Baby Care

From Babyville to Grandmaville: How a new mom group 30 years ago built lasting friendships for 12 Durham women

From Babyville to Grandmaville: How a new mom group 30 years ago built lasting friendships for 12 Durham women
Written by Publishing Team

Vicky Bisset, Arlene King, Lynn Hermack and Heather Green are part of a group of Durham moms who have been meeting monthly for 30 years, ever since they had their own children.  June 27, 2022

It was an eight-week new mom course that’s now gone on for 30 years.

A random group of Durham moms, aged 25 to 40 back in 1992, had just had newborns and were invited by Durham Region’s Health Department to learn the basics of child care over eight Thursday mornings.

The 12 moms, with newborns in tow, learned all about tooth care, feeding, nutrition, safety and birth control, in what was called ‘Babyville’. But when the eight weeks were up, Arlene King, one of the new moms, suggested they keep on meeting informally in what they called ‘Momsville’.

So, once a month, the moms kept on meeting. And meeting. And meeting.

And it’s never stopped. Now they joke it will be called ‘Grandmaville’. Actually, one of the original newborns is expecting this summer, so one of the original moms will become a grandmother.

Four of the initial 12 mothers have moved out of Durham Region over the years, but eight are still going strong in the group to this day. Once a month at a Durham-area restaurant, they all get together to talk about their lives.

Four of the moms met recently at King’s Clarington home to discuss the group and what it’s meant to them over the past three decades.

King called it “a support group for each other. There have been some divorces.”

And tragedies.

Lynn Hermack’s husband passed away, and she said the group was there to support her. She also said her father, Tom, who had Alzheimer’s disease and who lived with her, was welcomed by the group to join the meetings.

“My dad used to go to Northview Seniors Center (in Oshawa) from the morning to mid-afternoon. When COVID-19 hit, he didn’t understand the mask part of it and he couldn’t understand why he couldn’t go out and see his buddies at the center and he started to deteriorate. It was unfortunate, but the group was really good,” Hermack said.

Her father died during COVID-19 and Hermack said all the members of the group were there to support her.

Heather Green’s 28-year-old daughter, Kelly, one of the original newborns that led her into the group in 1992, died in a car accident in 2020.

“These guys all sent flowers … (and some) came to the visitation through COVID in 2020,” said Green.

Other members of the group give Green credit for keeping it together through the pandemic.

“I think Kelly would want us to keep it going … At that point, it had been 28 years,” said Green.

The women have different professions that they’ve each been able to take advantage of to some extent.

King started up a home daycare after having her newborn and took in Hermack’s children as well as fellow group member Vicky Bisset’s kids and other. Bisset, a real estate agent, sold Hermack’s home for her. And a lot of group members got insurance through Hermack’s husband, an insurance agent.

So, the group’s been good for business, as well as for support and friendship.

But, in all, it’s the memories and shared understanding that stands out say the moms.

Bisset said it was nice to have contemporaries to share experiences with.

“We talked about baby stuff, toddler stuff, teenager stuff, kids testing you. Does your kid have boyfriend or girlfriend yet? You’ve got a group you can talk to. You find out your kid is normal because they’re doing it too,” she said.

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