Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fill In

Okay, it doesn't look like Bethany's going to post, so I'm going to slide in and take over.

There's a huge debate taking place on the RWA officer's loop about kids attending RWA meetings and conventions. Several chapters are reworking their bylaws, and the question has come up about whether a line should be put into the bylaws regarding children and meetings. While I'm not entirely sure it needs to be put into the bylaws, several chapters have a "...guests must be at least 18 years of age" written into their Policy & Procedures Manuals. (Paty, do we even have a P&M Manual?)

There are opinions on all sides of the issue, but the majority of officers responding are of the "kids don't belong at meetings and conferences" mindset. One officer responded with,

"It really is something best handled by policy and discussed frankly with members who wish to bring children to a meeting. That violates the professional spirit and learning atmosphere we strive to maintain as RWA chapters. It is important for members to recognize we are a professional organization and the presence of children (other than, perhaps, a nursing infant though that is a judgment call) is not appropriate."

Now, I know this may raise feathers with some, especially in our group, but I can see the point. We're a professional organization, with the goal of promoting writing. We have guest speakers who come in and we want to present a professional atmosphere not only to our speakers, but to our current members and potential new members. Kids - as much as I love them - tend to disrupt that atmosphere, even when they're being little angels.

There are some who may say I'm being hypocritical, and you're probably right. I brought my 4 wk old to a meeting once because I desperately missed the group and couldn't leave him because I was nursing. I took him to Paty's house at our first retreat when he was about five weeks. The difference here though is my bringing my son to the retreat was cleared with the members attending before I went, and Paty arranged for a babysitter to watch him while we all worked. I snuck out now and then to feed him and came back so he wouldn't be a disruption to the others. And, after that, when he was two months old and able to sit two hours without eating, I never took him to another meeting again. I know my kids (hellions that they are), and I know their antics. Even if they were the most angelic children on the planet, I would not take them to another meeting or to a conference. Not only for my sanity, but for the sanity of those around me.

I think we can all agree that nursing newborns are a different boat from toddlers and children and that babysitters are NOT always an option for newborns. We also happen to be a very small chapter and in Bethany's case at the November meeting, we all wanted to see that adorable bundle. But I was very proud of Bethany in that she not only asked if it was okay to bring the baby, but that she didn't plan to stay long and as soon as Tavy got upset, she left. That shows maturity and understanding of others' feelings and opinions, and it's extremely important in an organization like ours.

This is an issue that needs to be discussed not only among the officers, but among the members as well. While I understand the babysitting struggle (boy, do I), bringing kids with you to the meeting just because you don't have another option isn't something we want to encourage. One because it's disruptive to others, and two because we often discuss things (like sex), joke and make comments about things that aren't appropriate for little ears. I don't want to have to censure our discussions, and I don't want others to feel they have to censure anything either. In the same vein, I wouldn't feel comfortable allowing a teenager to attend our meetings either.

So...thoughts on this? Opinions either way? I'm not trying to ruffle feathers here. Honestly, this isn't even something I'd thought of discussing before, but as it's been a big brouhaha on the loop, I decided to see what you all think. I've missed meetings because I didn't have a babysitter, and it's not fun, but the alternative isn't something I'd willingly subject the rest of you to. ;) And just so you don't think I'm trying to be a naysayer here (or a shit-stirrer, as Alice would say), several officers on the chaplink loop have been coming up with solutions, like creating a babysitting chair in their group who organizes a babysitter on the night of the meetings for those members who don't have other options. So there are other options out there, we just have to think outside the box if it's a problem for certain members.


Alice Sharpe said...

I'm probably not the best one to offer first comments, but hey, that's never stopped me before, right?

I no longer have small kids at home so I don't have to face these issues. I imagine the loop discussions got started because of large groups with large numbers of attending children or small groups with difficult members who don't know how to use the common sense God gave a cocker spaniel.

We have neither of those issues. Our mothers are reasonable women. Never know what the future holds, I guess, so some kind of rules to be brought out in case of abuse might be a good idea. It is a professional atmosphere or should be even when it's silly, it's adult rated silly. Plus those who have moved heaven and earth to find baby-sitting probably won't appreciate other people's kids running about. I have a hard time seeing our group with a baby-sitting chair.

I, personally, have nothing against nursing infants attending with a Mom who knows when to exit stage left, just as a person with a disruptive cough, etc... knows when to go outside and take care of themselves. The reasons you stated for keeping the children at home are all good and I think taking anything but a very small baby on a retreat would be difficult for everyone. Bethany and you, Eli, and Danita have all conducted themselves with class in my never to be humble opinion.

For the record, I didn't belong to groups such as this when I had infants and never took my children once I started attending. RWA meetings are no place for kids. And conferences? I don't know, I've never seen any children at conferences that attended any workshop except for the rare very small infants and then it didn't bother me. Babies need their mothers in ways they don't need their fathers, that's just a fact of life. Toddler on up -- no thanks.

Is this an issue for our group? It doesn't seem to be. Are we troubleshooting for the future?

Thanks for filling in.

wavybrains said...

I came to post late and saw this was already up! Thanks Eli. I was at the Doctor's this A.M. Still laid low by infection.

This post comes at a really awkward time for me. I'm wondering what my place in RWA is right now and whether I should spend the money to renew. I'm teaching night classes starting in January, and I'm not sure how that's going to affect things. I'm also sorting out exactly where I want to go with my writing journey. I know I want to write things that Octavia will be proud of, and that changes my priorities some what. I'm sure I'll still be nursing by Nationals if at all possible, and I really wanted to attend, and feed her in between things and then send her back with Daddy. Financially, it's probably not going to be an option (unless the heavens open up), and renewal is looking like a long shot at this point too.

Tavy is to the point already where she can go a few hours with Daddy, so I'm not really too worried about meetings. Bringing her to Nov. was kind of a one-time deal, similar to how we brought her to my husband's work for a visit. I might bring her to the 6:00 hour once so that Alice could see her though.

I think a no-kids policy does make sense. Perhaps a babes-in-arms exception for nursing might also make sense for those who don't have the ability to leave the baby for an hour or two. I know that for me RWA is an escape in a sense, and I wouldn't want Tavy or any other kids around all the time.

Retreats, conferences, and all-day events might need a bit more leeway for nursing as I noted above. I probably won't do February as I can't see leaving her and if I bring her, it would mainly be a social benefit to me, and that wouldn't be fair to the rest of you.

Like I said this comes at an awkward time for me as I'm re-evaluating many things with regards to RWA.

wavybrains said...

I should also add that I wouldn't have stayed for the meeting portion at all in November if we hadn't had a member-speaker. Member-speaker and critique meetings tend to be a little more informal. An outside speaker doesn't know us as well and might not be as understanding of personal circumstance or why the baby was there.

Paty Jager said...

We haven't had an issue with unruly children at our meetings. Yes, they have attended, but as I said, they have been under control.

I'm not sure we have a P&PM?? I haven't seem one. I think all we have are the bylaws, unless I've overlooked it somewhere. That might be something we as a board need to think about. And our new bylaws were being looked over by Wavy. Not sure where she is on that.

I'm headed off to the Post Office- Wish me luck!

wavybrains said...

One final thing--and then I'm done, promise--as an organization of mainly women, it would be nice if RWA supported nursing mothers with a lactation room at Nationals so that members could have their childcare bring the baby to one specific place (or so that they could pump), and other members wouldn't have to see/hear the babies at all. I'm thinking there are probably a few nursing mothers at each nationals--I think I saw like 10 small babies in Reno.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Alice, I agree. This isn't an issue for our group, though I'm not sure if that's because people just aren't saying anything or if it truly isn't an issue. We're a small chapter, so I hope if someone has an issue with this kind of thing, they mention it. I know we've made exceptions before, for example, Danita brought Dalton to the Oct. meeting when she ran for secretary, and I know it was probably more stressful on her than it was the rest of us. And like Wavy pointed out, that was a critique meeting and we didn't have a speaker (and Danita left right after elections), which is why we encouraged her to come. There are, of course, exceptions all around, and I think this post was simply a way to get a feel for how peole feel about this topic.

I did see a few infants at last year's conference. One girl in particular who was a GH finalist with me and took her baby around in her stroller everywhere, even into workshops. I understand the desire to want to go to conference, but in that case I think a babysitter or sister or friend along to watch the baby during sessions would have been a smart idea.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I think a no-kids policy does make sense. Perhaps a babes-in-arms exception for nursing might also make sense for those who don't have the ability to leave the baby for an hour or two. I know that for me RWA is an escape in a sense, and I wouldn't want Tavy or any other kids around all the time.

I agree, Wavy. I know for me - a stay at home mom who is currently listening to her 2 yr old yell, "Mom! Mom! Can I hear you, Mom!" those couple of hours away one night a month are an escape. I look forward to them. If I were having to deal with everyone else's kids, it wouldn't be as fun. However, like I said before, there are exceptions, and I was very glad we got to see Tavy when you brought her in Nov. I thought you handled the whole situation really well.

As for your place in RWA...it's normal for you to be questioning where your writing is going right now. You've just been through a major change. That baby though is going to grow and change and life will (somewhat) return to normal. You'll have time to sit and write and new ideas and experiences will stimulate your writing. We definitely don't want to lose you.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Good luck at the post office, Paty. ;)

I'll check into the P & P Manual.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Wavy, I went to Reno when Reece was 6 mo. old. I didn't take him, but I did take my handy breast pump. ;) At the time, I was planning on weaning him when I got home (and I was lucky to have a great mother who took care of a baby while I was gone), but I think your idea of a room for nursing mothers at the conference is a good one. You might consider contacting National about it.

Alice Sharpe said...

Ah, Wavy, I hope you stay. It would be a shame to lose you. You have so much talent and please know that your child is always going to be proud of you and what you do except for a few teenage years when the fact you exist might be an embarrassment;-) No, really, I can't imagine you writing anything she would not be proud of. You will teach her to follow her heart and by example, she will want the same for you. That's how it works.

The nursing room at nationals is an excellent idea. Women and babies go together. Pretending they don't is silly.

Danita Cahill said...

I wasn't aware of the flap going on about children at RWA meetings. But as the member who has brought a baby/toddler to the most meetings, I am battling myself over taking this post personally.

I don't bring my child unless I absolutely have to. I try to keep him under control, and no, it is not very relaxing for me when I do bring him, which is why I often stay home when I have no sitter.

I think it should be up to each individual chapter about the rules of kids or no kids.

Alice Sharpe said...

I didn't write this post, obviously, but I know it wasn't directed at anyone in our group so please, don't take it personally. You've been great with Dalton, there's no issue over any of that.

Because you never seem to get my emails because your computer is snotty and doesn't like my Mac, sniff, I will take the liberty of saying here how nice it was that you forwarded me the remarks you did. Made my day, so thanks.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

I agree, Danita. I think it needs to be on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I think I mentioned this before, but this isn't an issue in our chapter and it shouldn't be taken personally as if I was insinuating there IS an issue with us. It was just something that's come up over and over on the chaplink loop and I thought I'd bring it up here and see what you all thought. So Danita and Wavy, please don't take this post personally.

MaryF said...

We haven't had a problem with kids at meetings in my chapter. Well, we did have a preteen come to a meeting a couple of years ago and it was uncomfortable listening to her mother (!) speak so openly about sex in front of the girl. A few times when my son was younger, I would take him to the meeting and my dh would pick him up at the restaurant on the way home from work. We've probably had a couple of little kids, but the moms take them out if they get too disruptive.

I don't think it needs to be a policy, just a chapter decision - or even a discussion between the president and the member, if it becomes a problem.