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Can You Find Time for Extra Meetings?

Maggie Heeger
Madison, Alabama, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No. 5, October-November 1997, p. 120

What is the difference between breastfeeding and weaning? For some mothers, it may be a La Leche League meeting!

Mothers who attend LLL meetings receive information, support, friendship and a special something that escapes definition - but you know what it is. You've felt it yourself and it's real. It's the feeling you get as you travel home from a particularly invigorating meeting. You feel as though you can take on the entire world; your batteries have been charged, maybe even supercharged.

If a Group stopped holding Series Meetings, before long there would be no LLL in the community. Group meetings are essential to LLL's survival. Just as essential are the extra meetings Leaders can hold: Planning/Evaluation, Enrichment and Chapter Meetings. Busy Leaders may think they don't have enough time or energy but what these meetings do for Group members, Leader Applicants and Leaders is truly remarkable.

Planning/Evaluation Meetings are fairly self-descriptive. Attendees evaluate the effectiveness of recent Series Meetings and plan future activities. The monthly meeting report can be completed at this time with the Group Treasurer present to provide figures, the Group Librarian on hand to give an update on book circulation and co-Leaders to offer insights. Group members share what they thought, saw and learned. You'd be surprised what these women can offer in the line of constructive criticism and support.

Planning/Evaluation Meetings can have a second function as well: enrichment. A specific subject can be scheduled or a spur- of-the-moment discussion may take place. Mothers get to know each other on a level that exceeds the Series Meeting format.

Separate Enrichment Meetings can be planned to focus on topics outside the Series Meetings. While Leaders still represent LLL and take great care not to mix causes or speak rashly, Enrichment Meetings are an opportunity to relax and have fun. Leaders can dress casually, knowing that only members will be there - no one unfamiliar with LLL will be in attendance.

The friendships developed at Enrichment Meetings are deep and special. They begin through shared enthusiasm for breastfeeding and develop further based on other common interests.

The potential for identifying Leader Applicants is greatly increased when Enrichment Meetings are held. Leaders are able to develop more in-depth relationships with mothers, allowing those special leadership qualities to shine through. An Enrichment Meeting topic can even be a discussion of the LLL leadership role.

Whether it's a Planning/Evaluation or Enrichment Meeting (some Leaders combine the titles and call their meetings "E and Es"), there are few ground rules.

Deciding who is eligible to attend extra meetings is important. Some Groups make "E and Es" a benefit of membership. Other Groups invite mothers to attend when their babies become toddlers or after a woman has attended a full series of meetings. The point is to invite women who are already comfortable with what LLL believes, so meeting attendees can speak openly - something we cannot always do at a Series Meeting when new mothers' needs come first.

Chapter Meetings are just for Leaders and Leader Applicants. Many Chapters include Leaders and Applicants from neighboring Groups; Groups that don't have neighboring Groups can have their own Chapter right in the Group. The purpose of Chapter Meetings is to provide an opportunity to discuss Leader concerns, Group management and Area procedures as well as form a special bond between the Leaders and Leader Applicants in the community. There is also an opportunity to share parenting problems and solutions.

An added benefit of these extra meetings is that they don't involve much planning. Armed with one or two discussion-starting questions, a Leader can usually let the discussion at these meetings take care of itself, steering conversation back on track every once in a while.

Yes, extra meetings do take a bit of time, at least in the beginning. A Leader needs to be on hand to lead the discussion. Most of the other details, however, can be taken care of by Group members. Because of the more relaxed nature of these meetings, sign-in sheets aren't always necessary and mothers can bring whatever refreshments they choose.

Leader Applicants are not only more easily recognized, but are more enthusiastic and can be more quickly accredited when extra meetings are held. With this benefit, extra meetings soon won't be a burden at all. A lone Leader may soon have several co-Leaders to share responsibilities.

Extra meetings are an investment of time and care in the Group but the payoff is large. Consider having one extra meeting a month and see where it leads.

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