It takes a village

“Fishtown Mamas” Facebook group allows River Wards moms to connect about parenting, advocacy and everything in between

From l to r: Sarah Cullen, Michelle Rice, Maggie Wachter, Stefany Stuber and Kimberly Geisler of Fishtown Mamas play with their children at PlayArts on Front Street. LOGAN KRUM / STAR PHOTO

By Lindsey Nolen

In a mindset in line with the proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” a group of Fishtown mothers have banded together to offer support and guidance to one another through a bond of mutual child rearing. In doing so, three mothers worked together to organize the Facebook group “Fishtown Mamas,” which has served as a platform for local mothers to connect and have their voices heard.
Dating back to September 2013, Fishtown residents Kim Geisler, Stefany Stuber and Sarah Cullen realized they had young children roughly the same age. Thus, they decided to pursue a way to gather other moms in the area with babies, and came up with the idea to establish a Meetup community of local mothers, which eventually transitioned into a Facebook page.
“At the time, it was hard to really find other young moms in the community, as there wasn’t a great collective source for information and things happening in the community. [The Facebook group] started as a way to organize happy hour playdates, where the mothers could have a glass of wine together and share stories about being new moms while the little ones played,” said Geisler, who moved to Fishtown from South Philly in 2007. “From there, the group grew.”
From its inception, “Fishtown Mamas” was designed as a nonjudgmental space for mothers to come together, and that focused on acceptance and diversity. Providing a space for mothers to reach out and feel comfortable and accepted, the group also centered around the thought children will be able to see their mothers involved in the community, and through it they will learn the importance of having strong community values themselves.
“I was managing and bartending at Bottle Bar East and was dying to have some ‘mom friends.’ Although the group started as a Meetup, I found it made much more sense to turn it into a Facebook group, and used the marketing guy from Bottle Bar East to make a logo and page,” said Stuber, 36. “It’s hard to find other moms that are so progressive and honest about motherhood.”
As the idea took off, the mothers started to all get together at Palmer Park and let the babies play on the picnic blankets and each bring a glass of wine or a beer undercover, and word of the meetups spread. They continued to meet each week on the same day and at the same time, and by the end of the third playdate, 10 mothers were present.
“When La Colombe opened, we began moving it there during the cold months, or when the weather was bad we would take over the back table in the back of the coffee shop,” Geisler said.
According to the 32-year-old Geisler, who now lives at Frankford and Montgomery avenues, while “Fishtown Mamas” was in its first year as a Facebook group, members had to be approved by either herself, Stuber or Cullen, and no more than 50 members were added to the group. In the years since, these initial members have grown to become a close-knit group of women who, in addition to its newer members, use the Facebook page as a resource to ask each other parenting questions, a forum to ask for recommendations and a tool to organize meet-ups.
Now, with 1,469 total members, the group has rapidly grown in size and consequently has been switched to a “secret” Facebook privacy status to prevent the unwanted spam it has received in the past. As a result, those wishing to become members must have a member or administrator invite them to join the group. Group administrators other than Geisler, Stuber and Cullen include Becca Ryder, Clare Herlihy Dych, Lindsay Estes Li and Michelle Rice.
Any parent in the River Wards is invited to join and the page, which is always open to new discussions. However, it is important to note the group’s content is always monitored, without toleration for judgmental and slanderous topics and comments.
Having largely spearheaded its endeavors, Geisler credits the group’s increase in popularity and interest to the neighborhood’s gentrification since 2014, which has brought with its hundreds of new moms and their children from all over the Greater Philadelphia area and beyond. She noted that now, neighborhood-goers can see mothers and their strollers taking to Frankford Avenue for walks at almost all times throughout the day, a vision that did not exist prior to the influx of residents.
“With the import of people from many different places, many of them don’t have a big family unit established in the area,” said Geisler, who has two children, Shaden, 2, and Dahlia, 10 months. “It takes a village mentality between families in the neighborhood to help raise these children. Fishtown has grown to be very supportive of neighbors and complete strangers alike, and this group provides a forum for this community togetherness.”
Although “Fishtown Mamas” was not initially intended to be a community outreach group, it’s definitely taken an additional step in that direction, organizing community effort groups and fundraisers. It has also became a place where moms could trade or sell unneeded baby and children’s goods, with a second group having been created by a member, called “Fishtown Frugal Kids.”
In exercising this outreach, Geisler has organized a fundraiser and banner decorating for the efforts at Standing Rock, during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Adding to its commitment to this initiative, the local play space, Play Arts, gave the group a space for a fundraiser, allowing children to paint handprints on a canvas banner, raising $500 in two hours and gathering winter supplies for those standing in Standing Rock. Furthermore, a holiday drive for the Gift of Life Foundation was conducted by “Fishtown Mamas” this past year during the winter.
Another movement it has organized was in response to some anti-Semitic symbols painted on a bench at Shissler Recreation Center. Here, families gathered with the “Fishtown Mamas” and turned the swastika paintings into a window and covered the entire playground with chalk windows, to “let the light in” and to show hate had no home there.
“The word on the street is that Fishtown mamas get things done, and have a powerful voice in the community,” said Stuber, who has two children, Irene 8, and Olivia 3. “Their opinions matter, and they have members who have very strong pulls in the area.”
Cullen continued by saying the Facebook page and its members have actually become a factor in her refraining from relocating outside of Fishtown, as she feels as though it has added real value to the neighborhood. She recognizes the great accomplishments “Fishtown Mamas” have achieved thus far, and its potential to harness that energy to do even more.
Moving forward in their efforts, the administrators of “Fishtown Mamas” would like to see the group come to lead and organize more community support events, as well as begin to rally troops to organize fundraisers for local elementary schools, recreation centers and playgrounds. It also hopes to continue to fundraise over the course of the holiday season.
For more information on the Fishtown Mamas Facebook group, or with questions, email Geisler at: waldorfmom13@gmail.com.