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Understanding the Move-in Leader

With help from Lisa Albright and Amy Crane. Originally published in LLLI’s LEAVEN, April-May 2002

When a Leader relocates, La Leche League often provides welcome continuity in the face of moving upheaval. Not all Leaders are ready to jump into local LLL work immediately upon arrival, however. The following thoughts and experiences from move-in Leaders may help all Leaders be sensitive to the needs and feelings of women who have recently arrived in a new community.

Experienced movers have often characterized three stages of moving: action, reaction, and integration. This idea is adapted from “After the Move: Adjustment Comes in Stages” from the February 6, 1984, issue of The Air Force Times Magazine. Each Leader and each member of her family may go through these stages differently, at different times, and spend different lengths of time in each stage. Regressing into earlier stages can also happen from time to time.

The Action Stage. Characterized by action, distraction, decision, making, and organizing, this stage covers the time when a move is first considered to several months or longer after moving in.

Immediately after a move is planned, a Leader may start drifting away from the geographical and psychological center of her old home to the center of her new world. She is distracted by the continuing responsibilities of her old home as well as the responsibilities of arranging a home in a new place.

A Leader may decide to pull back to basic Leader responsibilities or perhaps put LLL on hold during this active stage of moving. She can be distracted by the swirl of emotions involved in selling and buying a house; explaining things to her relatives, neighbors, and children; planning good-byes; and arranging for haircuts, dental and doctor visits, and other appointments one last time before the move.

I remember being exhausted in the last weeks before our move from Texas to Alaska, as people wanted to host special parties and last luncheons for me. I appreciated all the gestures and cakes, but sometimes I just wanted to scream from the sheer weight of all the decisions, negotiations, and struggling to appear gracious. –Kathy

Almost overnight, I went from being the Listed Leader of a thriving Group to taking a temporary leave of absence from all basic Leader responsibilities and Group and Area work. Emotionally, it was surprisingly easy to let go of these things because I knew they would go on without me. –Lisa

The moving Leader might like to notify her new Area and local Groups of her impending arrival. This notification can provide an opportunity for the incoming Leader to feel LLL’s welcome in her new location. By contacting the Area Coordinator of Leaders ahead of time, a Leader might be able to get copies of the Area Leaders’ Letter, conference information, and other news that will help her get settled into her new home and make decisions about LLL involvement.

I contacted Sue Zuk (then Coordinator of Leader Accreditation) even before we decided to move. My husband had a job interview in a different town and I wanted to know if there was an LLL Group there. By the time we moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, I had been corresponding with Sue for several months. I had been on the Area Council in Missouri for five years, so I immediately was interested in being an ACLA. That was a good decision for me, as it was several months before I was needed to do much for the Erie Group. –Amy

I called the local Galveston, Texas, Leader from our hotel room right after moving from Ohio. It was a dream-come-true for Barb, since she’d been a lone Leader for many years. Then, six years later from my kitchen in Anchorage, Alaska, I called Karen, a local Leader in Nova Scotia, Canada, to tell her I’d be arriving in a few weeks. Karen drove up the day the moving van arrived with lunch in plastic containers and grateful hugs. –Kathy

The Reaction Stage. Characterized by questioning the decision to move; feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and depressed; and alternately romanticizing and criticizing the old home, neighbors, and LLL Group.

A Leader may feel cautious about approaching local Leaders, concerned that she will become involved in LLL work too deeply and too soon. This stage may last several months for some women, or much longer for others, perhaps depending on the distance traveled and the difference in culture experienced.

Our move to St. Joseph, Missouri, was complicated by the fact that the house we had originally planned to move into was not available. Luckily, we found another house to rent, but all of our boxes were labeled for the first house. It took two weeks to find all my pots and pans. Additionally, the local LLL Group had been founded by three out-of-town Leaders, so I quickly found myself shouldering a heavy volume of phone helping calls since I was the only Leader with a local number. –Amy

During an ice storm our first winter in Ohio, I remember being miserable as I looked out at our ice-glazed trees, my crying baby, the messy house, all the while dreading a necessary call to our landlord about the septic tank that had backed up into the basement. I said, “Why did we have to move here?” –Kathy

A move-in Leader may want to contact other local Leaders first and not attend Series Meetings for a while. Or she may want to attend meetings at first but not lead. A Chapter Meeting or District Workshop, where contact is limited to Leaders and Leader Applicants, may be a way to gradually enter her new LLL world.

A Leader may have plans to do things very differently in her new location because of past experiences. She may react poorly to pressure to decide which Group she’d like to work with; she may not be oriented enough to the geography of the area to recognize whether or not a Group is even near her new home. Some Leaders choose to move into a new town very quietly, not even calling local Leaders until they feel more settled and confident.

I knew I wouldn’t have the emotional energy to get involved with a local LLL Group right away, but I wanted the continuity that LLL could provide during my relocation to Texas. I chose to continue my Division work as a way of maintaining my connection to LLL. I also decided to attend Chapter Meetings as a way of getting to know local Leaders without having to commit to local activities. –Lisa

When we moved to Nome, Alaska, there was no local Group. I offered to edit the Area Leaders’ Letter, but chose not to start a Group even though there was a great need. I was feeling very protective of my family and my time. –Kathy

The Integration Stage. Characterized by a feeling settled; appreciating local stores, attractions, and geography; feeling more comfortable with the decision to move; and the emotional response that “this is home.” A Leader may still not feel confident to lead with a local Group or try an Area Council commitment.

A move-in Leader at this stage gains the feeling of being centered in her new town. She may sometimes regress into feeling alienated and emotional at times, but mostly this stage is a time of enjoyment and the sense of looking ahead instead of regretting former decisions. She may be ready to commit to one specific Group now. She may even feel as if her household is organized enough to accept the extra responsibilities (and the file boxes) of an Area, Area Network, or Affiliate position.

I felt settled in Pittsburgh when I went to a local annual herb sale and chatted with a woman about some local restaurants, all of which I happened to have been to. The contrast with the disoriented woman I had been two years before at that same sale was incredible! –Kathy

We hope these thoughts will help you accept, understand, and welcome the move-in Leader who has entered your LLL life, or with anticipating and planning a move yourself.

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