Welcome to the Confidently Connected Inspiring Mom Blog Series, which features a mom each month who is inspiring connection among mothers in her community.
This Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day. I think this is the perfect week to introduce you to Mandy Fields Yokim, a talented writer, editor and mother from Pittsburgh, Penn.
Mandy’s work has appeared in Parents magazine and regionally in Blue Ridge Country magazine, as well as in family parenting magazines across the country and Canada. She has been a contributing book editor for Bridges of Pittsburgh, Ultimate Pittsburgh Trivia and Grit, Smoke and Steam. Recently, she founded a global-education initiative called Wonderaddo which helps families and children learn about the world through global connections in Pittsburgh. Mandy was recently highlighted as an Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy on The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog.
I couldn’t agree with The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog more! Mandy is an inspiring mom who is not only a community builder at large, but also finds small ways to build networks among mothers.
1.) You are a busy, working mom. Why is connecting and building community with other moms a priority for you?
I have learned that it feels really good when you have women in your life who support and encourage you. I feel stronger with a good community of women in my corner because we can understand each other and help each other out. While we all have different experiences, there are plenty of things that we have in common. I like to find those common areas and build on them so that I can learn from other women and support them as well. We are all stronger women when we can encourage each other. It has been my experience over the past few years as I’ve worked toward new things professionally or gone through things personally, that having strong, supportive women in your life is a gift – priceless.
2.) What made you decide to start your group and how does it work?
We’ve all done it – “How are you?”, we ask in passing. “Good!”, we answer in passing. I love the moms at my son’s preschool but I realized that, although we saw each other frequently at drop-off, pick-up and when we volunteered, these times were often quick and busy so there wasn’t really a chance to talk and catch up. Since it’s my son’s last year of preschool, I also realized that my community with these women that I’ve come to know and appreciate over the past few years will change once our kiddos enter the elementary schools. I wanted to hear a real answer to “How are you?” on a regular basis and have the opportunity to share experiences and have more than a shallow, rushed conversation.
I decided to plan a monthly “Mom’s Playdate” event. I set up a meeting place at a local restaurant/bar and scheduled a later start time (8pm). This allowed for us to still have dinner with our family, help with homework, get baths, then head out for some fun. We picked the 3rd Thursday of every month for consistency. It’s very casual – if people can’t make it, no big deal. Some months are super crowded, others less so. I send out email reminders a week before the event and I make sure that people know that ANYONE is welcome to attend, spread the word. It’s really been so nice to build on the sense of community that we’ve created over the years. We laugh a lot, we talk about our kids but we also talk about other things in our lives outside of motherhood.
3) What advice do you have for moms who feel isolated or disconnected?
Remember what makes you happy. I think that sometimes when we feel disconnected from others, we are also feeling disconnected from ourselves. I suggest writing down a few things that inspire you – is it exercising more, hiking, gardening, taking photographs? Whatever it may be, search out a way that you can include some of this into your day. Maybe even just sharing this interest with others is a start. Taking a class, visiting a museum or joining a book club are ways to explore an interest and potentially meet others who may share it with you.Find time to do what you love, talk about what you love and try to connect with people who love the same things.
Let the internet be a positive influence. Recognize what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad. Sometimes going online if you’re feeling isolated or disconnected does not help, let’s be honest. There can be a lot of drama on Facebook and in chat rooms and online groups. If you’re already feeling low, it may not make you feel better to go onto Pinterest or look through vacation pictures that others posted. Recognize this. Maybe surfing through these things DOES make you feel inspired – great! Recognize that, too. One of my FB friends recently tagged me in a post of people who lift her spirits – I had no idea! So, take it further and make your presence online be more positive than negative (while always being genuine – no one likes fake positivity) and try to attract things into your day that uplift you and help you feel connected. This goes for offline as well.