Part two: Professional meetings with a mother and her child/ren.
It is easy to forget how the simplest of thing – such as a professional meeting – might have a number of unintended barriers in place for the mother maker. And while it can be tempting to try and avoid meeting with a mother maker when she has her children, this only reinforces the very outdated view that women when mothers have nothing of value to say as professionals.
It is Mother Makers aim to find ways to break down the barriers for mothers in retaining and building a professional practice in motherhood. The first steps towards this is through finding ways to enable the maker mother to continue to work even when she has full time care of children.
So how can you, when working with an arts professional who, for whatever reason, will have her children with her, make meetings more accessible?
Forget everything you know about having meetings. All the normal rules go out the window. But that is not a bad thing. It is simply different and a lot less boring.
Here are the Mother Maker Guidelines for having a successful face-to-face meeting with a mother and child:
- While face-to-face meetings are important, be open to different formats. Remember, the mother may have much shorter blocks of time which are often hard to predetermine she fits them between nap times, feeding, tantrums etc. Help her. Develop ideas in pre meetings via voice or video messaging, instant text messenger services, by phone or email.
- To use time most efficiently, have an agenda and stick to it.
- Accept meetings will be shorter, and less densely packed than usual. They may end before all issues are covered. Be ready to set a post meeting to finish anything not covered. This is normal.
- Let the mother pick both venue and time. If a mother sets a time do not be late. She has good reason for this, times will be finely worked out to fit best with her child/rens schedule. She will put in an enormous amount of effort to insure the meeting will be as successful and productive as possible; if you are late it will throw all of this planning and affect the productiveness of the meeting.
- Acknowledge the child’s presence and give her/him attention. An ignored child may seek extra attention. A mother of an ignored child will feel personally snubbed.
- Make space for feeding and naps. Respect the mother and child’s needs. If the mother breastfeeds you may see some breast. This is natural. She isn’t embarrassed- you shouldn’t be either.
- If you are meeting close to a mealtime and you do not see the mother eat, remind them. Buy them a sandwich, make sure they have water. They are most likely so focused on their child’s needs they will have forgotten their own.
- Be calm and quietly spoken, children will pick up on the tension or excitement it will cause overexcitement. Find ways to insure that you allow for quiet/calm moments throughout. Children will react positively to this and this in turn will enable the meeting to go more smoothly.
- Do not act as if the child is not there. Do not try to carry on talking if the child begins to cry/have a tantrum/is demanding something from their mother. Stop and give the mother the space she needs to deal with her child.
- Listen to the mother. If she says she needs some space, some extra time to settle her child, or if she needs to stop the meeting, respect this. If you do not cover everything you had planned during the meeting, arrange a post meeting phone call, email etc. There are many ways to share and develop ideas.
- Realise that you have an extremely motivated person in front of you, if she is still finding ways to work in her situation she has stamina, grit and energy. She is not a problem but a valuable asset.
Have we missed any? do get in contact and we will add them to the list!