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From Interested Mother to Co-Leader: The Application in a Nutshell

Freyja May
Fort Collins CO USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 6, December 2005-January 2006, p. 130.

In my relatively brief time as a La Leche League Leader, I have spoken with many interested mothers -- that pool of talented women where we find Leader Applicants and our future co-Leaders.

While some mothers have asked about leadership more spontaneously and others have asked after much deliberation, it's not unusual for mothers to leave those initial conversations feeling somewhat confused and overwhelmed. "There's so much to do!" "What exactly will I have to do?" "You tell me that you were sitting in my chair five years ago, but how will I ever go from interested mother to Leader, with all the knowledge of breastfeeding management and the communication skills to share it in my repertoire?"

Once I had a general grasp on the basics, I began to wonder why everything seemed so complicated. Everything is beautifully written and perfectly clear, but as an Applicant I, too, found myself getting lost in paragraphs, when what I needed to know is how many paragraphs worth of words must I accomplish in order to be accredited. Or, as a Leader, how can I tell mothers what to expect in fewer words, so as not to overwhelm them before they've finished that first meeting?

During my term as an Associate Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (ACLA), I developed a list of talking points to use during Interested Mothers Meetings and for use in one-to-one conversations with women who had inquired about leadership. While everything the Applicant needs to know is available in the LLLI Application Packet, these points are meant more for the step before that -- when both the Leader and the mother are exploring the possibility of her application.

You might use the following summary together with the Becoming a La Leche League Leader trifold brochure as tools to give to an interested mother.

What Do La Leche League Leaders Do?

While active Leaders may find a variety of ways to fulfill the responsibilities of leadership, most Leaders do the following jobs:

  • Plan and hold monthly Series meetings;
  • Help mothers one-on-one by telephone and in person with breastfeeding;
  • Supervise the management of the Group;
  • Keep up-to-date on breastfeeding information;
  • Encourage other mothers to become Leaders.

Reassure interested mothers and Applicants that they needn't be overwhelmed or hindered by these basic responsibilities. There is the flexibility to take on one task at a time, as well as the need for Leaders of all experience levels to be involved in all aspects of LLL administration.

What Do Leader Applicants Do?

  • Write a Personal History. This is an opportunity for the Applicant to tell about herself and the aspirations she has for herself as a Leader; a discussion of her mothering experience and understanding of LLL philosophy; and a summary of the pertinent reading she has done. The Personal History needn't be complicated or overly extensive. We encourage Applicants to think of it as an informal chat with the A/CLA over tea.
  • Discuss with a Leader(s) the topics from the checklist in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK (pages 150-52). These topics cover a range of issues from Group management to child development.
  • Work through the Breastfeeding Resource Guide (BRG). The BRG is available from the Leader Accreditation Department, and is an overview of the types of breastfeeding management concerns and questions that a Leader will likely encounter. It can be completed alone, with a Leader(s), or with a group of other Applicants.
  • Complete the Preview of Mother's Questions/Problems and Group Dynamics/Management with a Leader(s) from your Group, and send the Preview Evaluation summarizing the Preview to her A/CLA. The Preview is a series of questions and group dynamic situations that Leaders often find themselves confronted with. While the Preview used to be perceived as a "dress rehearsal" for leadership, it is now frequently completed throughout the application.
  • Background reading, which includes: the most recent edition of THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING; the most recent edition of the Leader's Handbook; Applicant Reading Set of pamphlets and tear-off sheets; and a comprehensive childbirth book from the LLLI Bibliography that covers a variety of birth methods and their effect on the start of breastfeeding.

Each application is unique, and there are an infinite number of possible ways to complete the requirements, as well as a variety of enriching activities that a Leader Applicant might choose to engage in. Communication Skills sessions, attendance at Conferences and workshops, and skill-building exercises are things that many Leader Applicants enjoy and find helpful as they work toward leadership.

Not everyone likes checklists and outlines, but having something like the previous lists, which cover the basics of leadership and the application, can be helpful for those who prefer more structure and definition. But nothing can replace having access to a supportive Leader -- you -- to make the work of becoming an LLL Leader fun and manageable.

Editor's note: If the interested mother lives without access to a Group or Leader, special accommodations can be made to facilitate her application via correspondence.

Freyja May lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her daughter, Oracle (7), and her son, Gryphon (5). She co-leads the LLL of Fort Collins Groups. Article submissions or ideas for Preparing for Leadership may be sent to Gina Gerboth, Contributing Editor, at 828 Beulah Ave., Pueblo CO 81004 USA, or by email at ginapueblo at gmail.com.

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