Atlanta mom finds support, hope in parenting group

- When Jasmine Hardaway of Atlanta become a mom for the first time, she had so many questions.

She found answers in a small, supportive group of friends, who call themselves "moms in motion."

"We try to get together every few months," the student support advisor says.  "We talk almost every day. We have a group chat."

Hardaway joined the group when her now 7-year old son inston was just 3-months old.

"We came up with a hashtag that started as a joke," Hardaway says. "It's #HelpMommy."

Hardaway didn't realize how much she'd come to rely on that help until Winston was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder just before his sixth birthday.

She says the women immediately rallied around her and Winston.

"They've been supportive since day one, trying to figure it all out," Hardaway remembers.  "Even in no one in the group has the answers, everyone is full of resources, connections."

Hardaway's husband Terdell says they desperately need support.

"I don't necessarily believe it's just with a child with special needs, it's kids in general," he says.  "You definitely need support, especially when it's your first one. You're new at it."

A 2017 British study found community-based parent-to-parent support groups like this one can be especially helpful to parents of children with chronic disabilities, who often have high levels of stress and depression.  

Alexis Dunn, an Assistant Research Professor at the Emory School of Nursing, says it's easy for moms, especially new ones, to feel alone, and overwhelmed.

"I think every mom needs support," Dunn explains.  "I think if you can find support within your own family structure, that works. But for some women, they may have to seek our external sources for support."

Winston is the only child in the group on the spectrum, but, Hardaway says, he's included in the play, and able to practice his social skills.

"And, I think it's good for the other kids in the mom's group as well," she says.  "So, that they can learn to have compassion and deal with other people who are different."

Hardaway is learning parenting a child with special needs "is a journey," with highs and lows.

"I've learned to not wish the day away," she says.  "Some days, you kind of want to get through it and get to the next place.  But, I've learned through this journey to just not wish the day away.  Just live in the moment.  Enjoy it."

Red Tricycle, a parenting website, lists 17 groups for new mothers in the Atlanta area.

You can find the list at http://redtri.com/atlanta/atlanta-groups-for-new-moms/

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