Back when her first child was just a baby, Dawn Gray realized she needed some advice. Her son wouldn't sleep through the night, and she found juggling work and home duties tough. "Being a working mother was much harder than I thought it would be," says the Chicago-based work-family consultant.
So in 1991 she began publishing MOMents, a newsletter for Chicago-area working moms, and she started a support group with a handful of friends. She has since sold the newsletter, but her tiny group grew to 45 members, so she launched a second one in Northbrook (a nearby suburb) and has plans for a third group in Chicago.
"Working moms don't have time to share information over the picket fence," says Gray, who has two children, ages 5 and 7. "A support group is a link to other parents."
A mix of executives, midlevel managers and secretaries, the moms meet for lunch once every three weeks. "We have the same problems, such as how to get the kids to listen and when to wean them off the pacifier," says Gray. "It's a place where people feel safe to express their feelings because we've all been there."
It's also a place to make business contacts. In the 41/2 years lawyer Cynde Hirschtick Munzer has been a member, she's signed on several new clients referred to her by moms in the group and has sent business to others in the network herself.
Gray's tips for starting a group:
- Find a few friends who'll attend consistently and have each bring two or three others to every session.
- Limit meetings to once every three or four weeks.
- Meet at lunchtime, since it's tough to get people to show up in the morning, and after work everyone is anxious to get home.
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