Thursday, April 15, 2010

mama notes on "the joys" of mothering

The public schools in town offer Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) classes as a community service. Many of the mamas I talk with refer to these classes, mostly not in a good way. Rather than an opportunity for mamas to come together to share, vent, and support one another, these gatherings thrive on pretense, competition, and judgment.

Personally, I blame the classroom setup with facilitators writing notes about parenting on a blackboard; having the moms discuss questions in small group; and then go around the room to have each mom answer the various questions.

One of the mamas I talked with this morning told me about how the facilitator of her class will have all the mamas begin by sharing this week's joys. This mama looked at me with a dumbfounded look of exasperation in her face; "I had no joys to report last week, none!" What about all the hard days, the challenges, the tedium, the times you snap. What about when what you really feel like, is throwing your baby out of the window? (but you don't, you never would, of course not, but still)

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a facilitator is one who facilitates; especially : one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision.

At the local ECFE classes, on the other hand, facilitators take the role of leaders and teachers, asking specific questions, writing the right answer on the board. How is that supposed to make new mamas feel? How is that support to foster a sense of community? It is not "a great way to give your child a rich early childhood experience and meet other families with young children" (ECFE). It's how mamas begin more frequently than not to wear the mask of motherhood.

Apparently, one of the mamas, a woman who also works at the co-op, got up and left the class early in the semester, saying she wouldn't be back till they were also asked about the challenges. My kind of mama.


  1. This is amazing to me. ECFE has been my lifeline my entire 4+ years in our town, and all my closest mom friends feel the same way! In fact, if it were not for ECFE I would not have met the 3 moms who became my playgroup for 3 years, or my very best friend in mothering, who I talk to every day.

    I don't think the discussions are all that great but I never care! I was just so thrilled to have somewhere to go where I could connect with other moms, and, when the babes were old enough to be in separating classes, to have 30 min. to myself to sit uninterrupted and drink a cup of tea! I have very sweet memories of ECFE.

  2. That's interesting; many of the moms will say like you that they don't think the discussions are great, but they are thrilled to have somewhere to go, with their children, and meet other moms. Maybe it's a symptom of how starved we are for a community among fellow mamas?

    I just wish that there would be facilitators who'd encourage truthful sharing, not just about the joys (that are real), but also the (all too painfully real) challenges.

    The mom who told me about the circle of joy sharing, was ticked off by one mom's gushing about how her baby had now started using adjectives.

    I happen to know this mom, and have heard her vent about how she struggles with her child's sleep.

    These two moms would have a lot to talk about, but the format of ECFE and the facilitator's direction prevent them from connecting.

    I hear about incompetent, condescending and patronizing facilitators.

    One mama told me about how her facilitator made her feel like she was going to kill her baby by bedsharing.

    But even this mom kept going, for almost two years now.

  3. I think you are right that at-home moms value ECFE a great deal b/c of what it provides for us. Maybe I feel that more than you do b/c I'm home full-time and you're home part-time, I don't know. I don't get many breaks from my girls so that hour was a big deal to me. Also, it was really important for both my daughters, in preparing them for preschool. They don't get left with anyone, really, anywhere, so it was good for them to get used to a mild form or separation from me with teachers. I do have to say, though, that my parent educators almost always had us share "one joy and one challenge" from the previous week, and I remember LOTS of angsty discussions about sleep struggles, temper tantrums, schedules, potty training, and all the rest---which would sometimes go on for so long that we'd miss the day's original topic altogether. I think it depends a lot on who you get as your parent educator.

  4. that makes sense, Shan. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  5. And you too, Anne! I love reading your musings on motherhood! :)


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