Jul 27, 2009

Minimizing the Stupid...

As of a couple weeks ago, I am officially the Managing Director of my moms' group. While I've seen several variations, I really feel the apostrophe should go at the end of "moms," indicating that the group belongs to the moms. Not one mom's group, and not merely a group of moms, but a moms' group.

The club spawned from a group of moms whose husbands went out in the field a lot, but were not technically deployed, and therefore not eligible for many of the base services offered to families of deployed military-types. These moms got together and said, "No one is looking after us properly, so we've got to look after each other." That's our entire purpose--helping each other out. We do get together and have holiday parties & stuff, but we're not a social club, per se. Even though our name is Spouses Helping Spouses, I'm careful to say we're not a spouses club, and we don't want to be a spouses club. The base already has what I'm told is a thriving and successful spouses club, and we have no intention of supplanting that.

We're sort of the slightly-off-center types. Most of us are just trying to do a good job supporting our husbands and rearing the kiddos, so we don't have time for the formalities and such one often encounters in other groups. We operate on as little written policy as possible. I could go into a lengthy description on that one, but we would all go cross-eyed, and who wants that? We operate with as little drama as possible, and we try to be for each other as much as possible. Much of this is in direct contrast to what is so common to various womens' groups these days. And so far it's worked. We've grown to somewhere around 50 members, all with kids and many with husbands who are deployed, TDY, or out in the field often. Which, as we've learned, is fancy techincal military-speak for "gone."

Dads are more than welcome to join, but so far no takers. Which bums me out, but on the one hand I can see how 50 women would be ever-so-slightly intimidating to the lone dad. I don't know what it is about women, but I'll go ahead and say that it's all too common that when you put a bunch of women together in a room, before long things get stupid. We compete, and we jab, and we hurt people's feelings without a thought.

I've been thinking about why this is, and thus far it seems to boil down to two things: fear and a lack of control. You certainly can't admit when you're afraid, so the best way to cover it up is by acting as unafraid and strong as possible. And when you feel that you have very little control over your life (such as when the military tells your husband when he can & can't breathe, spit, or come home), the quickest remedy is to find something to be in control of, so you can feel like you have control over something, regardless of its significance or impact, or even whether or not the control you think you have is real.

So, now that I'm something akin to president of this wonderful little group, I find myself thinking, How do I help preserve what those before us have worked so hard to build, and protect the safety that people feel, without going to that fear and control place myself?

The answer, thus far, is Jesus and books. Now, we are not a religious club. Although most of the members have some sort of religious affiliation, one of our big deals is that anyone of any religion is welcome, and no one is going to run around trying to get people to convert. The topic comes up, sure, but no unsolicited sales pitches. But the big epiphany that came to me is that I can see my personal position as a ministry. I don't have to try to sell God to show his love to people. God is very much about being for people and helping them out, things with which our club's purposes mesh quite nicely.

The books are just reminders. Leadership topics & stuff like that. I go to fear and control so easily; I need almost constant reminders of my personal boundaries, what I can and can't control, and what it means to be the leader of a member-run group. I've already adopted kitschy little phrases, such as "We're the steering committee, not the driving committee," and "Our job is to minimize the stupid." That last one is by far my favorite. The military (as with anything in life) is full of a lot of stupid. When we support one another, we minimize the stupid.

Write that down, kids...

1 comment:

prochaskas said...

50?! Wow, that's a big group. What kind of format do you have? How often do you meet?

I'm part of a playgroup that has maybe a dozen core members and several on the list who rarely come. We meet weekly for about two hours, with no agenda whatsoever except to let the kids play together and for us to be around other adults even if we can't quite converse at any decent level.