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Couples Meeting Basics

Originally published in LLLI’s LEAVEN, June-July 2003

I’ve planned, hosted, and attended only six Couples Meetings throughout my two decades with La Leche League. There are many Leaders who have never participated in one of these special meetings. I wish I could tell you I’ve figured out exactly how to make these unique get-togethers successful, but each one is different and unique! All Couples Meetings don’t look alike, but the following basic considerations may help when you invite mothers and fathers to a meeting together.

Define what will make this meeting feel successful. Why are you having a Couples Meeting? Is it to convince a certain father that extended nursing is important? (And how realistic is that goal?) Is it to let your husband see how important this special group of women is? Is it to show how normal breastfeeding couples? Discuss what outcome feels best to you, your significant other, your co-Leader(s), and Group members.

Keep the pressure off Leaders’ husbands/partners. Your husband and your co-Leader’s husband aren’t accredited Leaders, and sometimes they will say things that are not quite what you would saw as a Leader. Surprise! It’s best to keep the discussion light and keep everyone, including your partner, engaged in the most positive way when talking about mothering, fathering, and parenting together.

Meeting at a private home has some advantages and disadvantages. A Leader or member who agrees to hostess a Couples Meeting will probably pay great attention to cleanliness and child-proofing. The bathroom(s) will be available and sanitary. There will most likely be age-appropriate toys for attending children. Preparing can be a lot of work, however. The hostess’s children may feel threatening or out of sorts with other children invading their space. The hosting father may be helping manage the household, finding it difficult to join the discussion.

Meeting in a public venue also has advantages and disadvantages. A park will have lots of space and play equipment, good parking, and will be marked on maps and easy to find. However, you can’t always control who else shows up. I’ve been at Couples Meetings at park pavilions where birthday parties, reunions, and noisy baseball games were going on nearby.

Fathers contribute in their own special ways. Some fathers may feel comfortable with more physical meeting contributions. At one couples picnic I attended, there were lots of wasps attracted to sticky juice that had been spilled on the floor and tables of our pavilion. It was awful! The next year, a father came early, hosed down, swept, and scrubbed our tables, benches, and floor so there would be no repeat of our insect invasion.

You are the face of LLL. Many attending fathers may never go to an Area or LLL International Conference or other LLL gathering. This Couples Meeting may be their only direct contact with La Leche League and with you as a Leader. When those fathers come to this meeting, you are La Leche League.

Welcome mothers attending alone. There will be many reasons why a husband or partner might not attend. My own husband has not always been able to attend Couples Meetings even when they were in our own home. Business trips, illness, disagreements over the value of such a meeting, and shyness can keep couples from attending together. Make your Couples Meeting welcoming for a woman attending alone.

Consider different food options. Brunch, lunch, or early dinner? A total potluck could be divided up by last names (A-G last names bring main courses, for instance), or you could try a partial potluck, where your Group buys the main course and families bring side dishes. You might also just share finger foods or desserts.

Be prepared for some confused or perhaps even hostile attitudes. Some men may come with real frustration over certain aspects of breastfeeding and raising children. They may be hoping they can talk some sense into their spouses who’ve been attending La Leche League meetings and bringing home new ideas. Some fathers may feel ganged up on, anxious, and bitter. This is a different kind of meeting than most men are used to. Provide a welcoming atmosphere with your acceptance of where these fathers are in their own parenting.

There may be an unusually large number of toddlers and older children. With fathers attending rather than staying at home with the children for a Series Meeting, the group of active children at this meeting may be challenging at times. You may need to keep the formal discussion to a few opening remarks. Under some circumstances (e.g., large numbers of children present or distractions of playground equipment), you may find that a long discussion about breastfeeding, parenting, or co-sleeping just won’t work. Informal talking over food can be a natural, pressure-free way for fathers to interact. For a more structured meeting, try one of the meeting focus suggestions in the fourth revision editing of the LEADER’S HANDBOOK, pp. 183-184.

Make our resources available. THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, MOTHERING YOUR NURSING TODDLER, BECOMING A FATHER, FATHERWISE, and other books might be very helpful to have displayed and available.

For more information on Couples Meetings, see the following:
• “Couples Meetings—A Medley of Your Ideas!” LEAVEN, August-September 2001
• “Couples Meetings: Parenting the Breastfed Baby” LEAVEN, August-September 1999
• “Couples Meetings,” the LEADER’S HANDBOOK, fourth revised edition, pp. 181-184

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