I was hot, tired, and homesick. Usually in these situations, I would rather cover my head under the sheets, but that option just does not exist when a mother. I had to find something to do for my super energetic toddler and me. I already connected with a family forum online when I was still in London to see what was going on in Beijing. When my husband, our daughter (3 years old), and I arrived in China, we were overwhelmed. Looking for a playgroup for our daughter felt like looking for a pin in a haystack. So I sent a message to the online family forum and found the Bumps2Babes group that runs playgroups in Beijing. It was summer, so not much was going on, but we could still go the Monday playgroup at MyGym at The Place in the Central Business District area.
So on a very hot morning after moving into our apartment, my daughter and I took our first bus ride in Beijing. Taking a cute blond toddler on the bus in China is an experience in itself, but the buses are clean, very cheap, and they announce the names of the bus stops in English. It was pretty easy. We arrived at the playgroup, and My daughter was happy to interact with other kids again, and not being touched and followed around by curious Chinese kids and parents. I was happy to find like-minded moms who are all here in Beijing trying to create a home away from home. It was so nice to talk about how to solve problems, where to get expat products, and how to make life easier here in Beijing. I believe that having a group of mothers who can meet together is so important. For mothers all over the world, finding your mommy tribe may be your saving grace.
Bumps2Babes was founded in 2013 by an expat mother and her friends. She was pregnant with her third, and knew how important it is to have a strong English-speaking support system. Bumps2Babes have playgroups run by volunteer moms all around Beijing. I had the pleasure of getting to know Gemma, one of the co-founders of Bumps2Babes. Her second son is the same age as my daughter, and they love spending time together at the playgroups.
I asked Gemma, “How does it feel that Bumps2Babes has grown to such a big group?” She responded “It’s wonderful that we have such a community in Beijing now. When my eldest was born in 2009 there was nothing like this here, and it felt really lonely. Bumps2Babes started with a handful of moms, and in three and a half years, it has exploded. It feels great that simply connecting so many people can make a difference on some level to everyone.”
Bumps2Babes has a strong and ever growing group of volunteer moms that help create Bumps2Babes. From simple roles such as adding people to the ever growing WeChat group, to the more time consuming organization of playgroups. Being an active member on the WeChat group is a big help for Gemma, and the newsletter she creates is especially useful for newbies. As a mother myself, I find it amazing that Gemma juggles family life with the organization of Bumps2Babes. Gemma explained “I do it for my son. I want him to have a fun place to go regularly and make strong and lasting friendships. I want him to see his mom happy and relaxed having a chat over coffee with friends, yet still being very involved in his activities. Bumps2Babes playgroups are the highlight of our week. I just happened to add several hundred other people into the mix!”
Bumps2Babes has a massive parents WeChat group where lots of parents share experiences and ask questions. It’s an easy way to finding answers and things to do for families.
If you would like to join a playgroup (groups cater for pregnant mamas, babes and kids born after January 2013), please send an email to Gemma: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that Bumps2Babes playgroups are for English speaking foreign moms and those from mixed Chinese/ foreign relationships.
Pauline van Hasselt has just started working for beijingkids. Born in Wassenaar, The Netherlands, she moved with her husband and her 3 year-old daughter to Beijing in June of this year. Prior she lived in the Netherlands, Belgium, Paraguay, Texas, and London, studying and working as a chef. Pauline enjoys biking around Beijing, finding markets and new restaurants, reading crime and fantasy books in bed, and most importantly, turning her house into a home for her family.