Being a new parent means a whole new set of rules, responsibilities, fears, and joys. While having a baby is a beautiful experience, it can be a lonely, transitional time for new moms. Susan Fox and Anna Grossman know the feeling. These NYC women are the respective founders of Park Slope Parents and Hudson River Park Mothers Group—and are responsible for extraordinarily vibrant and helpful online and real-life networks for neighborhood parents to connect with each other for advice and support.
Less than a year after the devastating events of September 11 and her September 12 due date, Fox made the decision to focus her time on local quality of life, by addressing community issues, and getting to know neighborhood parents. In July of 2002, Park Slope Parents was born.
“I was a new mom who had been doing the ‘rat race’ life at a job in Manhattan, and when I brought my new baby home in Brooklyn, I realized I didn’t know anyone,” Fox says, who was a market research and branding consultant.
So she launched PSP in an effort to connect with and learn from seasoned parents with older children and to find new homes for the baby gear that so often gets tossed to the curb before it’s worn out. Now, with more than 4,900 members, PSP is home to over 90 pregnancy, bilingual, daddy, single parent, and advice groups, as well as career networking and classifieds. PSP also connects members to community organizations like the local police precinct, park officials, and politicians—an added bonus that many parenting groups don’t offer. In reaching out to the less fortunate, the group often partners with non-profits to provide items like clothing, cribs, and blankets to needy families. Membership comes with access to a slew of discounts and promotional deals from over 450 local businesses. But, arguably, the greatest benefit of being a member of PSP is the sense of support and trust that comes with being part of a growing and diverse group of local parents.
Now, more than ten years since PSP’s inception, the mother of two is pleased with how her group has evolved. “Being able to create change in the community and have a positive impact is extremely motivating,” she says.
Like Fox, Grossman was also inspired post-9/11. Motivated by the city’s concerted efforts to return to normalcy, she and her husband moved from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan where she ultimately created Hudson River Park Mothers Group, affectionately known as HRP Mamas.
“I didn’t want to look at the [Manhattan] skyline anymore. I wanted to be in it,” says Grossman, who was a professional photographer.
After moving a block away from Ground Zero, she felt a strong need to unite with those who returned to lower Manhattan to rebuild their lives. And after giving birth to her first child, Julian, she experienced a sense of isolation and longed to be a part of a community that offered a daily connection. After her local new mom support group ended, Grossman continued to meet with the eight other group mothers who she says helped lessen the shell-shock and self-confidence issues that she was experiencing as a new mom. She began giving her phone number to stroller-pushing mothers she’d pass on the street, encouraging them to join her mommy playgroup. As HRP Mamas grew through word of mouth, Grossman created a website to facilitate membership and rented classrooms and instructors to entertain the children that accompanied her newfound friends. Currently, with more than 2,000 members, most from downtown Manhattan, HRP Mamas offers informative message boards, classifieds, Mama Margarita Nights, and several subgroups to replicate the intimate connection the original eight mothers shared.
The group relied on that cherished sense of community in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, when members opened their doors to displaced New Yorkers. When Grossman put out a call for blankets for seniors who had been affected by the storm, Mamas delivered hundreds to the lobby of her apartment within hours. And when one member’s child developed leukemia, the group coordinated bone marrow drives that registered thousands of new people to the National Bone Marrow Registry.
Just as PSP has for over a decade, HRP Mamas thrives on the belief that parents and expecting moms and dads can greatly benefit from mutual support. “I love it when Mamas email me to tell me that they’ve made new friends through the group—that’s really what this is all about for me, even nine years later,” Grossman says.