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Hill Moms Take Play Groups to a New Level

Modern parenting can be a stressful, taxing experience — so it’s sometimes nice to know that you’re not alone. The Capitol Hill group Moms on the Hill, the recent recipient of D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells’ (D) Livable, Walkable Community Organization award, aims to make being a parent on Capitol Hill just a little bit easier.

The organization, which started as a casual play group of new mothers meeting around Capitol Hill in the fall of 2001, has grown into an active community of almost 3,000 people. At its core, MOTH is anchored by a lively digital community, combined with in-person meet-ups, play groups and events.

“The first couple of years as MOTH, it was very small. The Web site is very intimate,— said Jen DeMayo, one of the early play group members and a moderator. “The reason that it’s retained this great tone is that it’s warm and inviting.—

DeMayo added that the original play group organized a lot by e-mail. Eventually, one woman’s husband grew weary of the constant e-mail threads. “Her husband got annoyed with all our e-mails back and forth. So he told her about Yahoo,— said DeMayo. Since they founded their Yahoo club (now a Yahoo group), membership has grown by leaps and bounds.

“After we formed our group, we were all so happy to have each other. When you become a parent, it can be very lonely. You feel like all you do is change diapers and breast-feed,— said Manda Kelley, another moderator and mother who was present from the outset. “We used the Internet to organize ourselves.—

Still, MOTH tries to stay exclusive to the Capitol Hill community. Though the boundaries of Capitol Hill are somewhat flexible, parents definitely need to live in the area to be part of the listserv. MOTH defines that area as between North and South Capitol streets and the Anacostia River, and south of Florida Avenue and Benning Road.

“The hardest part is the Southwest neighborhood — they think of themselves as being on the Hill,— said DeMayo.

“It was never intended to keep anyone out,— said Kelley. But, “we’ve always been more than just an Internet group. Someone who lives in Adams Morgan isn’t going to want to trek down to the Hill.—

The Internet side of MOTH is very freewheeling, according to DeMayo. Topics range from “mundane and boring to the interesting and the profound.— Mostly, however, parents inquire about pediatricians, scope out potential schools, buy and sell furniture, solicit advice and generally sound off on the challenges of raising children on Capitol Hill.

“The heaviest use is definitely from new parents,— DeMayo said.

And MOTH retains its in-person focus with regularly scheduled play groups, divided according to each child’s age. Other in-person events include a book drive, a school information night, moms’ night out events and an annual picnic in Garfield Park.

For more information, including how to join, e-mail or Fathers, grandparents, caregivers and gay parents are also welcome.

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