There’s a place where 6,000 moms gather several times per day. It’s not in a downtown restaurant or the uptown Starbucks, like some may think, but it’s the popular online Yahoo newsgroup called Hoboken Moms.
The group serves as a forum for local parents to exchange child rearing advice, Hoboken gossip, want ads for babysitters, and other everyday life questions. It has even led to debates that wound up featured in TV news reports, like a recent dustup about Santa Claus being told to leave one of the elementary schools.
“It’s a very active group,” said Jessica Macari, one of three moderators, last week. “There’s always messages going out, people looking to join, and we’re thrilled that it continues to grow.”
The group was started by a mom as a way for a handful of new moms to figure out where their children’s playgroup would be meeting, Macari said.
“Since that time, through word of mouth, the group spread,” she said. “It’s not just a place where parents can say where the kids are meeting today, but it’s also a place where people can get advice on being a parent.”
Macari said the group has approximately 6,000 members, but not all are from Hoboken.
“We try to keep it limited to the Hudson County and Hoboken area,” she said. “We have members in Union City, Weehawken, Jersey City; just generally in the greater Hudson County area.”
And contrary to its name, the group is not just made up of moms.
“We have dads, grandparents, caretakers, babysitters, and business owners that are looking to serve the parenting community,” she said.
In fact, a “Hoboken Dads” group recently started as an offshoot.
Being a part of this large yet somewhat exclusive club isn’t as simple as clicking the join button. First, members have to be approved.
“We need to make sure the people aren’t spammers or a ‘bot’ or something of that nature,” Macari said. “We ask them to explain why they want to join the group, and sometimes there are some additional questions.”
As a moderator, she also keeps a close eye on the conversations, makes sure people are being respectful to each other, as well as solving technical and logistical issues.
So, with all that work for no pay, why did Macari choose to become a moderator?
“I know just from being a mom here that this is a fantastic place for parents,” she said. “People find it so helpful. They stay on as alumni even when they move out of Hoboken and relocate. It has some staying power.”
Macari, who has an 8-month-old daughter, joined the group when she was expecting.
“There was a wealth of information during my pregnancy, when I was preparing to give birth, and also when I brought my daughter home,” she said. “It’s been a great resource for me and my family so I decided to give something back and volunteer.”
The former moderator, who ran the group for six years, was Laura Siegel.
Siegel is working on a new project – potentially opening a new charter school in Hoboken.
Macari, one of three new moderators, accepted her position in November.
The group is an outlet for gossip, information, advice, charity work, and debates.
In December, a local parent became upset when “Santa Claus” paid a visit to Wallace School to take pictures with the children, an annual event at the school. Since the school did not have activities related to other faiths, the parent complained to the administration, who told Santa to leave.
When a different mother complained about Santa’s eviction on the Moms group, heavy debate ensued. The news eventually spread to local news outlets and beyond, including CBS.
Moms Helping Moms
It’s not just advice and issues that get discussed by the newsgroup. The club has served as an outlet for people to sell or donate baby items to each other, or do child-related charity work.
Bridget Cutler is the founder of “Hoboken Moms Helping Moms,” a community outreach group that helps new moms who need supplies.
“When I had my first daughter last year I realized how much stuff you need to raise a child,” Cutler said. “Also, at the same time, I had a lot of new mom friends. We always had surplus stuff that the baby either didn’t fit into or grew out of, and we had extra toys, too. So, I started collecting the surplus items and put them together to give them to moms who needed them.”
Hoboken Moms Helping Moms organizes “baby drives” with the Hoboken Housing Authority to help moms who may not be able to afford all the items necessary for raising children. The community outreach efforts saw rapid growth through promotion in the Hoboken Moms group, said Cutler, who spends anywhere between five and 20 hours per week working on Hoboken Moms Helping Moms.
“The majority of donations have come through the Yahoo group,” Cutler said. “I’d say 90 to 95 percent of everything we receive comes from the group.”
For more information on donating or volunteering for a future drive, email HobokenMomsHelpingMoms@gmail.com.
The group also saw help from the Hoboken Dads, who organized a toy drive for the children.
To join Hoboken Moms and learn more about the group, visit groups.yahoo.com/groups/HobokenMoms.