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.