BY WHITNEY PRATHER DUVALL
Two under 2. If you know, you know.
That's where Becky Michels found herself in mid-2021.
Five years' worth of travel around the country and working with inner-city youth came to an unexpected end when she landed in Owen County in 2017. The Indiana native, who holds degrees in exercise science and outdoor recreation, dreamed of traveling back to California but instead embarked on a new journey: marriage and family.
Fast forward to today, Michels and her husband, Adam, share two daughters, Amelia and Hazel, and have made this place "home."
But being a new mom in a new place isn't easy, and Michels sought a catalyst to meet and network with other local moms.
"I have always been on the move and not near to family; because of this, community events have always been instrumental to me," Michels said. "Now that I have my own family, the idea of creating community for myself and for those coming into Owen County is important. Those who are trying to find out how to be involved need a place."
The idea of a mom's group arose during a playdate with a friend who had moved from Arizona to northern Kentucky.
"We had lived and worked together in the past but reconnected during her transition. A few months later, we planned a zoo trip with some new friends she had made. I asked her, 'How have you met so many mom friends already? I feel like I don't have any!'" Michels said. "'Through the local mom group on Facebook,' she answered. 'You should see if they have one for your area, and if not, start one.' That night I started the Owen County Mom Group."
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Energy and persistence conquer all things." He probably wasn't referring to starting a community group, but it sure seems fitting.
"I started the mom group, and a bunch of people joined, so I knew there were other moms in the community who were interested, but I wasn't sure how to actually connect with them," Michels said.
She created the first "Mom Meet-Up," an event scheduled at the park last spring, but May ended up serving a cold and rainy day.
"I'm sitting in my car, almost seven months pregnant with my second baby, my 18-month old chattering away in the back seat, praying for someone to show up. No one came. I went home and cried," Michels said. "I'm sitting there, wondering what the point of having an online group is if I still do everything by myself. How do I get people to show up and meet a stranger? What can I create that will make people want to come?"
These three questions rolled around in Michels' head as she spoke with friends in different areas — women who had been involved with the former MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) program, as well as meeting a local mom.
While Michels was — and is — an active participant in the children's activities offered by the Owen County Public Library, its Storytime program had been placed on hiatus due to continued COVID-19 concerns. In researching options for activities, she learned that other programs were utilizing their local parks to create open, outdoor spaces in order to continue.
"I started small," Michels said. "I invited my new mom friend to Storytime at the Park, and she came!"
For almost five weeks, it would be the two of them and their kids—a 4 year old, an almost 2 year old, and a newborn. With the help of other friends sharing the event and helping promote it beyond the confines of the Facebook newsfeed, other local moms began messaging Michels about attending.
Story Time at the Park also started hosting a special guest from time to time. Joie, Michels' mother, would travel in with her dog Tilly for Tales with Tilly.
The first Tales with Tilly event attracted eight kids and almost as many moms. At this event, Michels would meet Katie Chandler, another local mom who had started a Facebook group for stay-at-home-moms.
"With her being from this area, she made a great liaison for the local moms and activities I was envisioning," Michels said.
Since then, local mom Alea Hubbard has become an active facilitator within the group, contributing ideas from her time spent working with MOPS in Oklahoma. The three have spent many evenings meeting and working to construct a sustainable program that works with existing community organizations and offerings—such as those offered by the Owen County Public Library.
Prior to the end of 2021, Hubbard spearheaded an EXPLORE initiative for participants to take mini field trips of sorts—such as a movie at the theater and visiting a dinosaur exhibit presented by the Boone County Public Library.
Chandler coordinated a community service project of delivering handmade Christmas cards to the residents of the Owenton Healthcare and Rehabilitation center. Moms and kids spent time during their indoor story and playtime crafting the cards.
With three different sets of skills and interests, Michels said the group hopes to meet a larger range of moms' needs.
"We want to be a positive addition to the community—not a competitor," Michels said.
The Owen County Mom’s Group was created to encourage and support local moms in the raising of their children by creating a space where moms and caregivers can connect, share resources, and find support. You can find out more about their activities and schedule by joining the group at www.facebook.com/groups/owencountymomgroup.