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Considering an Interested Mothers' Workshop?

Sylvia Mitchell and Marianne Van Aert
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 36 No. 3, June-July 2000, pp. 54-55

Do you know some mothers who would like to learn more about LLL or LLL Leadership? An Interested Mothers' Workshop could be your answer. If members have not already been asking questions, an invitation to a workshop is sure to spark their interest.

Workshops for Interested Mothers on page 227 of the 1998 LEADER'S HANDBOOK is a good first resource to review when considering an interested mothers workshop. Discuss your idea with your co- Leader(s) and contact a LAD representative for suggestions or help. Other sources that may be helpful include the article by Joyce Bussell, "Interested Mothers' Workshop", on page 92 of the November/December 1992 issue of LEAVEN, and your Area Leader's Letter.

Workshops can be organized in places similar to those where Series Meetings are held: in a home, church, school room, playground, library, or other public or community meeting rooms. They can be as simple as a half-day gathering or a series of six workshops held over one or two months.*

Once you have decided to present an interested Mothers' Workshop, the dates, time, and place need to be finalized. These arrangements should be set well enough in advance to allow the invited mothers, Leader Applicants, and nearby Group Leaders to fit the workshop into their schedule. This will also give you time to prepare your outline, posters, and handouts.

Start on Time

The same reasons to start the Series Meetings on time apply to starting a workshop on time. Page 81 of the LEADER'S HANDBOOK explains it best: "Promptness tells mothers that they are important" and beginning and ending at the appointed time shows respect for the schedules of the women who attend.

Introductions and Handouts

Introductions can be given in the familiar round-robin style. Or you might want to try something different. Form pairs and allow a few minutes to get acquainted; then each person introduces her partner to the group. The exercise requires each participant to listen to another person, clarify the information received, and speak in front of a group. These are the same skills a Leader uses when helping mothers and leading a Group, and this simple exercise can serve as an example of leading skills to the mothers attending the workshop.

Handouts offer the mothers something to refer to when the workshop is over. Becoming a La Leche League Leader is a good resource to give to all who attend. For a series of workshops, you may want to prepare and distribute an agenda to help everyone remain focused on the day's topics and serve as an outline. If evaluation forms are included, the responses will help in preparing future workshops.

Book Reviews

Book reviews are an easy way to invite participation by the women at the workshop. Discussing favorite LLL books can lead into exploring how Leaders use printed materials to help mothers. Reviewing THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING is an easy way to get discussions started because most mothers are familiar with it. They are often eager to share their comments and how their experiences compare with what they read in THE WOMANLY ART. You're sure to hear lots of positive and complimentary remarks and mothers are often surprised to learn that LLLI philosophy is contained throughout its pages. Add spice to the session by handing out handmade bookmarks, personalized with an LLL logo sticker. It's a reminder of the wealth of reading material available through LLL.

You may want to display older editions of THE WOMANLY ART so mothers can see how it has changed over the past 42 years. Book reviews can be expanded as time allows at the Interested Mothers' Workshop or at subsequent Leader Applicant Workshop sessions to include other books such as MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, The Birth Book, The Discipline Book and WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY (WFWF) to cover all the categories in a Group Library and go into more depth for those who are preparing for leadership. Consider relating the book chosen for review as part of the introductions. For instance, if The Birth Book is part of the agenda, invite mothers to share a fond birth memory when introducing themselves. To add some fun when reviewing WFWF, try bringing a sampling of its recipes for refreshment time. You're sure to notice informal discussions about LLL, breastfeeding, and mothering continuing during this social time.

LLL and Leadership

It's natural and easy to talk about the joys and rewards of leadership. You can mention how new friendships are often developed and new skills are learned. Lead the discussion toward explaining about basic Leader responsibilities and optional ones available to Leaders.

"Family first" is often brought up by the mothers themselves. They are interested and intrigued to learn how other mothers and Leaders with young babies and toddlers are able to fit in time to do volunteer work for La Leche League.

LLLI philosophy is also a popular topic. Look to pages 230-33 of the 1998 LEADER'S HANDBOOK for some ready-made starter questions. Mothers enjoy talking about the concepts, are eager to share their thoughts and experiences and to ask questions. Answer their questions and clarify the concepts, encouraging them to approach a Leader if more information is needed.

Discussing new and renewed memberships helps mothers understand the importance of membership helping to sustain our organization. A mother can feel good about contributing to LLL even if she decides she does not want to pursue leadership.

There are many other topics you may want to include that are relevant to LLL in your Area. Talk to a LAD representative to see if there is information relevant to your Area that may be included in this portion of the workshop.

LLL Structure

You can refer to THE WOMANLY ART for information on LLL's beginnings and for pictures and descriptions of each of the Founders. Consider inviting a guest speaker or two from different Area departments. For instance, a Human Relations Enrichment Instructor (HREI) could give a brief description of the Human Relations Enrichment program. A Professional Liaison (PL) Leader could describe how PL Leaders are a resource for Leaders helping mothers with difficult or unusual breastfeeding problems. A LAD representative can explain her role as a participant in an application and as a resource for Leaders who want information about LLL's prerequisites and accreditation criteria. A District Advisor can briefly describe her supporting role for Group Leaders.

Applying for Leadership

Mothers can be reminded to read through Becoming a La Leche League Leader and to approach a Leader about their interest in leadership. Explain that the Leader will have more information about leadership, and after preliminary discussions, will use the Application Packet to guide her discussion with the mother. Consider mentioning that the Breastfeeding Resource Guide is part of the training curriculum to become a La Leche League Leader. Introduce it as a breastfeeding management exercise designed to help develop basic breastfeeding knowledge and resource skills. Referring to simple posters that display the contents of a complete application for leadership and briefly describing each part are good ways to conclude the topic.

Summary and Ending on Time

A brief summary of the topics discussed and renewal of the invitation to approach a Leader for more information can serve as a good wrap-up. Thank the hostess and all who helped organize the workshop. Recognize yourself for the creative way you have fulfilled the basic Leader responsibility of helping so many mothers find out more about LLL and leadership.

Oftentimes there is an increase in applications for leadership after a workshop. While it's not realistic to expect all attendees to apply, a Leader can feel good about the role she has played in helping mothers learn more about La Leche League. If you are considering an Interested Mothers' Workshop, use your imagination and expand on the ideas shared. Your LAD representative will be delighted to help you with your plans.

A Helping Cloud

We have found a fun way to demonstrate the structure of LLL. A doll, cotton balls, large bowl, and poster are used to demonstrate the structure of LLL. The doll represents a mother coming to LLL for breastfeeding information and support and is placed inside the bowl. A soft cotton ball is added to the bowl each time a part of the organization's structure or LLL resource is directly or indirectly shown to help a mother to breastfeed her baby. In no time at all the "mother" is surrounded in a soft white cloud of LLL breastfeeding help and support. The children enjoy playing with these props while their mothers continue on to the next topic.

Sylvia Mitchell and Marianne Van Aert have used this visual aid in many "Interested Mothers' Workshops" to present some of the information about LLL structure. Varying the type of presentation at a session helps to keep the interest of the attending mothers and will create a visual picture that they will remember long after the workshop is over.

* Editor's note: Preferably, a single day's Interested Mothers' Workshop is followed by a Leader Applicant Workshop series for those mothers who are interested in pursuing leadership.

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