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In Search of the Perfect Meeting Place

Debbi Heffern
St. Louis MO USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 3, June-July 2004, pp. 60-61.

Once upon a time, there was an evening La Leche League Group that met in mothers’ homes. It was cozy. There were toys for the toddlers. And there was always a kitchen for great snack preparation. Everyone thought a home was the perfect meeting place.

But as the Group got larger, it became hard to find a big enough living room, and there were times when the hostess’ children didn’t like sharing their toys. During the darker evenings of winter, mothers sometimes had a hard time finding their way through the winding streets of the neighborhoods. So the Group looked for a new meeting place.

One of the members lived in a condominium complex and offered the Group the clubhouse there. It had a large living room with lots of comfortable, sturdy furniture. The parking lot was well-lit at night and plowed of snow in the winter. The meetings were always in the same place, so mothers didn’t have to worry about getting lost. Everyone thought the clubhouse was the perfect meeting place.

After several years, though, the mother who lived in the condominium complex moved away, so the Group could no longer use the clubhouse. But that was okay. Going up and down the stairs had become exhausting with the four Library crates. The gorgeous fireplace and glass-topped coffee tables proved too much of an attraction for some of the preschoolers. So the Group looked for a new meeting place.

A local government center, newly remodeled, had just opened some meeting rooms for public use. There were no stairs, it was free, and could be reserved for six months at a time. Since the government center shared a door with the police station, the mothers felt safe and the occasional police car leaving with lights flashing and sirens blaring entertained the toddlers. The room itself, though, was just a refurbished classroom. There were tables for the Group Library, lots of chairs, and nothing else. Boisterous, older children no longer came to the meetings because they had nothing to do. The lack of carpeting made spills easy to clean, but the floor was rather cold for the crawling babies. So a mother volunteered to bring a carpet every month. During the years when the Group was big, there was plenty of space for a large circle of chairs. After the Group split, the remaining mothers gathered around one of the tables. It was cozy and the discussions were heartwarming. Everyone thought the government center was the perfect meeting place.

After many years, the government center remodeled again, this time making the rooms too small for the La Leche League Group. Using the room was going to cost money under the new policies, too. So the Group looked for a new meeting place.

A nearby middle school offered the Group a home-economics classroom—and it had a carpet! It also had plenty of chairs and tables for the expanded Group Library of five crates. Everyone thought it was the perfect meeting place. But the carpet had pins in it from the sewing classes during the day—a hazard to little feet and knees. Several months in a row, the school rescheduled the Group’s meeting because it needed the parking lot for student functions. So the Group looked for a new meeting place.

One of the Group’s fathers offered his company’s office meeting space. His employees were so excited to have “company coming” that they scrubbed the toilets and carefully vacuumed every inch of the carpet. There was a private parking lot, no stairs, and best of all, the meeting room had bean bag chairs, which the pregnant mothers loved! Everyone thought the office was the perfect meeting place. But the space was surrounded by computers and cables, which needed to be covered by bed sheets before every meeting. And the Group had grown too large once again to fit into the small space. The Group looked for a new meeting place.

Some of the members, who had attended a local high school, suggested there might be a room available there in a recently completed building-expansion project. At the intersection of two highways and across from a well-known hospital, the high school would be easy to give directions to. The meeting room was large and carpeted and had lots of tables and chairs. There was a kitchen with a door they could close. Signs in the parking lot declared that several spaces were “Reserved Second Thursday,” the day the Group traditionally meets. Perhaps it was meant to be—the perfect meeting place!

Because so many mothers discovered the Group at this location, the meetings became large and noisy. The circle was too big. Leaders couldn’t read the mothers’ name tags and mothers didn’t get to know each other. It was clear that the Group needed to offer a morning meeting, too.

Once upon a time, there was a Group that offered evening meetings at a high school and morning meetings in mothers’ homes. The evening meetings were great for pregnant and employed mothers. The morning meetings were cozy and the mothers had a chance to make long-term friendships. Everyone agreed that these were the perfect meeting places!

This article was adapted from an article that appeared in the May-June 2003 issue of EnFace, the Area Leaders’ Letter of LLL of Kansas, USA. Debbi Heffern lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, has been a Leader since 1983, and is a registered dietitian and IBCLC. She has three adult children, Michael, Kathy, and Kevin, and she will be a grandma in July 2004. Debbi writes, “Kevin’s wife, Jen, has already attended her first LLL meeting (and I didn't push her at all!). I firmly believe that breastfeeding is the foundation of human health, a huge part of women's and human rights, and thus supporting breastfeeding women is among the most important work we could ever do.”

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