Dear Diary,


Like many first time moms, I spent hours on the Internet looking for classes to participate in while my baby was still in the womb.  I wondered if baby sign language really worked, whether or not Mommy & Me yoga was calming or chaotic and if my daughter would pick up an instrument just because she took a music class.  I wasn’t sure what activity we would commit to, but I knew I wanted to give her a jump-start on life before she even started her life!  Four months later,  we enrolled at a baby gym—partly to build her motor skills and partly to build my social life as a stay-at-home mom.  At first, she didn’t get much from attending.  She had more fun at home with her two cousins, which was free!  But as the months went on, she played, learned and engaged.  She crawled through tunnels, made music with maracas, scored points in baby soccer and had an overall good time.


I was a proud mommy and promoted the gym to my circle of friends.  One day while sharing my story, a male friend said, “Baby gyms are what white moms do!  You’re doing too much.” Although I was the only African-American mother in the class, I never felt out of place.  We all had one thing in  common: a deep love, and perhaps somewhat of a healthy obsession, with our children.  Yes, having other brown smiling faces would have been nice, but it wasn’t a deal breaker when I renewed my contract each month.  To be honest, I was more concerned about being a single mother.  On the first day, I looked around the room at all the wedding rings and worried about being judged, which never happened by the way.  Still, my friend’s comments made me wonder:  Do other people think the same thing?  Did race factor into their decision to not take their new babies to the gym?  I rounded up a group of mommies and contacted the corporate offices of two popular gyms, Gymboree and My Gym, in hopes of demystifying baby gym memberships.  Here’s what they had to say.



Why did you decide to join the baby gym?



Meghan, Pittsburgh, PA

“Trey and I joined so that we could get out and do something fun for him, while increasing his motor and social skills.  I thought it would be nice to chat with moms that have babies the same age, going through the same issues at the same time.



Stacie Vargo, Pittsburgh, PA

“Honestly, I joined for selfish reasons at first!  I was looking to get out of the house and meet women with little ones the same age as mine.  Being an older mom (38), my friends work during the day and have older children. I thought it was important to find women who were going through the same experiences as me staying at home and being a first time mom.”



Nayeli, Pittsburgh, PA

“I am a first time mom, so I am trying to be the best mom I can be.  Maybe the class will help me learn how to develop my son’s motor skills and help him reach milestones.  I am originally from Mexico, so I pretty much left all of my family to be with my husband.  I don’t know a lot of people, and the city isn’t too diverse, so I don’t come across a lot of Spanish-speaking moms.  Sometimes that is hard.  But the baby gym gives me a chance to socialize with other moms and share the joys and worries of parenting.”



Jillian, Atlanta, GA

“I went to pregnancy workout classes, and the class was filled with a lot of black women. I was proud to see that! We enrolled in the mommy and me workout, but the class was boring. I love those classes, but i also like the fact that she goes to school which is another social outlet.”



Lenita, Pensacola, FL

“I took my daughter to Gymboree from 9 months to almost two. It was mostly for socialization since she’s my “one and done”. I did find that the balance activities, songs and even the bubbles engaged her in a positive way. After she got bigger, I decided that I could use those funds for something else (gymnastics/tumbling) and did some of the Gymboree activities at home. It was a good experience. I will say that I found a “local” equivalent to Gymboree to be just as good for a little less so check your area before going chain. Good experience overall.”



Did the racial makeup of the class factor into your decision to enroll?




“If I were the only white mother in the group, it wouldn’t bother me.  We’re all new moms and can learn from each other.  I think I was more concerned about going to the wealthy neighborhood the gym was located in, but that wasn’t an issue after the first day.  No one was snotty or stereotypical.”




“It just so happens that  the woman I “clicked” with the most is African-American.  I actually never thought about the race aspect. These classes are for everyone!  Unfortunately you’re right in that Pittsburgh is not a very diverse city; especially within neighborhoods.  When we looked to buy a home, we were focused on the school districts. We also looked at the demographic statistics and was astounded at just how sad the diversification was. I have been pleased to see the numbers rising very year over the last 6 years we have lived here though.”




“I wasn’t concerned about race.  If someone told me baby gyms are something only white moms go to, I would tell him that my baby has the same right to learn and play as a “white” baby. Honestly I would be mad and tell him that he should travel more to open his mind.  If he can’t afford it, read a book.”


What do you think causes some mothers not to join a gym?




Serena, Detroit, MI 

“Not only are the classes pricey, but they are mainly during the day when most moms work.  I have taken my daughter before, but I didn’t see a huge benefit. The things they did, at least at the toddler stage, could be done at home for free. I thought of enrolling her really just to get out of the house, which I felt could be a benefit to us both, but other than that I didn’t see a huge benefit and viewed it as a very expensive outing.”



Phyliss, Washington, DC

“I used to take my daughter when I was a stay at home mom. Now that I work full time and go to school, I don’t have the time. I don’t see how color should play a role at all. I have always done what I believe is best for my kids. They deserve what any other kid deserves.”


JoLynne, Philadelphia

“I think it may be a cultural thing or a matter of economics. How many of those white moms are married and/or stay at home moms? There so many factors. I wonder if you should take a poll next time you are at the gym, to see how many women are single parents, married, in school, employed or have a support system.  I think all these questions are valid, and you may be able to come up with factual cultural reasons as to why some moms join and others don’t. Also look into the area. Is it the same for white and black women in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Florida? When one tries to figure out why a particular ethic group does things differently from the dominant (as far as what is seen as acceptable) ethnic group, in my opinion, you will do both groups an injustice if you don’t take in historical considerations.”



Monique, Brooklyn, NY

“I wouldn’t say it’s a race thing, but location definitely plays a role. I live in Brooklyn, and everyone takes mommy and me classes. We’ve taken mommy and me African dance, art classes, yoga, music etc., and I’m never the only black mom. I was never the only black mom at cloth diapering or baby wearing workshops either. But I could see how I’d be the only one if I still lived in Pittsburgh. On the weekends, it may be more diverse when working moms can attend classes.”



Casie, Philadelphia

“I took my son to Gymboree when he was 6 months. I only did it during the summer because I was off. I was the only black mom in the class. All of the women were stay at home moms. When I told my co-workers my plans for the summer, they all (white and black) felt I was wasting my money. I feel as though if you have the time and the money, it is worth it. However, these classes are geared to stay at home moms, not for working mothers. Furthermore, in Philadelphia they are not available in the black community. It took me 20 minutes to get to class three days a week. I enjoyed the classes because it gave me and my son some time outside of our home.”


Carolyn, Nashville, TN

“I took my daughter. She had fun, but they were also doing things we did at home or at the park.  We took her to the park all the time. Classes were often during the day, and that made it hard to consistently go as well as the expense for things we could do on our own.”



Sonya, Huntsville, AL

“I would, on the weekends. Not enough time during the week, when you are working 40 hours.  That’s the main difference, if we were a stay at home mom, we would go to these things more.”



What would you say to other mothers who are hesitant about taking their child to a baby gym?




“Try the free trial class, that’s what we did.  Watching Trey have the most fun ever made me join”




“That they should at least try it and then make a decision.  I always look forward the days my son has class. It’s a lot of fun, and we get to meet new people.  It benefits my baby just to see other babies, because he learns how to do things just by watching them.”




“The support system you will gain is second to none. Even though I joined for selfish reasons in the beginning, I do believe that the classes have helped my son tremendously. I have learned exercises to help strengthen each part of his body. I also believe that his motor skills have developed quickly by watching some bigger kids in class ad wanting to replicate their actions. Lastly, the social interaction for him with so many kids is amazing and so much fun to watch! The best part of attending class is Seeing what my son will do next! Last class he surprised me by starting to climb up the stairs!”



Do you attend Mommy & Me classes with your little one?  What has your experience been like so far?  Is the decision to join a matter of race, location or income?  

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

12 Responses

  1. Brandi

    I did take my daughter to Mommy and Me gymnastics, and now she goes to a Social Skills (pre-k type class) at Gymboree. The gymnastics class was interracial, but there were a lot of wealthy people. I didn’t care because my focus was on my daughter. Besides that, we are all parents. If nothing else, we have that in common. Her class know is interracial, too. Her preschool on the other hand…she’s the only Black girl in the school, but it doesn’t seem to matter at all because the teachers are focused on letting the kids be kids…no racial implications at all!

  2. Amiyrah

    We’ve been thinking about starting the 2 year old at Gymboree classes. We went to an opening of a kids gym in NYC and she loved it. We’ll have to save up a bit and then figure out which places other than Gymboree we night be able to afford.

    • newmom0608

      It was definitely worth it! I definitely sacrificed for her to attend, but the memories we made were priceless. The contract was month to month, so that really helped out in case I didn’t have sufficient funds.

  3. MELISASource

    I really wish there were baby gyms around when my children were younger — they sound so fun and a great way to bond with your little one!

  4. Raya

    I remember joining some play groups more to get out of the house. It was always about the kids. I did feel a bit threatened being the only single mom at times, but I got over it when I saw that my children enjoyed it so much.

    • newmom0608

      Me too! At the end of the day, we are all moms–no matter our race, religion or marital status. We just want the very best for our kids.

  5. Christine

    This is great. I’ve actually never taken my kids to these classes (unless it was a birthday party or “open jump” day at Pump it Up). When I had my first two, I was still working FT. So I didn’t have time or energy to take the classes. When I had my third I became a SAHM but I still didn’t have time between taking the other two to school, etc. We are planning to do gymnastics/tumbling classes for all three soon though (ages 1, 3 & 5).

    • newmom0608

      Let me know how the tumbling class goes! I was thinking about ballet, but gymnastics may be an option!

  6. DaintyLady

    Gymboree is a great way to meet Moms with babies the same age as yours. You can build great relationships here that can become apart of your support network.


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