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by Judy Antell


Jennifer Belew and Lisa Lavitt, two New York City moms, met two years ago in a playgroup on the Upper East Side. They connected — and that original playgroup is still going strong.

But not all parent friendships go so smoothly, the two women — both social workers — observed.

“Being a new mother and meeting other new moms can feel similar to dating or being back in high school and trying to make new friends,” points out Belew. “Asking for a phone number to have a playdate is anxiety-driven and plays into all your fears of being rejected. Once you have another mom’s phone number, how long should I wait to call her, and will I even like her?”

Mom Matchmakers, Lisa Lavitt (left) and Jennifer Belew

So the two have started up Tots ‘n Talk, a playgroup matching service.

Belew and Lavitt meet with each new mom and child, and then place them in a playgroup with moms with complementary interests. Each group has six to eight moms — to allow everyone to get to know one another intimately. (That size also seems about right for most New York City apartments).

Lavitt and Belew attend the first meeting of a new group, helping to break the ice. But they leave after 30 minutes, allowing the other moms to take over. While most of the groups the women have set up are on the Upper East Side, they are starting to branch out around Manhattan, and are taking inquiries from the boroughs, though they explain that geography is not the only consideration in matching moms. They look at nap times, special interests, and whether a mom has returned to work. They have set up groups for working moms that meet on weekends, and groups for parents of adopted children.

Although moms learn from one another in playgroups, some groups prefer to have professionals drop by, and Tots ‘n Talk recommends speakers. They also provide lists of classes in each neighborhood.

The service costs $100, payable only when a mom is placed in a group. And if, for some reason, a mom feels her placement is not working out, Belew and Lavitt will place her in another group. But Belew says they “wait for a good match”, and of all the groups they have formed, only two women have asked to be placed a second time.

They are both the mothers of girls, and Belew recently had her second daughter.

As social workers, they specialize in working with children and families, so the women envision the growth of the business to include a space where they can run group sessions.

For more information on Tots ‘n Talk, call (646) 508-8360 or go to www.totsntalk.com.

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