The rules of etiquette dictate that when attending a house party, it is customary to bring a small gift for the host. But the dozens of women who showed up to the “Moms Helping Moms” party at the home of Karen Buschfres last Friday arrived carrying bags of diapers, although her youngest is a long since potty-trained seventh-grader.
When the annual get together began 12 years ago, the guests’ gifts were more traditional; bottles of wine, flowers in a vase, other small home décor. But Buschfres wasn’t comfortable receiving gifts for what was supposed to be a mutual celebration of motherhood. “This isn’t a party for me,” she said. “This is a party for all of us [moms].”
Now, the group celebrates motherhood by bringing diapers, and other such baby-goods, to be donated to organizations like Guardian Angel Family Crisis Center and Madonna Heights that help mothers in need.
The cost of admission to the event was a Snuggies package worth of altruism, and for that price, moms got a much deserved, and according to several, much needed evening of decompression, which included hors d’oeuvres, wine, and most importantly, the welcome absence of husbands and children.
The conversation ranged from light and lively — the most effective way to scoop the fruit out of the sangria pitcher — to serious conversations about school board elections and other local political matters.
“People come out because you get fed, emotionally,” said Dorothy Bennett, an attendee of several years. “We’re really just celebrating all the things that women do all year-round, that we really don’t do for ourselves.”
What’s been interesting for Bennett has been how the conversation has changed over the years. “We used to talk about our babies,” she said. But as the celebrants get older, she added, “now were talking about taking care of our parents.”
The Friday evening before Mother’s Day works best for a get-together of moms, Buschfres said, because Mother’s Day itself, and Mother’s Day eve, is often as much work for them as the rest of the year. When they were trying to get the event organized, she said, many of the moms said that Saturday night wouldn’t work, because, “they had to cook for their in-laws on Saturday” for their family’s Mother’s Day gatherings on Sunday.
Buschfres said she had tried to figure out ways to open up the event to more people, like friends and co-workers who might not have children, for example. “For some people,” she said, “Mother’s Day can be really hard.” Maybe next year, she would call the event a “Women’s Day, celebration,” she mused.
Barbara Costello, the founder of Guardian Angel, one of the beneficiaries of the Moms Helping Moms event, called her organization, “a pay-it-forward” program. “We’re all taking care of each other in the community,” she said. Most of the donations that wind up at Guardian Angel are hand-me-down clothes and toys. “What I always tell people in terms of donations; One family’s ‘cleaning out’ is another family’s receiving.”
That duality is important to the event, not only in terms of helping less fortunate mothers, but also in being able to support each other. “It’s this continual place of support,” Bennett said, “that recognizes that our lives are multilayered, and great, but sometimes hard.
“It’s about taking that time out to say, ‘Yeah, this is just for us,’” she continued. “I think that’s a really hard thing for women and mothers to do.”