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With this family, parent support is intergenerational

Deb, Natalie and Becky.
For Deb Buccola, early motherhood was a lonely time.

Deb and her husband moved to Seattle in 1980 when their first baby, Natalie, was six months old. Deb’s husband left early in the morning for work, taking their only car with him. Deb felt alone and isolated. She remembers watching another new mother on her street walk down to her mom’s house and back.

“I’d think: She has someone to go to and I have nobody,” Deb said.

Deb’s life changed significantly a few years later when the family moved into the Fairwood neighborhood in Renton. It was full of young children—and other mothers who stayed at home. Natalie was now 3 and her second daughter, Becky, was 1.

“It was a great support system with all the moms, and all the kids were running back and forth between houses,” said Deb, who had two more children, Courtney and Johnny. “If we needed one of them, we would just start calling.”

Deb said the contrast between her early isolated years as a mother and the later years, deep in a supportive community, always stuck with her.

Deb wishes she could have been in a PEPS group when her children were babies.

“I was quiet and didn’t have an outgoing personality to go meet people,” Deb said. “The only way I would do that it is if I were stuck in the middle of it, so something like PEPS would have done that.”

Then, nine years ago Deb Buccola opened a gift from her oldest daughter and in it she found a baby bottle with Natalie’s positive pregnancy test in it, announcing that Deb would soon be a grandmother. She was thrilled.

But she was also determined that her daughter’s experience of early motherhood would be different from her own.

“Having that contrast between knowing what it’s like to be totally isolated, and knowing what it’s like to have this huge support system, made me totally appreciate PEPS,” Deb said. “When you know that you’re in it with other people and everybody is experiencing the same things, it lets you know that everything that’s happening and that you’re feeling is OK.”

Inspired daughters, supportive moms

Becky and her husband Mike joined an evening group when their first daughter was born eight years ago. She was the first in the family to get involved with PEPS, both in her group and soon after as a group leader. “I love things that build community, and it’s such a great community-builder,” Becky said. “Knowing that I see my PEPS friends all the time, and they’re my close friends, I want other people to have that.”

Becky said her PEPS group has evolved over the last eight years. They continue to connect at gatherings and regularly over text, comparing notes on tantrums or bedtime woes.

Grandma makes it happen

Grandma Deb
Deb Buccola with her grandchildren. Photo by Sarah Vasquez.
Natalie and her husband, Mark, joined a PEPS group with the birth of their second son, Dane, with grandma Deb babysitting Graham during the meetings. Natalie said some of their closest friends are from their PEPS group. She said PEPS was especially helpful for her husband, who didn’t have as much opportunity as she did to connect with other parents.

“As the time moves on, you can really see the dads open up and become more comfortable,” Natalie said. “At least two of the dads, Mark sees regularly.”

Deb said she is so grateful that Natalie and Becky found PEPS, providing them with support, community and lasting friendships in their neighborhoods.

Deb said connection and community are absolutely crucial to new mothers—she knows because she experienced both—and that’s why she is so passionate about PEPS alongside Becky and Natalie.

A family tradition

Deb with her daughters
Becky, Deb and Natalie. (Not pictured: Deb's daughter, Courtney and son, Johnny.) Photo by Sarah Vasquez.
Both Natalie and Becky took something else from PEPS, besides close friends and support. Both families have a nightly tradition of sharing the day’s “highs and lows” at the dinner table along with their spouses and children, borrowing the format used at the beginning of PEPS meetings to encourage people to talk about the best and worst points of their weeks.

Natalie said sometimes her son Graham will mention his low as skinning his knee, or his high as “just being at school.”

“We’ve been doing it since they were old enough to comprehend it,” Becky said. “We do it every day.”

Deb’s daughters found the support, community and connection they needed as new parents in their PEPS Groups. Both generations—Deb, Becky and Natalie—support the organization and are committed to growing PEPS and its impact in the lives of new and growing families.

  • Becky is a great champion for the organization as a group leader and volunteering her time as an active board member. When Becky opened Twirl, a family-centered playdate cafe in Queen Anne, she provided space to PEPS for group meetings and events and shared PEPS flyers and brochures.
  • Natalie also donates to PEPS and says she finds herself often telling new parents about how to register for a group.
  • And, Deb, as a grandparent who did not have PEPS when her children were growing up, supports the organization financially and has actively volunteered for PEPS on planning committees and by hosting other interested and involved grandparents. “I will continue to donate because I just love what it does for new moms. I can’t think of any better support than that.”

We want to thank Deb, Natalie and Becky for their intergenerational story of parenting and parent support, and for their time and their financial gifts. Gifts to PEPS fuel our day-to-day operations so that we can offer community, connection and support to the growing parenting community in our area.

Shawna Gamache 2017About the Author

Shawna Gamache is a former newspaper reporter who occasionally catalogs her personal chaos at Critical Playdate. She is mama to Ruby, 5, Quinn, 7, and Nora, 2. In her quiet moments, Shawna loves writing, reading and avoiding eye contact with her laundry pile.

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