Several years ago when my son was a wee toddler, I found myself in the all-too-familiar new mommy space of having a little one at home and feeling very isolated. I had left work for the first time in 20 years, didn’t know anyone with small kids in my neighborhood and my church didn’t have a mom’s group.
So, I decided to try out a mom’s group I saw advertised in my local community newspaper. I arrived at my first meeting with what I felt like was a huge neon sign above my head that said I needed connection! The result?
Well, it was pretty much a disaster.
First, when I arrived I had no idea where to go inside the building. There were no signs posted at the entrance so via a half dozen wrong turns and finally finding a warm body to talk to, I dropped my son off at the childcare room then followed the ‘verbal bread crumbs’ to the meeting room. And then no one greeted me. OK.
I eyeballed a table with an empty seat and sat down. And then no one introduced themselves. OK. At this point I’m thinking ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ and I’m intentionally stretching my neck like a hungry turtle to make eye contact, trying to ooch my way into one of the 3 conversations that were in process around the table. Nothin’.
Eventually a speaker got up, said something that I’m sure was quite profound about how to be a good mommy. Then it was what I lovingly refer to as “mommy club macaroni art time”, creating a ‘crafty’ picture frame that I would ditch in the recycling bin as soon as I got home. I couldn’t wait for the whole thing to get over. When I left, I never received a call from anyone as a follow up. Nuttin.’ Been there?
Needless to say, I never went back. I left thinking “why do organizations have these groups to reach out to the community and then no one even talks to you when you get there?” Been there?
As I reflect on that experience, the reality is I really should have given it a second chance. Everybody has an off-game day, right? Maybe someone brand new was taking on that group and wasn’t totally sure what to do, but she was willing to step up, step in and figure it out as she went? That deserves some credit, doesn’t it? Maybe I wasn’t the only new person?
I mean, let’s be honest: I have issues. Mostly around expectations. Of people, of activities, of even a simply-planned day. Truth be told, I have a history of copping an attitude faster than Elizabeth Taylor could find a new husband.
And, why did I cast such a small net? Why did I allow my hurt feelings to torpedo my efforts to get out and meet some other moms? Why didn’t I try another table the following week? Why didn’t I try several groups? Instead I let my initial disappointed turn into hurt and anger and my attitude got the best of me. Been there?
The art of casting a wider net
Thinking about this wider net idea and wanting to put a positive, proactive spin on it, I decided to try and expand the reach of my neighborhood coffee klatch. Building upon the great group who participated last year, I decided to make the extra effort to reach out to my entire neighborhood in the chance that there are more women who might need connection and would like to participate.
- Emailed everyone that I had been inviting this past year to make sure they wanted to continue being on the evite distribution list. If a coffee klatch wasn’t their (pardon the pun) cup of tea, then I don’t want to be bombarding them with superfluous emails.
- Put an announcement in my HOA electronic newsletter/email.
- Posted flyers on our neighborhood group mail boxes. Just in case a neighbor might not check a specific email account that often (like us) or they were just getting back from vacation and had 600+ emails waiting for them (like me), I wanted to make the extra effort to get the word out.
And what happened?
I’m having my first klatch to launch the year in a couple of weeks or so. I don’t know who will be able to attend that first gathering or what will happen, but from the response I received from my ‘marketing campaign,’ I’m feeling very hopeful:
- I’ve received interest from 18 women I have NEVER met before.
- From my previous list, I’ve received interest from several women who never responded last year, but still wanted to be on the list in the hopes they can attend one or more times this year. (note: NEVER assume people don’t want to connect when they don’t respond the first time: go ahead and ask them again!)
- I’ve received some lovely comments, telling me that many women in my neighborhood are eager to connect, such as:
I have been in this neighborhood since July of 1986! I look forward to getting to know you and other members of our community!
Please add me to your list…………and thank you for doing this!!!!
We’ve lived here for about 11 years but we don’t know many people except our direct neighbors. It will be very nice to meet more neighbors.
Thank you for keeping a wonderful thing going!!
I love every opportunity to meet others from the neighborhood and appreciate your efforts in making this possible.
We moved to the neighborhood less than a year ago, and are eager to know more neighbors.
My neighborhood is probably just like yours. People wanting to meet their neighbors, but so often wondering how to get started. Whether you’ve lived in your neighborhood a few months or many years, I encourage you to consider being a catalyst and casting a wide net. Start a Coffee Klatch. If the above quotes are any indication, your invitation might just be exactly what a few of your neighbors have been looking for.