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Breaking Up Isn't Hard to Do

Laura Warren
Columbia, Missouri, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No. 4, August-September 1997, p. 78

Recently I shared my thoughts with a co-Leader about the size of our Group and the number of Leaders.

I was concerned with the number of mothers and toddlers attending our meetings. It seemed as if we spent more time trying to control noise than leading the discussion or talking with new mothers. We all seemed glad that meetings were well attended but I worried that the message of mothering through breastfeeding was overshadowed by a crowded room and active toddlers.

Also, with six Leaders, I was concerned with some aspects of Group management. It took many phone calls to make decisions. Some Leaders wanted to take on a more active role in community outreach and fundraising, while others were busy enough with basic leadership responsibilities. Some Leaders wanted to try out new ideas while others were happy leaving things the way they were. There were several mothers who would make great Leader Applicants, but did we really need more Leaders?

Was our Group ready for a split?

Bigger Can Be Better

"Many hands make light work" is a saying that is certainly true in LLL. A pool of members from which to draw support keeps jobs mother-sized and large projects can be accomplished more easily.

Meetings with large attendance mean many different mothering experiences will be shared. A meeting attended by a group of experienced mothers almost leads itself while the Leader clarifies LLL's position.

With many Leaders co-leading, the chance for burnout is reduced; no one Leader is responsible for leading a Series Meeting every month. When one Leader needs to take time off for family needs there are always others available to cover.

Why Split?

So why would a Group wish to split? The LEADER'S HANDBOOK (pages 154-155) recommends:

When a Group has consistently high attendance, a Group split needs to be considered. La Leche League recognized this early in its growth when it stated that a Group's ideal size is no more than fifteen participants in all. When a Group grows larger, it is best to split into two Groups.

In addition to high attendance, the LEADER'S HANDBOOK lists other reasons why a Group might consider splitting:

  • Several mothers are driving to meetings from a nearby community so Leaders decide to start a new Group closer to that area.
  • A Leader moves to an area too distant to continue driving to her old Group.
  • The Group has a large number of Leaders.

Our District Advisor had been encouraging our Group to consider splitting for some time. Initially, we were against it. We were worried we couldn't handle the increased responsibilities that might accompany a split. We wondered what we would do when one of our Leaders had a new baby or needed to put family first.

Slowly the idea gained momentum. It would be nice to have a Planning Meeting that didn't take 15 phone calls to schedule. We would have more freedom to try out innovative meeting ideas. It would be easier to keep track of the mothers in each Group, to get to know them as individuals and to encourage them to stay active in LLL as their babies grew. Knowing the mothers better would make it easier to spot potential Leader Applicants. Our Series Meetings could be a time to share concerns and each mother present would have the chance to speak and be heard.

Feelings Are Important

District Advisors can help with the proper procedure to follow when splitting a Group. Keeping open communication with your co-Leaders is essential; this can be a vulnerable time for your Group and feelings can be hurt. Talk about why you feel a split is needed and discuss how this will be beneficial for LLL in your community.

Things you will need to discuss include:

  • how to divide the Group Library;
  • how to divide the Group Treasury;
  • which Leaders will go with each Group (The LEADER'S HANDBOOK suggests a mix of new and experienced Leaders in each Group.);
  • how joint projects will be handled (such as fundraisers, community outreach, public relations and publicity);
  • whether or not to form a Chapter, if no Chapter exists.

What Worked for Us

Our Group had been holding two meetings a month for a year, a morning and an evening meeting. It seemed logical to make a permanent split and give each Group its own identity.

We talked to the Group members about our split and invited mothers to share their questions and concerns. When we did an end-of-the-year fundraiser, we made it clear that it would benefit both Groups. All of these things let the Group members know we valued their feelings and the split was a positive event for LLL in our community.

Deciding which Leaders would lead each Group was easy in our situation. But with other Groups it may be more difficult. Long-term friendships and personality differences may affect the decision.

We met to split the Group Treasury and Library. Each library needed a copy of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING and WHOLE FOODS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY. We sorted the remaining books into categories (breastfeeding, parenting, nutrition and childbirth) and divided them based on the needs of the mothers who were inclined to attend each Group. For example, more books pertaining to employed mothers and pumping went to the evening Group.

This meeting was bittersweet for us all. We felt sad that we would no longer be working as co-Leaders in one big Group but excited about the changes two new Groups would bring. We decided to hold our first Chapter Meeting four months later to keep tabs on how things were going for each Group.

Finding Our Own Way

Since the split, both Groups have formed strong bonds with each other, working together in our Chapter. We found that ordering supplies and books from LLLI together saves the Groups money. We also recently split an order of baby slings. We wrote a grant proposal for funding for the LLLI Conference and worked together on the 1997 World Walk for Breastfeeding. We found that working together on big projects is easier than working together on smaller, Group management tasks.

The decision to split a Group can be scary. The LEADER'S HANDBOOK says it best,

Don't be afraid to let go of a Group. Regard Groups as temporary structures that will eventually split. Just as babies grow at their own rates, Groups need to be allowed to grow at their own rates. The greatest compliment a Leader can have is the need to split her Group.

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