KAILUA-KONA — About four years ago, on her couch and “really lonely” from the isolation of early motherhood, Toccara Chrisman dreamed up the idea to form Kona Moms.
“I was kind of taking an inventory of my life at the moment, and taking a look that I had no friends,” Chrisman said.
So she took action.
Chrisman founded the two-pronged organization consisting of both a Facebook group and live-meeting membership. Both components aim to provide a supportive community for moms in Kona during a challenging period of life.
Chrisman said social media can exacerbate the difficulties of motherhood, perpetuating an unrealistic image of what being a mom actually looks like.
“What we didn’t say (when posting a photo) is, ‘I was fine for three hours last night,’” said Chrisman.
“Nobody talks about the ugly parts of being a mom,” Chrisman explained. “Totally sleep deprived, no support, a million questions you don’t have the answer to.”
Kona Moms provides a plethora of answers with guest speakers, ranging from marriage counselors to experts on bullying, presenting at the monthly in-person meetings.
And, of course, some of the best expertise and advice comes from the group members themselves.
The Facebook group, a free option for any mother living in Kona, includes an anonymous question component.
“For the questions that will make you squeal, we have an anonymous form,” Chrisman said. “These moms go to this link, they submit their question anonymously. I submit it on behalf to the group and then the group answers the question.”
A wealth of information is granted in response to such queries, as the Facebook group totals 3,200 members, 30 percent of the total mom population in Kona, according to Chrisman.
But despite sprawling participation in the group, members are highly vetted to ensure that they are, in fact, moms who live in Kona. The moms must also abide by a fundamental rule to not sell anything in the group.
The live meeting membership, totaling more than 70 moms, affords opportunity for mothers to network and build long-lasting friendships.
The live membership runs from September to May. The annual $150 registration fee covers monthly meetings with breakfast and childcare provided. Also included are monthly keiki field trips, one family outing trip, and five moms’ nights out.
“It’s powerful to come together because as moms, you become super isolated. It can be very overwhelming,” said Stephanie Beeby, co-director of the group. “We can actually be isolated on an island, especially transient people.”
Beeby, who joined the group as a new mom, was comforted by the relationships she formed.
“Even the first year just hearing moms say, ‘It just gets easier,’ or ‘You know what, they’re going to eat,’” Beeby said. “That was huge as a new mom.”
And Kona Moms not only brings friends for mothers, but for their children as well.
“For me, the moms have saved me,” said Beeby, who uses the network to arrange playdates and childcare. “Because I trust them. I’ve seen their kids. That’s what this community has built.”
The group’s goal is to be inclusive, with members having one thing in common.
“All moms doing the best they can,” Beeby said.
The moms range in age from 24 to 48, Beeby said. They also differ in cultural background, and in the number and ages of their children.
“What I love is having people who can share things from many different vantages,” Beeby said. “That’s what I love about the diversity about our community, the different perspectives and cultural awareness.”
“We really wanted something that any mom would feel comfortable going to,” explained Jasmin McCracken, former group leader and now group-member.
The group tries to make the live-meeting membership as affordable as possible.
“It 100 percent goes into the cost of running the group and is lower than the actual cost. We do at least one fundraiser every year,” said McCracken, adding all seven leadership positions are entirely volunteer-based.
To accommodate mothers of diverse economic situations, members can also choose to pay on a monthly basis.
Future directions for the group include obtaining 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and establishing a Waikoloa Moms group.
Chrisman looks forward to expanding, as all mothers deserve support, she said.
With everything that mothers do for others — acting as personal chauffeurs, cooks, teachers and more, Kona Moms gives members a rare opportunity to focus on themselves for a change.
“It’s getting to know each other, and it’s getting to know ourselves,” Beeby said.