Naperville mom launches Facebook Group to support, encourage women across all walks of life
Across Illinois, vaccine eligibility is expanding and there are signs that life is slowly returning to normal. And with Chicago and Illinois opening up eligibility to all residents 16 or older, many people are wondering what this "new normal" will look like.
I'm excited to get out and do the things I used to do before the pandemic. But I also believe that now, more than ever, we need to continue to support one another and maintain the healthy relationships forged during the pandemic -- even ones found and fostered via Facebook.
For me, that means staying connected with my girl gang, a virtual space I launched in 2018 when I realized I didn't see my girlfriends nearly enough.
Part of the reason was because my friends span so many different walks of life, and I wasn't sure if they would mesh. I had friends from my days as a go-go dancer in Chicago, from the dance studio I've taught in for nearly three decades, from mentorship, volunteering and service industry positions I've had. And, of course, from my years as a mom to my two children.
I wondered what it would be like to put all these women in a room together. Would they get along? Would they judge? Would their vastly different perspectives mesh -- or collide? I decided to find out.
I started a Facebook Group called Midwest Girl Gang and invited about 200 women to join. It started out slow and steady, with the women in the group sharing inspirational quotes, motivational content and, of course, the occasional shocking/hilarious meme to jump-start a belly laugh, just when you need it most.
But then the pandemic hit, I lost both my jobs, and everything changed. As scary as that time was, I weathered it in large part because of the support and encouragement from my girl gang. During that period of uncertainty, the women were a constant, always there with a boost of inspiration or a virtual pat-on-the-back that kept me going. The Facebook group became the place where I started every day.
I wasn't the only one who needed this kind of support. During the pandemic, the group took off, adding hundreds of members from new moms to retirees, all of whom are equally committed to supporting and strengthening local women. We were fortunate to have a platform like Facebook that enabled us to feel (and actually be) connected virtually when we couldn't be together in person.
This year, more than others, we've seen the damage that intolerance can have on communities. I'm so proud to have a community that brings together women from diverse backgrounds, careers, ages and experiences to celebrate one another in good times and bad. Women need support systems like this, pandemic or not.
As Illinois starts to reopen, our Midwest Girl Gang is eager to support women in the Chicago area. I encourage women to join our Facebook Group, get involved with similar groups in your area, or even start your own to keep the momentum of positive support networks going as we transition back to our normal lives and routines. Why? Because that's what girlfriends do.
They say it takes a village. I say it just takes a girl gang. Here's hoping more Chicagoland women join ours.
• Jennifer Rae is the founder of the Midwest Girl Gang Facebook Group. She is a dance instructor/bartender/mom living in Naperville.