By ERIN HORROCKS-POPE
A Toronto-based initiative is reshaping the narrative in a world where modern parenthood often feels isolating, proving that raising children can be a shared, joyful experience.
East End Mom Friends, a vibrant social community founded by Trish Goodwin-Lawrence, has emerged as a beacon of hope for parents in Toronto’s east end. Through the community’s growth and Goodwin-Lawrence’s dedication, a genuine and diverse network of parents and caregivers have found their village; challenging the expectation that parenting has to be a solitary journey.
Goodwin-Lawrence embarked on her mission to connect parents when she faced her own challenges parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I went back to school before the pandemic for early childhood studies and family support, and I did my final internship in a family support program,” said Goodwin-Lawrence. “I was so excited to get to do that as a parent. And then along came COVID. So, I spent my whole maternity leave with my daughter inside. We didn’t see anybody. We didn’t do anything.”
This experience, paired with her background in early childhood studies, fueled her desire to engage in spaces where parents could come together for support, friendship, and shared experiences.
“I wanted to do everything, all of the things, all of the ‘mom things’,” she said. “I signed up for everything. I did every mom group and yoga class, like every possible thing.”
However, as Goodwin-Lawrence dove into these activities, she noticed a gap.
“I found that a lot of the events and opportunities for parents lacked genuine community connections. You go to a class together and stuff. But if you want to make actual friends, you have to do that outside of class. And so I found that was really a struggle.”
Fueled by a desire to bridge this gap, Goodwin-Lawrence embarked on a journey that would lead to the creation of East End Mom Friends.
“I just made a WhatsApp group of a couple of mom friends that I knew … and like maybe they had a friend and that started with about 12 of us. I just said, ‘Let’s all go to Reeds Distillery and have gin with the babies in the middle of the day because, you know, they have couches there and stuff,’ and the moms showed up,” she said.
Goodwin-Lawrence’s events quickly gained momentum, gradually growing in size. She started posting schedules for early childhood programs, yoga schedules, and various free activities.
The community of moms began organizing events at local breweries, play centres, and parks, catering to families with children of all ages. Goodwin-Lawrence’s aim was to create a sense of inclusivity for everyone.
Reflecting on the early days of East End Mom Friends, Goodwin-Lawrence noted, “Every time I would show up to an event that I had planned, I was always worried that I would be the only one there. But not once did that ever happen. It didn’t matter what it was. It was pouring rain one day, and I put into the chat, ‘I’m going for a walk. My baby won’t stop screaming. If anyone wants to go to the rooster and get a coffee and walk in the rain with me,’ and four moms that I never met before showed up.”
Goodwin-Lawrence emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for connection, especially for parents who may struggle to initiate conversations.
“Mom pick-up lines are great and so easy,” she said. “Things like, ‘How old’s your baby? What’s your baby’s name? What’s your baby’s middle name?’ There are just so many ways to connect, but you don’t really know how sometimes. And you’re a mom, right? So, part of you is barely functioning and trying to create a new connection is really challenging. I really enjoyed getting to facilitate that.”
One of the key elements that sets East End Mom Friends apart is its inclusivity. “We are much more inclusive than just moms,” said Goodwin-Lawrence. “We have nannies, we have dads, we have aunts, uncles, grandparents. But ‘mom friend’ just has a nice ring to it. It’s about finding support and connection, regardless of your role.”
Despite the community’s rapid growth and success, Goodwin-Lawrence emphasized the importance of accessibility.
“Originally, everything was free,” she explained. “I wanted things to be accessible. I know that not everybody has that accessibility to events, either fiscally or otherwise.”
However, as the community expanded, Goodwin-Lawrence realized introducing a membership platform was necessary to support the groups’ events. However, she maintained membership options for those who wish to support the initiative with a nominal fee.
Goodwin-Lawrence’s commitment to accessibility ensures that parents facing financial barriers can still participate in events. “If you want to come to an event, and it’s not an option for you, you know, fiscally, reach out, and we can subsidize it for sure.”
East End Mom Friends thrives on diversity and the willingness of members to embrace different perspectives and parenting styles. The community offers various subgroups within its WhatsApp network, catering to specific interests and needs. These subgroups cover topics ranging from travel and formula feeding to early learning resources, creating spaces for parents to connect on a deeper level.
Goodwin-Lawrence’s dedication to fostering meaningful connections among parents has led to remarkable success. What began with a small group of parents has grown organically to encompass over 3,700 members and continues to expand rapidly.
But Goodwin-Lawrence’s vision for East End Mom Friend’s future extends beyond mere numbers; it’s about creating a supportive, inclusive community where parents can find friendship, guidance, and memorable experiences.
As East End Mom Friends continues growing, Goodwin-Lawrence’s goal remains clear: “To connect parents and offer them a lifeline, especially during those challenging seasons of parenthood. I want to continue to grow this community, allowing more parents to experience the magic of connecting with others who understand the joys and challenges of raising children.”
For more information on East End Mom Friends, please go to https://eastendmomfriendsto.ca/