Motherhood has a deep well of joy, but some days that joy can feel equaled by challenges, especially without support. Some mothers feel isolated and lonely at a time when they and their children need interaction with others.

Autumn Cox turned her disappointment into a way to help herself and other Upstate moms. Cox had planned a birthday trip with girlfriends, all of whom canceled. She realized she was in desperate need of friends who shared her season of life, so she took to Facebook and created a safe space for moms to find each other.

“I started the group in September of 2017,” Cox said.

Though there are no shortage of online mom groups, Cox said she wanted this one to be different.

“I wanted it to be where we got out and meet each other and where we could form friendships that would maybe last a lifetime,” she said.

“Mom Dating” Upstate SC was born. Cox got the name for the Facebook group from a YouTube video about how finding friends is like finding your significant other. Dating – doing things together – is important.

“They called it ‘mom dating,’” she said. “That’s what I wanted – people you could do life with.”

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Moms join and then post a bit about themselves and their children, as well as what they like to do. The group’s first event was bowling. A dozen moms showed up. Now, there are more than 2,000 local mothers in the Facebook group. Cox holds one large event each month, such as an Easter egg hunt or a Mother’s Day tea, and the group has lots of smaller events throughout the month.

“Every other group online mainly focuses on (being a place where) you vent and you tell how your day is going,” she said. “You can do that, but that’s not the main focus. It’s getting you out meeting people.”

The rapid growth of the group is testament to the fact that Cox wasn’t alone in her desire to create friendships. She said she hears from other moms that didn’t have the courage to reach out to others. Instead, they tell her, they stayed at home and were depressed.

“There are so many people who are so lonely,” she said. “We’re trying to make everyone build up the courage. You can go out and not get judged. If your kid throws a tantrum, it’s OK. We’ve all been there. We want to uplift and empower.”

Taylors resident Zuri Gebert said the group has been wonderful for her. She is a single mom of a 6-year-old daughter.

“I’ve always been a social butterfly,” she said. “Once I had my daughter, that changed. This group has connected me. It’s allowed me an outlet.”

Gebert has met other single mothers and found new friends.

“It’s given me people to talk to who are like me, who understand what I’m going through,” she said.

Cox said members of the group have gotten together for fun events, but they have also supported each other through everything from postpartum depression to financial emergencies.

“It’s like a family where everyone helps each other out,” she said. “It’s meant a lot to me. Once you have kids, everyone kind of disappears. Since I made this group, I have five girls who are my best friends. It means so much. The majority of the people who joined the group moved here and they don’t have anyone.”

Some even serve as emergency contacts for each other. Cox said the connection is a powerful step toward beating isolation and enjoying even the rough spots in motherhood.

Upstate Mom Dating is open to all Upstate mothers of any age – the group even has members who are grandmothers. Members can suggest events, which are then scheduled by moderators. Cox does not allow multilevel marketing events. Events occur every week throughout the Upstate. To join, search “Mom Dating” Upstate SC on Facebook.

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