. “I don’t feel alone anymore,” Sulimma says. “The Mom’s Club has helped me come out of a total feeling of isolation.” There are four chapters of The Mom’s Club in the Stamford, CT, area, with missions comparable to the Rye Brook chapter.
Seven years ago, when Lori Robinson of New York City had her first child, she, too, sought more than a simple playgroup. When her baby was six months old, she formed the New Mommies Network, based on the luncheons she had been attending in Manhattan with her baby. “I wanted to get dressed up and go to restaurants and speak about more than just parenting issues,” Robinson says. New Mommies Network arranges lunch meetings in the private rooms of restaurants for mothers of newborns to babies 12 months old. Each month there is a speaker on a particular topic, sometimes child-related but not always. Events are held in Westchester, New York City and Long Island. “You check the website for the next event in your area, make a reservation, and pay for lunch when you go. I wanted to make this simple and uncomplicated,” explains Robinson, who is in the process of moving to Westchester County.
Mara Weissmann of Chappaqua, a mother and attorney in Manhattan, kept coming across other mothers in her community who worked outside the home and felt they were the only moms in the community who did so. “I knew this couldn’t be true,” Weissmann says, “and I really wanted to bring together all these women I was meeting at school, on the soccer field, and on the train to the city.” So in 1998, Weissmann, with the help of several friends, organized the first dinner meeting of what was to become Second Shift. Thirty-three women were invited and 33 women showed up, Weissmann says, explaining that Second Shift is a support and networking group described in its mission statement as “providing a forum for professional women who devote themselves to their careers and the care of their children and families.” Meetings, held in local restaurants, feature guest speakers on a variety of topics, such as managing two careers, marriage and parenthood. Since its inception, Second Shift has grown to include 260 members, most from Chappaqua and neighboring communities, and this year, a southern Westchester chapter will be created. Its activities have expanded to include community involvement: last year the group sponsored a Read-a-Thon during which members and their children raised $6,000 for the Mount Kisco Day Care Center. The funds went to buy an outdoor playset that has a plaque that reads: “From the children of Second Shift to the children of the Mount Kisco Day Care Center.” Second Shift members have also begun working with the PTAs of the Chappaqua elementary and middle schools to “bridge the gap,” Weissmann says, between mothers who are at home and those who work outside the home.
The loneliness and isolation that Sheila Siderow experienced 22 years ago can still be a factor for new mothers in Westchester, but since then, women have stepped up to the plate and organized to make their communities more welcoming places, and to create better lives for themselves and their families.
Support Group Information • Chappaqua Parents Preschool Association (CPPA) Laura Wiener: 914-320-2772
• Pleasantville Parents Preschool Association Kathleen Rapley: 914-773-1783 Carolyn Sweeney: 914-773-0745
• Mothers and More Lisa Black: 914-725-0724
• New Mommies Network Voicemail: 914-725-0724 Lori Robinson: 212-769-0724 www.newmommies.com
• Mom’s Club of Rye Brook Dawn Meglino: 914-937-6628
• Mom’s Club of Stamford Central: 203-656-6680 East: 203-322-5905 South/West :203-359-4344 North: 203-968-8849
• Second Shift www.secondshift.org