It started when I was pregnant with my second child. Two other advisors from my office were pregnant with their firsts. Additionally, three other advisors across the campus (two of whom were in my Ph.D. program) were also pregnant. And after careful chemical studies, no, there wasn’t anything in the water.
In sharing advice and baby product reviews with the two new moms-to-be, I realized it would be great to connect the first time moms with those of us returning for a second, and in one case, fourth trip to the land of Lamaze. So, we began to go to lunch together once a month. Imagine the waitress’ fright upon seeing the table of five of us on one such monthly gathering, ranging from 5-9 months pregnant. I believe that other tables questioned if they should eat the same food as we were.
The group has evolved. At times, lunch includes a baby in a carrier. Sometimes we are 7 strong; other times, it’s just a trio. We have a private Facebook group. We’ve gained friends of friends. We’ve had additional pregnancies, including a fifth for one. We talk about our kids. We talk about our jobs. We talk about our Ph.D. research. We talk about house refinancing. It doesn’t matter really. We just talk.
Having four brothers, I was very slow to recognize any need I might have for a group of female friends. I had mixed groups of close friends all through high school and college, despite my affiliation with a sorority. However, I was now able to connect people: women who didn’t have sisters or moms nearby, who are trying to juggle similar demands, who didn’t have time for girls’ night, but mom’s lunch worked perfectly. And here is what I have gained from our Mom’s Council:
1. Yes, we talk about diapers and teething. I know that non-parents can tire quickly of conversations about developmental stages and potty training. Frankly, so can parents. However, having a safe environment to question who you are as a mom and brainstorm what is and is not working, is just as valuable as being a student affairs professional and having a peer group or supervisor who allows you a safe space to make mistakes.
2. No obligations is the best support group. We get together once a month, second Monday of the month, to be exact. If you can make it, great. If you cannot make it, we will see you next month. Because the attendance is different every month, it means that cliques haven’t formed, and we just enjoy the company of whomever is present.
3. Sometimes an hour is all you need. Many of us in student affairs, kids or not, don’t have enough hours in the day to catch up with all of our friends, or network like we want to. Sometimes, even planning lunch turns into a major calendar upheaval. Using an hour at lunch with friends, rather than sitting at your desk and answering yet more email, can be the most therapeutic and productive time of your week.
4. It takes all kinds. We probably represent every stereotype of mothers, and every stereotype of student affairs professionals. But we also represent different economic backgrounds, different religious affiliations, and different political views (ok, so this last one isn’t completely true, but we at least represent a spectrum, albeit short, of political views). But when you need someone to balance you, there is nothing like having a person across the table provide, “Well, when that happened to me, I just…”
5. Laugh. A lot. On any monthly gathering, someone is having a rough time. Although we have come close, there has never been a lunch where all of us are at our wit’s end. We laugh at ourselves and at our kids’ antics. We laugh at the desire to have lunch at Grand Traverse Pie Co more often than not because we want to have a reason to eat pie.
You may connect with a group because you are all planning for your weddings, or studying for comps, or really like to golf. Whatever the connection, keep them. Most of us in Mom’s Council, we have a short history together (although one was my RA from 10 years ago). We don’t have the long list of memories from which to pull out a myriad of inside jokes. We have been doing this for a little over two years, and we love it. We look forward to it. We appreciate the comfortable place each month to sit down with no agenda and enjoy some time together.
When you give of yourself to your students on a regular basis, a simple lunch group can be just the sanctuary you need.