26 Sep Impact, Influence, Initiative
Many women desire an outlet that will expand their horizons, develop their talents and solidify their identity as individuals. Whether we feel swamped with small children, busy juggling a job and family or a bit lost once the kids are all in school, there are pockets of time available in our lives to make a difference.
Society offers a full gamut of opportunities for women to get involved, either in a paid or volunteer capacities. Many women choose to work part or full-time in the areas they were trained for, in addition to raising a family. Still others pursue volunteer work in schools (Parent Teacher Associations, Parent Councils, library, classroom helper), charitable organizations, church groups, outreach to elderly, the disabled etc. Many take time each week to develop their hobbies and talents, either in a group setting or in the privacy of their home. Some enjoy being an active voice through letter-writing to newspapers, participation in civil life or involvement in committees.
All women need to find a healthy balance between their roles as wife, mother and their own identity as a woman. Life offers many venues. Maybe we can have it all, but not all at once. Over the course of our lives, numerous doors for enrichment can be opened. Timing is important. Prudent decision-making even more so. No matter what our choice, we should always strive to have a positive impact in all that we do, without detriment to the needs of our spouse or children. There is an age and stage for everything.
Moms have tremendous potential for impact, initiative and influence, especially in the areas of their family and community. We often look outside of our homes for activities that will enrich our lives. Why not look more on the inside and see how it can be effectively serve those we care most about?
I consider myself a high energy individual who thrives on people and activity. I found being at home with small children both isolating and draining. When someone introduced me to mom’s groups, I found support, friendship and growth. Attendance became a highlight of my week and I enjoyed being able to bring my kids with me for my “me” time. When I moved to a new city, I was once again feeling alone. Slowly, I befriended other moms who were at home like myself. We decided to form a group, meet once a month and discuss mutual topics of interest like parenting, marriage or housework. Over the years, I’ve had many such groups in my home. Some have happened during the day. Women bring their kids and we even include a potluck lunch. Others have occurred in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. Discussions are always positive, practical and even funny. We strive not to complain or criticize, but rather choose to encourage, help and motivate. We purposely choose excellent resources: speakers, books, videos, audiotapes, articles etc. to help us along. We have even rotated homes. It’s a lot of fun and we learn a lot from each other. When the topic is a good one, everyone is keen to join in. I know some mom’s groups who use articles from this website to spur discussions.
I particularly remember one year when we decided to focus on creating stronger marriages. We chose to watch Gary Smalley’s videos on marriage. My girlfriends were impressed by what they heard. They were upset their husbands were not around to benefit. So we all decided to switch gears. We opted to meet and bring our husbands in the evenings after the kids went to bed. We would rotate homes and include a scrumptious dessert. A dessert club for couples was born. We watched videos, had short discussions and socialized. It became a nice night out for everyone and each got a dose of what they were looking for: good food, good ideas, good friends. Over the years this too evolved around the needs and concerns of participants. Different methods can be used (speaker, discussion, book, handout, etc.). Topics can vary: finances, communication, parenting, time management, marriage, stress, finding balance, sexuality, etc. Check out Marriage Resources for ideas.
All parents have concerns about peer pressure and the moral decline of society. One awesome response is to seek out like-minded families and regularly get the kids together for purposeful activity. I found it so beneficial when my daughter was young to start a girls club with a friend who had three daughters. Once a month we would get them all together in our homes and do activities that interested them. We baked, did arts and crafts, discussed books, talked about clothing, went on cultural outings, learned about hair care, etc. This girls club attracted many amazing girls. Soon after, we spiced the event up with a short 5-10 minutes discussion on a character strength we wanted to underline, ie. respect, friendship, good manners, honesty, etc. We even made a point of challenging each girl to make a small resolution in order to be the best version of herself. The club was a hit! We had so much fun. The girls built great friendships and we highlighted timeless values. My daughter was in the club from the time she was 9 until she hit 18! We are still reaping the rewards.
On a different but similar note, my boys loved fighting. Whether they used their finger, or a stick, they always went around shooting each other and playing war. My husband grabbed that idea and turned it into the “beer and ale” boys club (root beer and ginger ale). Using books from the library and some maps, he and some other dads exposed boys to the adventures of Greek and Roman armies. The boys gobbled it right up. They learned about critical thinking skills, strategy, great leaders, history and geography. Attributes of successful leaders, like Alexander the Great, were highlighted and the boys were impressed. The trick again is to tap into the interests of the boys, provide good role models and purposely underline traits you want them to acquire. Many such clubs exist. Activities could involve camping, science, sports, miniature models, hobbies, reading, speakers, exposure to different trades and professions, etc. Just pick something you are passionate about and for which kids are keen. Realize boys love doing fun things with their dads. Research shows it has major impact. Dads don’t often have a lot of time, so whether it happens once a month, becomes an annual event, or occurs only once, consider it very worthwhile.
Whatever your scenario is, seriously think about getting your kids and their friends together for fun and formative activities. You don’t need a big house to do it in. As long as you have a kitchen table or a couple of sofas, go for it. The bonus is you won’t have to drive them anywhere if it’s at your place. Meet as often and for as long as you want. You can run a club during the summer, over the school year, or just during school break. Adapt it to your life. Make the club as big or as small as you want. Select and invite kids who will optimize healthy peer pressure for your kids. Have them give the club a name. Charge a fee if you need to. Certainly don’t incur expenses yourself, but share the load. Have a ton of fun and give small doses of formative direction. Get others involved and watch it take off. If you always move according to the interests of the kids’ ages and stages, this initiative can carry them right through adolescence. The rewards far outstrip the work involved.
Some more ideas to get you brainstorming. What would happen if you are the kind of person who thinks big and goes for the gusto? One family approached their local school and asked for space once a month to host a family night. They invited many like-minded families from the area for a games night. Everyone pitched in to make it happen. It was a blast. People laughed, talked, yelled and enjoyed. Another family initiated an outdoor family sports night, emphasizing sheer fun rather than competition. From time to time local sports heroes gave a short talk on the value of sportsmanship before the evening began. Someone else started a family camp: leasing a whole campground (like for scouts) and hiring kitchen staff so families could relax together and not worry about meals. Another group of parents come together on a regular basis to share their responsibilities of educating their children in the faith. Some dads I know get together each summer for a weekend of camping with their boys. They have a ton of fun, but also work on developing aspects of character in their boys by purposeful activity and timely conversations. Others have organized one week of group camping for an even larger and grander event. Yes, there are many paid programs you can get involved with, but don’t underestimate the power of these grass-roots approaches. The possibilities are endless. What an amazing vantage point you give your children to see you in action! How much stronger the relationships can become!
Our lives are short. Time is a treasure. Decide to have a greater influence for good on the lives of others. Take the initiative to make a real difference. Maybe right now you can’t, but a friend you know is willing to help you give it a shot. Why not? Give it a try and watch how much life is enriched by it. You’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. Go for it
IDEAS TO GET YOU STARTED:
- Movie Mama Babysitting Co-op By Natasha Legere
- How To Write a Letter to the Editor by Paul Russell
- Starting a Club for Girls or Boys
- Starting a Moms’ Group
- Starting a Family Catechism Program