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The Cornerstone in Our Lives as Parents

One evening in the fall of 2011, Stephanie Scott was eager to get out of the house. With a two-week old newborn, she was feeling stifled and lonely.Stephanie and Annette with their PEPS friendsPEPS kids in Stephanie and Annette's Group

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As a new parent, she “was like a fish out of water, feeling like (she) had no control.”

Nearby, Annette Messitt, couldn’t think of anything else she wanted to do besides stay home and cuddle her own three-week-old daughter. Her maternity leave felt like a break from her work life as an attorney. For once, she could focus on herself and her family without feeling like she was shortchanging anyone.

And still, Stephanie and Annette had a PEPS meeting to attend. With their husbands, they packed up their tired bodies and their little girls and headed out.

While Stephanie had happily signed up for PEPS before the birth of her daughter, Annette only reluctantly attended. It was her husband who had signed them up and she simply uttered a “whatever, fine.”

That night quickly became the cornerstone in their lives as parents. At their evening PEPS Group, Sam, the volunteer leader, quickly fostered a nurturing and non-judgmental environment. Something that would later be key to the group’s momentum and longevity.

Over the years, they have supported each other in many ways. When a work conflict came up last minute, Annette emailed the group and quickly found multiple offers to watch her daughter. Stephanie stepped in to watch twin boys when one of the other mothers had a health emergency. “It’s like having a built-in family,” Annette said.

As people and as parents, Annette and Stephanie each had slightly different needs met by their group. Annette really appreciated that her daughter felt the support of the “community around us…so she feels safe” and also had a chance to socialize early with other kids. For Stephanie, it was the confidence that parents gain during the group, “Having the support of the group and being able to share stories of what we were all going through at the time helped me feel confident with my good and bad decisions. It’s ok to make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect.”

Their group has been meeting every other week since 2011. One family has since moved out-of-state, but still joins the gathering when they’re in town.

For Stephanie, PEPS was and continues to be a sanctuary her. For Annette, she appreciated “that everyone had the same central focus and were learning as you go and it’ll last for a really long time.”

Stephanie and her husband volunteered to lead a PEPS Group soon after their experience. Since then, she has led four groups! Leading groups, in particular, has been instrumental in her PEPS journey. She sees the many families from her groups around town and loves seeing the children grow. This PEPS “side-gig” has had the benefit of creating even more of a close-knit family community in her West Seattle neighborhood.

Five years later, Stephanie and Annette have become Table Captains for the PEPS annual fundraising Luncheon, an event that embraces hundreds of attendees and raises more than one quarter of the PEPS budget each year.

It started when they were invited as guests to the Luncheon and after that experience, they were quickly enthused to become Table Captains themselves. Stephanie has co-captained a table for the past two years, the second year with Annette.

With no financial commitment to be a Table Captain, there is little risk in hosting and it is a wonderful way to support the PEPS community, even if your budget is tight. Both Stephanie and Annette agree that if they can’t give as large a financial donation as they’d like, they can give their time.

It’s clear these two women have become good friends: they finish each other’s thoughts and jointly offered that to be a table captain, “is way easier than you think. Don’t let a fear of failure or obligation hold you back.”

PEPS has a prep meeting ahead of time for hosts to answer questions. If your table overflows with guests, PEPS can always find room to seat them near you. Both women offer this advice for other Table Captains: don’t be afraid to invite too many people and remember to ask multiple times.

Their Luncheon tables weren’t filled with just their PEPS Group either. Also at their table were parents from the PEPS Groups that Stephanie led. Annette invited some lawyer friends who had children, but had not participated in PEPS. Those who have participated in PEPS already know the value, but it’s great to introduce the organization to those who aren’t as aware by inviting them to the Luncheon.

“The energy of the room, the passion for the program, reminiscing about your experiences, the feelings of the moment - that’s what this luncheon is all about.” As a Table Captain “you are putting people in a place where they can hear the message. PEPS takes it from there.” And, unsurprisingly, since PEPS doesn’t ignore the practical challenges that come along with parenthood, they offer childcare during the luncheon.

This year, Stephanie and Annette have a new goal: to fill two tables. They want to be better about outreach. They have a big pool of people to ask and are excited to get going. They hope to see you there!

Stephanie says: “I keep coming back to the Luncheon because it’s super social and so fun...It’s an upbeat event. Out of all the luncheons I’ve been to, it’s the one I enjoy the most.”

Q&A with Stephanie and Annette

What does family wellness mean to you?

Annette Messitt: family wellness as it relates to PEPS is “support…having my daughter feel supported not by us as parents but by the community around us…so she feels safe” “socializing kids early with PEPS. They learn to get along with large groups of kids.”

Stephanie Scott: “Parental confidence is a big factor for me. Having the support of the group and being able to share stories of what we were all going through at the time helped me feel confident with my good and bad decisions. It’s ok to make mistakes. You don’t have to be perfect.”

If you didn’t have PEPS….

Stephanie Scott: “I would have felt very isolated”

Annette Messitt: “I would be alone.”

Being a new parent …

Stephanie Scott: “is really hard.”

Annette Messitt: “is lovely.”

Jennifer Fliss is a New York raised, Wisconsin and California schooled, Seattle based writer. About the Author

Jennifer Fliss is a Seattle-based fiction and essay writer. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post; The Rumpus; Brain, Child Magazine; Scary Mommy; and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @JFlissCreative or via her website, Jennifer is also a PEPS alumna and is thrilled to continue her involvement and support.

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