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Mom's Meetup Drama

I have to get all this down before I get into the real weekend recap because this has been giving me heartburn all weekend. 

Late last week, one of the local mom's area Meetups that I belong to imposed some hardcore policy changes.  Until this point the group was fairly fluid, publicly listed and anyone could join and be involved. 

Even though this message is coming from Hilary’s email account, it is actually from Jenn D. and Hilary. We typed this together and realize it is quite lengthy, but would appreciate you taking the time to read it entirely. Thanks in advance…

After reviewing lots of feedback and several conversations later, we’ve decided that our group IS too big! Despite our recent changes to the group’s guidelines, we are disappointed that the same members are always at events.

Membership will now be limited. We want a positive, friendly environment for the moms and children that are genuinely interested in being active members of the group because after all, “meeting up” is what we’re all about! We want the moms and children to be able to get to know each other and to build lasting friendships. We are often approached at events with members commenting that they know only 20 or so other members. With a group of 70, this is not how we want to continue.

Starting now, we will begin the "cleansing process" by becoming stricter regarding participation at events as well as on the site (i.e. RSVPing and message board posts). Every member must now attend six events every three months and one event within 10 days of joining the group (your join date is part of your profile). You will also be required to log onto the site at least once every two weeks. As soon as your profile reads “Last visited: Over two weeks ago”, you will be removed. We’ve been told that our calendar has more events posted than any other moms group in the area so there’s no reason why members can’t find events to attend. We also welcome any event suggestions so if your schedule and our calendar don’t jive, let us know what does work so we can incorporate your ideas.

The membership requirement takes effect immediately; however, any member that joined the group prior to February 1st will not have to have the events fulfilled until their 6-month anniversary date in which case, you will need a total of 12 events. Members joining on February 1st to current will have to attend 6 total events by their 3-month anniversary and then 12 total at their 6-month anniversary. Please let us know if you are unsure as to how many events you need.

We’ve also been contacted by various members after events saying that certain people didn’t show up even though they RSVP’d “yes”. Since our group does have a meet-up requirement, we ask that you let us know if you were expecting to see someone at an event and they never showed. This has also led to members being the only person to show up for an event despite several “yes” and “maybe” RSVPs. Three “no-shows” will cause you to be removed from the group.

A thread was then started on the message board by someone who disagreed with the "no show" policy because, as we all know, situations change, kids get sick, fall asleep, things come up, etc.  When you have a puking kid, who is going to walk away to change their RSVP on meetup?   The leader then stepped in and said something like too many no-shows and changed RSVPs causes "hurt feelings."  So, even changing your RSVP isn't enough apparently,  the big concern is HURT FEELINGS. 

So then I made a post about my thoughts on the changes:

"Every member must now attend six events every three months and one event within 10 days of joining the group (your join date is part of your profile). You will also be required to log onto the site at least once every two weeks."

I'm really not happy with the policy changes. I don't make a lot of events because with custody exchanges and the nap schedules of four different children, it's difficult to plan in advance. I don't think that making friends and being part of a group to meet other people should be so high maintenance, trying to figure out if I've logged in enough and made it to enough events. It feels too much like school or a job, not like making friends or keeping friends.

"We've been told that our calendar has more events posted than any other moms group in the area so there's no reason why members can't find events to attend."

Honestly, I think this is the problem that's causing low attendance. With 25 different events to attend each week, what's the incentive to attend any ONE event? A lot of the events listed aren't even BM&T events--they're open attendance events like the library and Barnes & Noble Story times, things no one has to prepare for and if no one else shows up, so what, you listen to the story, do the craft and go home after having enjoyed the experience with your child(ren).   Then it seems like there's a lot of evening events for moms only and that's the time I spend with Wayne and lets not pretend that a significant portion of the members here don't belong to one or more of the other mothers groups in the area. How many groups and events can this area support? Especially if everyone starts making demands about attendance and logging in?

I think it's all contrary to the spirit of Meetup. I'd rather pay dues and know I'm a member of a group and be able to attend the get togethers that appeal to me, without having to deal with the hassles.

My post started a flurry of "I like the changes and want to publicly thank the organizers" rah rah garbage.  I got a bunch of private emails agreeing with me that included lines like "I didn't want to ruffle feathers" and "thank you for actually saying what I thought."   Isn't it absolutely absurd that grown women don't feel like they can disagree with the organizer of a local mom's group?  Seriously.  I went to a crop Saturday and had women come up to me and congratulate me on successfully stirring the pot.  It's so odd to me and all of this nonsense makes me really miss my old group back in New Jersey!  They're having their monthly Mom's Night Out on the 16th and if I can figure out a way to go and see everyone, I really really want to attend. 

In response to my post, the leader said, "We've received a lot of emails and phone calls regarding the size of our group. Members are apprehensive about posting personal information or hosting events because they only know the small handful of people that actually attend on a regular basis. The last thing I want is for members to be uncomfortable for any reason and this is increasingly becoming a problem as our group membership increases. Therefore, it really brought to light the fact that the stricter guidelines I was originally opposed to needed to be instated."  My question is this, if members feel this way, why is no one discussing it with the group?  Why wasn't a poll posted to the members to vote on how they wanted things to go?  If what they want is smaller membership, then just outright cut the lurkers or form a subgroup.  In talking to some other women I've learned that this particular group has a reputation for being "clique-ish."  Ugh.

I've gone to events from this group where I was the only one there or I was unable to find the others.  Luckily, I put on my big girl panties those days and was able to get over it and move on with my life.  Well, after a quick vent to LJ.  :)

Oh, the other thing that pissed me off, they removed the option of replying "Maybe" to an event.  It either has to be yes or no.  Sometimes, it really is just a maybe to me and I'm sorry but if it's an outside event, like storytime at Barnes and Noble or coffee at Panera, whether or not I actually attend should really not affect anyone but me!

Also to be factored into this mess is that the organizer has an infant who spend several weeks in the hospital with RSV.  I don't want to downplay the severity of that at all!  Having a sick baby is heartbreaking and the whole world stops until they are better. That said, Madam Organizer (MO) posted that she has several hundred emails from that time period, unopened and unread, in regards to the group. The baby has been well and at home for several months now.  MO also has a crafting meetup, a job as a crafting consultant, a job as a restaurant hostess, two children and a husband.  I believe she is a tad overextended and that's part of the problem too!   When the baby was sick and in the hospital, the right thing to do would have been to appoint an interim organizer and deal with her family issues, instead of letting the group fall by the wayside and then have to step in with these new policies. 

So here's my last post to the message board on this topic and it will probably get deleted and get me kicked out.  Oh well.

The policy changes and the resulting thread discussing them have been weighing on my mind all weekend. Wayne told me that if I was so upset and bothered that I should just remove myself from the group because this drama is all so contrary to the point of joining a mom's group in the first place. I've met some wonderful women at this group's events and I'm not willing to sever that tie just yet, but I feel there's more to discuss here.

Some of the other posters here raised the question of what kind of events are available to meet the new requirements so I wanted to look and see how it actually breaks down. My accuracy may be slightly off because the boys were still up and playing while I was working on this.

There are seventy four get-togethers listed on the April Calendar:

  • 21 strictly BM&T events like playdates at someone's home-- events for which the organizers are directly responsible.
  • 18 of them are events that are "civic" in nature and planned by someone else, like the twice weekly storytimes as well as township events like Earth Day stuff
  • 11 of them are cross posted from other mom's groups in the area (and I don't belong to all of them, so there could be more.)
  • 23 are events at restaurants or pay-to-play places like The Jump Factory and Chick-fil-a-- a pretty high number since the main page states clearly:"Most events only require your time and children, not money!" This includes MNO events
  • 1 Kids-free, $-free Moms only event at someone's home


Among this tally, there are 6 Moms only events/outings listed among those numbers like MNOs and Happy Hours.

Sure there's plenty of stuff available to do but most of them are not specific to this group. I still think that if the problem is attendance, the way to remedy that is to limit the number of group-specific events to encourage high attendance. Poll for the best date and location and whoever can make it will go because it is the only chance for the month!

That said, I really feel badly for the people who were sending suggestions to Hillary only to have them still sitting in her inbox. I know the emotional and physical toll of having a sick child, but in retrospect, given the severity of Delayne's illness, perhaps it would have been better, at that point, to step down and allow someone else manage the group for the interim. It is COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDABLE that the group wasn't a top priority but I think that if you set yourself up as a leader, it's a responsibility you undertake to lead and if you are unable to do so, you should appoint someone who can.

Perhaps part of the problem with the group is that there is too much responsibility placed on the sole organizer. With two children, including an infant, a part-time job hostessing, a consultant job selling stamps, a crafting group and this, there is simply too much to manage well without HEAVY assistance.

I was reading the "About Us" page again and the policy on "Drama":
Drama of any kind on the boards or publicly displayed by members will not be tolerated. Anyone that intentionally starts drama will be removed. We have ZERO TOLERANCE FOR NONSENSE. Please be respectful to the other members in the group at all times. Personalities may clash, but keep the drama private. Members are encouraged to "report" negative drama brought about by another member to an organizer. Once we receive three complaints, that member will be removed, no questions asked.

In this situation, with dissent expressed over the changes in membership, this "drama" is all self-inflicted. If a group of members expressed concern about the direction of the group, requiring the consideration of a policy change, it should have been put to ALL the members as a poll. Instead, a benevolent dictatorship made a swift change that left a portion of the group unhappy. While few have expressed it here, please be aware that I have received NUMEROUS private emails expressing agreement with my original post.

I was also told that it's a common occurrence for dissenting emails to simply be deleted without telling the author and often before anyone else can read it. That is not a "drama-free" policy, again, it's a dictatorship.

If the real purpose behind these policy changes is to thin the herd because "some people" are not comfortable with the large number, than I think rather than unilateral changes, it would have been better to contact the people who haven't attended events or haven't posted to the boards and politely state, "We feel the group has gotten too large for us to provide the type of membership experience we desire. Because you have not participated fully, we've decided to revoke your membership." I think that the large membership of the group is a "prestige" thing but I think you also have to choose between being a large group that just disseminates info about events going on in the area and truly being a membership-driven group of friends. I don't think you can successfully be both, and that's where the group is right now.


So perhaps focusing on my motherhood as a way to integrate into this area was not the best approach.  I'm not a church goer, so that avenue is out.  It's difficult for me to manage time to volunteer here.  Maybe I should concentrate on scrapping?  Any other suggestions?

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
redqueenmeg
Apr. 7th, 2008 01:50 pm (UTC)
Good Lord.

Heh, my biggest social source is my D&D group (avalonrpg). Some members have kids and some don't. But we get together all the time regardless. :)
purplejuli
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:10 pm (UTC)
Not so much into RPGs anymore... if there were people who were into Magic, playing by the 1998 rules, I'd be in business.
redqueenmeg
Apr. 8th, 2008 11:34 am (UTC)
I didn't think I was either until I tried it.
glass_lion
Apr. 7th, 2008 05:53 pm (UTC)
OMFG.

"Isn't it absolutely absurd that grown women don't feel like they can disagree with the organizer of a local mom's group? " Hella yes.

Your letters, esp the last, were terrif. Let me give some parallel experience: I belong to a HUGE Meetup called Seattle Singles. I've never actually made it to any event. Most of the members don't know each other, but that's okay - we're all grown-ups with our own lives, and our own ability to decide where group events fits on our priority lists. So some, like me, attend only rarely (mostly when I can bring my kid); some are at everything - there are LOADS of events, maybe 10 a week. Everyone self-sorts into how they fit. GREAT! I see one big problem in your group is that the leader's trying to make the group equally important to everyone. Nuh-uh. You can ask for that in a marriage maybe, but not a group where the members, by definition of being parents, have priorities and relationships more important than those in the group!

The only rules of Seattle Singles are:

1) If you no-show 3 times when you've RSVPd YES, without good explanation, you're removed. (No penalty if you RSVP Maybe.)

2) If the event is hosted at a space that needs an accurate headcount, like a restaurant or - at host's discretion - a private event at a member's home, then the Maybe RSVP option is removed. Else, not.

THOSE make sense to me.

I'm so sorry this is not working out. That's CRAPPY. I so understand your frustration, too, in trying to find a group.

Book club?
purplejuli
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
The only one listed on Meetup is for Science Fiction specifically. Where else should I look.


Also already tried Yahoo groups.
glass_lion
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:26 pm (UTC)
Offline, library-hosted or bookstore-hosted book club?
juliamom223
Apr. 7th, 2008 06:06 pm (UTC)
omg that is insane - I'm proud of you for responding the way you did!
purplejuli
Apr. 7th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm still kind of waiting for the fall out.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )