Making It Work
Supporting Working Mothers
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 5, September-October 2002, pp. 178-181
"Making It Work" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help mothers who wish to combine breastfeeding and working. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
I love attending my local La Leche League Group, but as a working mother, I can only attend their evening and weekend events, which are few. I still need the peer support that LLL meetings provide. What other ways can I get LLL support without attending meetings?
Have you expressed your desire for evening meetings to your local Leaders? Many mothers who have not been employed may have the mistaken belief that you are "too busy" to attend LLL meetings in the evening. Perhaps simply stating that you would love the opportunity to attend evening meetings and that you would be willing to help out (by providing a location or helping with getting the word out so the meeting will be well attended) would be enough to encourage an additional meeting time.
Lee's Summit, MO USA
Here are some ways I thought of to get more mother-to-mother support:
- Breastfeed in public, as often and as publicly as you feel comfortable. Breastfeeding attracts others who breastfeed, and you might meet a new friend this way.
- Cultivate friendships with mothers of older children who have been supportive of your parenting style. I've discovered a couple of former breastfeeding mothers this way.
- If you'd like to start or join a group of women to discuss parenting matters including breastfeeding, put up a notice at your library or natural food store. Your LLL Leaders may also know women, both working and at-home during the day, who are looking for additional support or for whom daytime meetings don't work.
- Inform yourself! Books such as Meredith Small's Our Babies, Ourselves can give you the information you need to discuss breastfeeding and other positive parenting practices with others.
- There are several email lists that are supportive of women who work outside the home and practice attachment-style parenting. Try doing some Web searches on working and attachment parenting, or joining a list of women who gave birth your month, for leads.
Malden, MA USA
I was in a similar situation when my first daughter, now four years old, was an infant. Is there another LLL Group in a nearby town with meetings you could attend? Also, the LLL Web site has chat sessions, some that are general support sessions and others that are specific to certain situations, which you could "attend."
Milwaukee, WI USA
Try to attend one or two meetings during the day, maybe taking an early lunch for an appointment. Once at the meeting, make friends with other members, especially those in similar situations, getting their phone numbers. Then have a "play date" with them at a time convenient to both of you.
You can also attend local conferences or visit baby-friendly stores where like-minded parents shop. The Internet also offers a wonderful opportunity to connect with other parents 24 hours a day.
Laguna Hills, CA USA
I've received a tremendous amount of parenting support from email lists. With each of my pregnancies, I've joined an email list of people who are due at the same time. It is very supportive to talk with others going through much the same things as I am. You can send questions to an email list at odd hours of the night when it's too late to call people on the phone-and sometimes you get answers back right away, as people from all different time zones are often on these lists.
In addition to due-date lists, I felt a need for an email list for parents in my city, so I started one. To publicize my list, I hung flyers at various locations, told my parenting friends about it, and mentioned it at LLL meetings. Today that list has more than 80 members. It is a supportive, friendly environment where people can talk about lots of parenting topics.
You can find monthly due-date lists, and also lists for topics such as two children under age two, mothers on bed rest, young mothers, mothers who are breastfeeding after breast surgery, stay-at-home-dads, parents of children with Down Syndrome or other medical issues, and more. Some of the places to find lists are: www.pregnancytoday.com and www.groups.yahoo.com.
If you don't find a list on the topic you want, you can start a list of your own at yahoogroups. To do that, go to groups.yahoo.com and click on "Start a Group." Starting an email list is very easy, even if you're not computer-savvy, and it's free.
Ann Arbor, MI USA
I highly recommend trying to join or forming your own support group, in which participants meet in each others homes or in other locations, such as parks. For the past year I have been meeting with a group of mothers along with our (now) toddlers. We take turns meeting in each others' homes each week. We meet during the day since all of us either work only part-time or are stay-at-home mothers, but I know of similar groups of full-time working parents that meet in the evenings. I found my group through a government organization in my area called Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS). But I have seen ads for similar groups in parent-oriented newspapers or periodicals, or online (for one example try www.mothersandmore.org). You might also do your own advertising for a group either through your local La Leche League, at libraries, and baby stores. These groups can provide great support, and they can also turn into a great playgroup as your children grow!
Bothell, WA USA
The first thing I would do is talk to your LLL Leaders and let them know that you would like regular meetings at night. They may not be aware that there is a need for night meetings in their area. Stress that you are willing to help in whatever manner you can. It is important to remember that LLL Leaders are volunteers, and they are very busy with family, their LLL obligations, and sometimes jobs of their own. Letting them know that you will help with these meetings and that they will not have to do all of the planning and lead the meeting may help a great deal. You can assist by finding locations for night meetings (it doesn't have to be in your home, but that is good too), providing snacks, or becoming the Group Librarian. Also, plan to help get the word out about the night meetings-if they are well attended, the Leader will feel they are well worth her time.
You can also suggest evaluation or supplemental meetings, again providing help with these meetings. They could take place at night and have special topics not usually covered at LLL Series Meetings. A special meeting on making your own baby food, infant massage, or how to travel with a baby would be well attended, and provides opportunities for you to meet families and make new friends. Or you could help plan a family day, maybe at a local park or beach, and include all of the family. If your Area has a local Conference, attend it or consider volunteering to help. Conferences usually take place on the weekends and are great places to meet people.
Even if you can't attend daytime meetings regularly, you could attend one or two and meet the new mothers there. For those meetings you cannot attend, ask your LLL Leader permission to give your number to other mothers, and have her ask those mothers if she can share their number with you, then call those mothers and set up play dates for the weekends.
Volunteering for LLL may also be another way to find support. You can help out even if you only attend meetings every now and then-you can help print the meeting notices, help with bulk mailing, help with fund raising, and more! Just ask your LLL Leader what jobs are open and how you can help. Volunteering for your local Conference can also bring you into contact with lots of other like-minded LLL families.
Finally, if you work for a very large company where there are probably quite a few pregnant and breastfeeding women, you might want to investigate having occasional LLL meetings on site, at your work location. Find a Leader willing to lead these occasional meetings, and then talk to your company's human resources department to see if they would be willing to sponsor the meetings. Arrange a meeting with the appropriate person, bringing literature (the LLL Web site has lots of information but so do other Web sites on working and breastfeeding) that clearly indicates why employers should support breastfeeding, and how it saves them money. Providing a conference room or other area where a meeting can take place is a small thing, once a company understands the benefits to their bottom line. The benefit to you and other mothers is clear-you can meet other women who work near you and who are breastfeeding. You won't have to wait for the occasional workplace meeting to get together with these women at lunch or after work.
Garden Grove, CA USA
I've worked hard as an LLL Leader to provide support to women who work, as I was once a working mother. While I am now able to stay home with my children, I still remember how it was with my first baby as a working mother. It is hard to get to the daytime LLL meetings. Sometimes I was able to attend daytime meetings by taking an early lunch, arriving a bit late to the meeting, and leaving right on time and working while my peers were at lunch. It was worth it for those moments of confirmation and support I got at the meetings. Another thing you could do would be to look in neighboring communities for an area that has night meetings. Some populated areas have many LLL meetings, held by different Groups that are all within a reasonable driving distance. It is possible you could find one that meets regularly at night and fits your schedule.
Enroll your child in early childhood parent/children classes, such as swimming, gymnastics, or music. Through these classes you can often find like-minded mothers. Online lists are also a great place to find support and many online lists also meet in person on a regular basis. If you can't find a list, then create one yourself! LLL members and Leaders have other activities, and they often share with each other about their favorite places for mother/child classes, so ask your Leaders and other mothers about their favorite places to go with their children and their favorite classes.
Irvine CA, USA
As a mother who worked and breastfed, it would have been easy for me to think I was the only mother who was working and breastfeeding, but of course I wasn't. Many women, more and more each year, work and breastfeed. While it may be hard for you to get to LLL meetings during the day, you might see if you can find other breastfeeding and working mothers at your work location or nearby. You could meet with other women at lunch, supporting each other. You may find other new mothers at your workplace or near your workplace that would be glad of the support. And as your baby is getting older, and you are getting better at the balancing act of working and breastfeeding, you have so much to offer other mothers. So, along with looking for someone to support you, look for someone you can support. Perhaps there is a pregnant woman you could befriend, share your knowledge of breastfeeding and parenting, and become friends.
Also, LLL has online chats, which you could participate in during a break or lunch while at work. While nothing takes the place of in person support, online chats and telephone support can be very helpful. LLLI's Web site also offers a bulletin board for working mothers. This board has great information and you can post at all hours-even during work or late at night when your baby is asleep. Then, the next time you log on there are answers to your questions or concerns from other working mothers or LLL Leaders. You can also share your knowledge and help mothers too!
Garden Grove, CA USA