Martinez resident Ashley Stringfield says she has found it difficult meeting other stay-at-home mothers like herself since she moved to Columbia County two years ago.
Opting against putting her child in a day care program, she said finding other children for her 2-year-old daughter to socialize with also has been a challenge. With her husband working long hours, Stringfield said she and her daughter spend much of their day alone together.
"There are a lot of younger people having kids nowadays, and maybe I could make a friend for myself and for my daughter, too," Stringfield said.
With growing numbers of young families moving to the area, many churches have started ministries to help married and single young mothers meet new people, while giving their children a chance to interact with others their own age.
West Acres Baptist Church on Gibbs Road in Evans plays host to the Moms of Preschoolers, or MOPS, ministry group. Annette Bland, a coordinator for MOPS, said groups for stay-at-home moms to socialize are "very needed" in Columbia County.
MOPS meets every second and fourth Thursday of the month during the public school year. The moms receive child care during the meetings, which also include speakers on relevant parenting issues. The cost to join the group is $30 per year to pay for child care and membership into MOPS International.
"We're there for the mom," Bland said. "It's a Christian ministry, but it's designed to reach out to all moms of preschoolers, regardless of their nationality, regardless of their religion, regardless of their background, regardless of their marital status."
The women often get together informally outside the church for social trips to movies or other activities, Bland said.
Abilene Baptist Church, in Martinez, provides exercise classes for women, child care and a women's Bible study group that meets Tuesday mornings and Wednesday evenings, said minister of education David Miller.
At Wesley United Methodist, mother of three Jenny Hutcherson helped start a play group for children of stay-at-home moms about three years ago. The Wesley group meets every other Friday for trips to the park, Fort Discovery and a Moms Night Out once a month.
"We're glad our kids are having fun while we're out, but it's really about us (the moms) meeting each other," Hutcherson said.
"I think that if you work, you meet people at work, if you go to school you meet people at school," she said. "But if you stay at home with your children, you're just at home and everything you do has to do with your child."
Another barrier to social interaction for moms with children might be a lack of playgrounds cited in a 2005 county survey.
A group of 36 county residents surveyed in 2005 during initial discussions for an Evans Town Center Park master plan said playgrounds were the most important amenity needed.
The county plans to add a playground at the Evans Town Center Park and another during the second phase of Blanchard Woods Park on Blanchard Road, Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith wrote in an e-mail.
Public playgrounds also are available at the Savannah Rapids Pavilion; Lonnie O. Morris Park in Appling; Blanchard Park off Belair Road; Eubank Blanchard Park in Phinizy; the Columbia County Memorial Gardens and Amphitheater; Patriots Park; Harlem City Park; Liberty and Goodale parks in Grovetown; and Wildwood Park on Clarks Hill Lake.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.