The online group Hicksville Area Moms (H.A.M.S) is helping moms and their children meet, mingle and form friendships while serving as a place where parenting topics can be discussed. Formed by lifelong resident Debbie De Louise back in May, the site currently boasts nearly 30 area mothers.
De Louise said the idea to start the group came out of the lack of local activities and places to go available for her and her daughter, Holly, who was 18 months at the time. "I checked to see if there were any local online mom's groups I could join. I signed up for a few but quickly found that most of the members lived in Suffolk County or in Nassau towns farther from Hicksville than I'd want to travel," she said. "That's when I decided to form my own group."
To promote the launch of H.A.M.S., De Louise posted announcements on other online moms groups. Currently, the online group serves moms who live in and around Hicksville, including residents of Levittown, Plainview, Bethpage, Syosset, East Meadow and Westbury. "Whether you have just moved here or have been a lifetime resident, have young kids or old, work full-time or stay-at-home, we will try to arrange play dates, mom's nights outs, shopping and other activities," said De Louise. "You are also free to just chat about all parenting and mom topics."
While there are no age limitations, the group, said De Louise, seems to have drawn an interest from mothers whose children have not yet entered school or who are new to the area. "This is a great way to develop a network of social contacts that share their interests," she said.
Levittown resident Kim, who joined the site in June, said it has provided her with a means of meeting other moms with children the same age as her own for play groups and friendships. "Many of my friends don't have kids yet, and I find that there is a gap in our friendship that has developed because of that," Kim said.
Levittown resident Shari Nocera, who joined H.A.M.S. in June after seeing a posting on another Yahoo parenting group, added, "Having moved here only a couple of years ago, I don't know a lot of people in this area and thought it would be nice to meet other young families," she said. "The site appealed to me."
De Louise said the group is beneficial to moms who may work and not have time to meet other area moms. "I work full-time and don't get the opportunity to meet many moms in my neighborhood except on walks or attending Gymboree or library classes. And, in those cases, it isn't always easy to strike up friendships when your attention has to be pretty much on your child," she said, adding, "Even when you don't work, it isn't always easy to meet new people in your area. The good thing about this group is that you can chat online with people and get to know them before you meet them. My husband says it saves on phone bills!"
According to Kim, who has a 4-year-old son, John, and a 10-month old daughter, Kaitlyn, local moms should take interest in the site "just for the friendships alone and the ability to have someone to talk to that is in the same position as you." "It is great to have a support group of other moms who understand what you are feeling...," said Kim, adding that, through the site, she has also "received many tips on discipline, eating habits and some great indoor activities ideas."
Nocera, who has two daughters, ages 4 and 14 months, and is expecting a son in January, said the best thing about the site is that it provides a "place to ask both general parenting questions as well as area-specific questions. I like getting personal recommendations for service people such as plumbers, etc, as well as kid classes/activities and family activities others may have tried," she said, adding that H.A.M.S has "provided a network of other moms in the area, which would be difficult to establish on my own."
According to De Louise, members post items of interest on the site, which serves as a way to stay informed of what's going on. "Even when we don't meet in person, we exchange tips and advice online on such matters as potty training, toddler beds, places that are good for having birthday parties, etc.," she said.
One mother, Lisa, who has a 4-year-old, a 19-month-old and is expecting her third, moved to Hicksville seven months ago and joined the site as a way to meet other moms, agreed. "Being new to New York, some of the moms have given me information on where the best parks, beaches, etc. are for kids," she said.
According to Lisa, moms, especially stay at home moms, "should join because it's great to meet other people with children in the area and it's always more fun to go to parks or have play dates with other kids. It's a nice way to meet friends for myself as well as for my kids." She added, "The best part is talking to other local moms and hopefully finding children for my kids to play with."
The site's logo, a mother pig with her piglets, said De Louise, stemmed from the group's initials (H.A.M.) and fit perfectly after the group's first meeting. "We met for the first time at Starbucks [and] I brought along my daughter's book with a pig on it so group members would recognize me," she said.
Currently, the website includes an online database of members (by first names only) along with the names and ages of their children. Links to area places of interest for parents are also listed. "It's a great resource and I'd like to reach out to other local moms who may not be aware that such a group exists," said De Louise.
H.A.M.S activities are planned by conducting polls from members about places, dates and times. "Since most members currently are stay-at-home-moms (SAHM), they prefer weekday get-togethers, although a few people, like myself, work full-time and are usually limited to weekends or evening hours," said De Louise, adding that some mothers have opened their homes for play dates while others have posted personal outings inviting other members.
"Recently one member posted that she was going to the Long Island Children's Museum with her sons and invited other interested members to meet up with her there," said De Louise. "Since I happened to have the day off, I was able to go and had a great time."
De Louise said her goal for the group is to see more active members, who can bring more ideas and enthusiasm to the group, join. She said she is also hoping to, in the future, "expand the group to moms with kids of other ages so that our base group can 'age' as it grows" as well as establish a website that will have a link to the group and other local groups, activities and parenting info.
To learn more or to join the Hicksville Area Moms, visit http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Hicksvilleareamoms. Please note that while membership is free, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire for safety purposes. In addition, last names, phone numbers or addresses are kept confidential and released only among members wishing to disclose such information to one another.