There's no doubt that becoming a parent is exhilarating. But ask any new mom or dad, and they're sure to tell you -- it's also exhausting. Having a baby can be overwhelming, leaving parents in search of resources and support.
Starting next month, jBaby Chicago will be here to help. The program, which launches in April as a project of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, aims to be a resource for parents raising Jewish children from birth to 24 months old, creating a fun, social, supportive community to help navigate those critical first two years.
"It's really important to have other parent friends who have kids the same age as yours and go through it together. It honestly can make or break your experience," said Lindsay Lee Meltzer, a new mom in Chicago who will assist with outreach for the program. "These parents are out there. They're just not finding each other."
Program offerings will include playgroups and classes presented by community partners such as Mishkan Chicago, JCC Chicago, Anshe Emet Synagogue, Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School, Sinai Preschool, Gan Shalom Preschool, and more. Topics and themes range from child development to adult yoga to music to baby sign language and massage, as well as purely social activities for parents to schmooze while kids play.
"Parents will have the chance to connect with Jewish peers at a critical time in development of their family," said Rebecca Richards, jBaby Chicago Chair, adding that she hopes the program will allow new parents to "forge deep friendships and create lasting support networks."
jBaby Chicago also will offer free 'swag bags' filled with goodies like books, toys, and coupons for local boutiques and play spaces. The bags will be personally delivered to new moms and dads by jBaby Chicago Connectors, new parents like Meltzer who help match individual families with opportunities in their neighborhoods.
"The impetus for jBaby Chicago really grew out of the success of Chicago's PJ Library program, which now sends Jewish books and music monthly to 6,200 families in the Chicago metropolitan area," said Debbi Cooper, JUF's Assistant Vice President of Young Family Engagement. "We kept hearing from families how great it was to connect with other families raising young children through PJ Library programs and how much they wished they had these connections when they first had children."
Classes and playgroups will begin in April in the City North area, which includes Lincoln Park, Lakeview, River North, Gold Coast, Bucktown and Wicker Park. jBaby Chicago will expand to surrounding areas in the second half of 2014 and 2015.
Parents of Jewish infants in Chicago are invited to sign up online to learn more and receive jBaby Chicago swag.
For more information, visit www.juf.org/jbabychicago.
jBaby Chicago Community Partners and Class Offerings
City North Area
April 2014 - December 2014
Grow @ Mishkan - Home-based Jewish experiences for families with children under two years old.
jNew Moms Group - New moms group for moms of Jewish children birth to 6 months old.
jMemory Workshop - Workshop for creating baby's first memories book.
Connecting the Expecting - Dinner series for expectant parents focusing on everything a new parent needs to know in those first few months.
Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School
Music class with Bucktown School of Music - Music class incorporating Jewish and secular music for parents and babies.
New Moms Connect - New moms group for moms of Jewish children birth to 6 months old.
Gan Shalom Preschool
Daddy and Me - A Sunday morning class for dads and children 12-24 months.
Newborn Class with Bubbles Academy-A six-week class focused designed to help parents navigate baby's first few months.
Playgroups-Playgroups for children 18 months and younger meeting in Chicago's hottest play spots