So, now it is time for the next confession—my daughters want me to start a support group, MOM, mothers overwhelmed by meetings. It started with the and my reminders of what to do after school, since I wouldn’t be home until after back-to-back evening meetings. My daughter observed how much time I spend in meetings. I retorted that many of them were related to being a parent and rationalized the reason for meetings, spouting rationales like supposedly saved time for the groups whose meetings I attend. After dropping her off, I reflected on how much time I spend in meetings and how it has been this way since my daughters were born. Literally since they were born, since each daughter had attended some board meeting within their first week of life.
With my first daughter, it was pre-parent board obligations we attended. The domestic violence shelter, County Commission on the Status of Women, homeless coalition—all were meetings that I had committed to before children and did not intend to give up. It was always a friendly audience to bring a baby along ... everyone wanted to play “Hold the Baby” and I only saw her when I walked into the meeting and walked out the door to go home. And these were mostly productive and beneficial meetings, so it felt worth the time and effort.
By the second child, meetings had morphed into kid-friendly forums. La Leche League meetings and conference, county coalition on nursing mothers, Mothers Morning Out program and parent co-op, Sunday school teacher—these were the boards and meetings I attended. When the youngest arrived, we attended our first preschool board meeting three days after coming home from the hospital (it was important, we had just lost our lease and needed a space yesterday). The meetings were still manageable when the little people were babies and toddlers, probably due to the lack of productivity after a certain amount of time. So, worthwhile endeavors, just not so productive.
It all changed when the little people entered real school. Elementary school added a whole new wrinkle to my life as a M.O.M. Now children were watched by someone else and we could have lengthy meetings with much volunteering attached. No need to worry about how you would spend all those hours unaccompanied by children. Forget taking time for yourself; you swapped favors with friends on school pickup and watched the herd on the playground so you could finish up those PTA, harvest/winter/back to school/spring festivals, art program, room parent, book fair, site council, foundation, whatever meetings you scheduled for the day.
As my children grew older, I started adding in adult interests and attending those meetings. I had vague thoughts that these would replace my little people commitments. For some organizations, it worked that way. As interest waned in sports, we left those commitments behind. No need to teach art in the school once your children are in high school with art teachers. Theater only grabbed you if you had a child in the production. Schedules omitted others: No more Book Fair or library volunteering when you worked during business hours.
However, I also learned many organizations really don’t want to let go once they have you. So, it becomes a matter of balancing and saying no, probably not my strongest skills. I have no toddlers, yet I still teach Sunday school to the 2-year-olds; fourteen years now since I started teaching twos. Girl Scouts service unit team, troops, cookies, special events, all are still on my plate. PTA still permeates my world; it’s been twelve years and I am counting the days until all my little people graduate and go to college.
Back to M.O.M though. As my children observed, meetings seem to rule my days. And they have a point. Some days there are so many meetings I feel I have accomplished nothing. Earlier this week was the fun day: conflicting and back-to-back meetings, afternoon carpool, off to Neighborhood Watch, then making the decision—go to PTA or Girl Scouts? Can you count attending both meetings if you are recording minutes at one and texting your report to the chair of the other? Does anyone really care? I do understand the value of meetings but as a M.O.M., I think meetings can interfere with the work to be done. When it’s a short, value-added, productive meeting that leads to results, I enjoy being part of the meeting. When it is not, I plot escape. So, are you a M.O.M? Do we need a support group or would it just add another meeting to the mix?