Monday, February 18, 2008

'How Can I Help You?' Is Not a Rhetorical Question

We got a new Relief Society President several months ago. Since she'd been serving in Canada where her husband was Mission President for the last 3 years, she decided that it would behoove the Relief Society Presidency to go around and get to know some of the sisters. I was on the list.

So shortly after Beck was born the RS Presidency came for a visit. We had a lovely chat at the end of which they asked me if I had any questions. "Will you have a nursery for Enrichment meeting?" I wondered.

"No," came the quick reply of the counselor over Enrichment night. "If we did a Super Saturday* or something like that, then yes, but for regular Enrichment night no."

"OK," I said, "I was just wondering."

As they left, they handed me a paper. "This is to fill out about you and your interests. Don't be shy about your talents!" one of the counselors encouraged. They told me when they'd be back to pick the paper up and cheerfully left. The final question on the paper asked, "What can we do to help you?"

Normally I'd leave a question like that blank. After all, I'm self-reliant. But a light bulb turned on. I wrote, "It would help me if you would have a nursery for Enrichment meeting. I don't think you need to have any nursery for the optional mid-week activities, but for Enrichment it would be very helpful. Wendell works late every Wednesday, so I would have to pay $10-$15 to go to Enrichment, and sometimes it's just not worth the money it would cost me."

There was an Enrichment meeting coming up in January--a talent show and the RS President picked up my paper just in time. Surely, now that she knew what help I needed there would be a nursery! But the talent night came and went without one, so I didn't attend.

I think that my absences at these meetings have been noticed. In fact, I've been asked to sing with a group for the next meeting. "Will there be a nursery?" I asked the Enrichment board member who called me. "Wow. Um, I've never thought of that. We should look into that," she stuttered.

"Yea," I said trying to make my case, "Wendell has to work until at least 8:00 every Wednesday and he burns on Thursday, which means he works from open until close, so it would be really helpful...."

She cut me off, "Hey, the Young Women** won't be having an activity that night so, why don't you call one of them? That would be easiest."

So, although I never actually agreed to participate, she is dropping by music for me to learn it.

Feel free to call me on it, if I'm wrong, but the church manual+ says that there should be a nursery for Enrichment meetings. There are admittedly not many young mothers in my ward, but even if I'm the only one who needs it, shouldn't there be a nursery? I mean why should it cost me $15 to go to a non-optional RS meeting, when it's not costing anyone else? And just to vent, why bother asking what you can do to help me and then not do anything about it?


(*Mormon 101: Super Saturday--half day Enrichment meeting usually focused on a variety of craft activities.

**Young Women: Girls between the ages of 12-18. They meet during the third block of church and have weekly activities.

+ Church Manual: To make sure that the Church programs are run the same everywhere in the world, each leader is supplied with a manual about their callings and instructions from the Church Leadership in Salt Lake City about how they want the particular group to function.)


Anonymous said...

I hear ya. I never go when Nathan is on business trips because it's not worth the money to pay a sitter. Also, if the kids are in bed when I get home - how would I take home a sitter without waking the kids?

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I totally agree with you. Perhaps you could highlight the text in the manual and give it to the President. Or, you can haul all your kids into one Enrichment meeting and make sure they're as disruptive as possible to make your point. (Ok, so maybe that last one was a bad idea.)

Our ward as a sister called who coordinates the nursery for enrichment and that means she finds people to help in it. Usually it's young women from the ward, sometimes it's dads.

You should not have to pay a sitter to go to church meetings. I had to pay a babysitter for my husband and I to both attend the leadership training two weeks ago. That bugs me. If we both want to attend the evening session of Stake Conference, we need to pay a sitter. I think that's wrong. I think things like that should be done for service and coordinated through the young women. We go on enough date nights and pay pretty well, so it's not like we're not trying to use the girls or get out of paying them. Maybe I'll suggest it now that I'm in YW!

Anyway, when she drops off the music you need to be assertive and tell her that you CANNOT participate unless there is a nursery, and having a nursery for Enrichment is stated in the church manual anyway. When she says you need to call the YW, you say, "I'm sorry, but I don't have the funds necessary to pay a sitter so that I can attend enrichment. Especially since the church manual states that the RS is SUPPOSED to provide one." It's sad that you can't go, but until they get their sorry rears in place, you'll probably just have to stand your ground.

Jenna Wood said...

Holly, I've been thinking about practicing some "civil disobedience" by bringing my kids.

When we first moved in I remember someone announcing something about Enrichment, then asked if there were any questions. I raised my hand and asked if there was a nursery. There was a long pause, but then she said she'd make sure there was.

I went and brought my kids and the nursery went great. The next month I showed up with my kids. The nursery room was dark and no one was there.

I brought my kids into the gym where the meeting was taking place and asked about a nursery. I was told there wasn't one.

My kids made so much noise in an already noisy room that I headed to the phone to call my folks. If they couldn't come and watch my kids, then I was going to head home.

The 2nd Counselor chased me down the hall saying, "Don't leave!!" I made my point quite accidentally and they had nursery for quite a while.

Maybe I could arrange my own nursery? I could call the YW leaders and get a couple girls to come...hmmm.

Jennifer @ Fruit of My Hands said...

I hear you!

My ward is sensitive to this issue (note the sarcasm). Their solution is to have the bishopric announce over the pulpit when enrichment or other RS activities are, and tell the priesthood to "please make arrangements in your schedule to be home so your wife can attend."

Yeah...that's helpful. Now my DH feels guilty for meeting his obligations as provider for our family, on top of a hectic work & school schedule... I'm sure my DH's boss will understand why he has to be home an entire day early from his trip? I'm sure the 90 people he's there to train would gladly concede to their not getting their money's worth too, after all the Bishop said he should do it. *eyeroll*

I could see that if it was because the men were out playing basketball every night or something, but they are at work! So many of the men in my ward work evenings it's unbelievable to me that this is their solution.

Anyway, I've brought my kids along with me a few times, who are well behaved, but I don't think its fair to them (or relaxing for me.) And while the young women may happy serve once or twice, I feel its exploiting them to have them come to my home and babysit for free month after month. Like you, I can't afford to fork out $15 every time I go to enrichment meeting!

Can you tell you touched on a sore spot for me? LOL.

*Tanyetta* said...

Not that you're going to be surprised at my answer but, here goes.

I would NOT give up. I would be very clear and not 'dance' with the lady on this topic.

I'm not up on the manual and the rules but, it states there needs to be a nursery, then, that nursery needs to happen!

This really upsets me because this is the main reason why churches and organizations lose members when it comes to childcare.

I attend a monthly Tea (you can stop giggling) and these women organize a childcare room just for DJ.

He's the ONLY kid every month. These women are retired and grandmothers but, they have made it clear that they don't want me to miss out on the events and that's why they host the childcare.

I was quite impressed that they consider this to be very serious and I'm very appreciative.

That's why this topic with your family really burns me. I mean come on now......what is the purpose of asking what they can do to help when they clearly don't plan on doing anything about it???????

Ugh~ I hope they reconsider. They have to. Especially if it's in the book!

You need me to come up there?????????????

*Tanyetta* said...

OR better yet, just bring the kids and tell them to act rowdy and run up and down the aisles. I bet that nursery will get created with the quickness.

Oops, sorry the heathen in me just got out of control again! :)

*Tanyetta* said...

I've found that the 'how can i help you question' is just to say it.

When I had DJ, I was always told, let me know if you need anything........

My Yoga teacher announced to the class that she would be available to stop by if anyone needed help. She called and asked what I needed and told her!

Needless to say, she made the beds and did 2 loads of laundry while I nursed my baby in the family room and took a nap. Hey, she's the one that said she would do it and I called her on it!

I've found sometimes either people like to help and don't know how to help OR they just say they will help hoping you won't ask them. :)

This post has me on fire because kids are too precious to be put on the back burner.

Here's a member that wants to attend RS meetings, they should be rolling out the carpet to accommodate your needs!

dh said...

Hey, I'm on my Enrichment Board committee and our RS prez plans for nursery on the meetings because she wants to increase attendance...

You know what I think would be funny? Take your kids next time, and have the RS presidency help tend to them (ie. ask one to hold Beck, another to hold on to Annika...). I think that would drive the point home harder than pointing out to them what the manual says. Then, you CAN'T forget to GUSH over them for helping you watch your kids because if they hadn't then you wouldn't have been able to attend... ha ha ha.

Alisa said...

Ha ha by the comments I can tell you have brought up something people feel passionate about- more so than I knew. I have always had issues with this but not so my friends.

I served on enrichment for a long while and it was my job to get ppl to help in the nursery. I had to have them EVERY month and sometimes we needed them and sometimes we did not (meaning nobody need the nursery that night). I was happy to have one no matter what but the hard part was that we were not allowed to use the YW. So I had to call sisters in our ward and ask them to watch children in the nursery in leu of enrichment. I hated calling because all I got was no's- nobody wanted to do it. Anyway it is definitely a mandatory thing and I know that because they always told me we had to have one every time.

So that is all fine and good, but I began to be frustrated because all those months and years that I worked so hard to supply a nursery (I never needed at the time), but latere when I DID need one our ward did have one. I had moved to a new ward and they obviously missed the memo on the mandatory nurseries. I have had to pay (and since refuse) fo babysitters during enrichment mtg. I hate missing it though, it is my only time to get out by myself and have social time- really I never get out. We only have enrichment every 3 months, so it can't be that hard to get a nursery for those few occassions. It is crazy though, how my husband's going out of town always seems to end up being on the night of enrichment.

You would think in my ward that there wouldn't be too much need for a nursery either. I requested one, and thankfully my leader was much more willing to respond. We had a nursery and there were a good number of others who ended up needing it. -- Maybe they would be surprised that others might need it too.

zippy said...

I'm in agreement, you should not have to pay for a sitter to attend a church activity--especially one where a nursery should be provided!!

If the leaders in your ward really and truly want you to attend, they should be doing everything in their power to accomodate your needs--especially if they've asked you how they can be of help, and followed that up with a request that you be a participant in the musical number! Honestly!

My hubby works late nights too so I've done both: brought my kids anyway (usually for activities in the summer so I don't have to worry about a later than usual bedtime) and have also opted not to attend (usually on school night's). I totally agree with Jen, it's not fair to you or your kids and it certainly isn't relaxing for can you enjoy the Enrichment activity if you're worried about where your kids may have wandered off to or about how they may or may not be behaving???

It's too bad that you've had to miss out on some activities and that you may have to continue to do so if arrangments for a nursery aren't made soon, but I say choose your health and sanity, and that of your family over attending another meeting anyday!!

Here is my message to your R.S. leadship: Isn't the church as a whole is striving to strenghthen the family by considering the individual and not the program? If you're really trying to implement the "less is more" principle and it's such a hardship to accomadate the needs of those you're called to serve, then quit adding stress to their life and at the very least have some compassion and understand why certain sisters don't attend!

Okay, I've said my piece, I'm done.

Good luck Jenna--I'd like to hear how things turn out for you!

Laurie said...

I just figure that enrichment is not for me. If it was, they would have a nursery. I'm done with the guilt. I used to be on the enrichment committee. We had a really hard time finding people to work the nursery. The mom's with kids don't want to, the mom's without kids don't want to, the dad's that are around just want to stay home with their own kids and the YM and YW always dogged out on us so their leaders usually had to cover for them which wasn't fair to them so we just did what we could but there was no way to please everyone. I just brought my kids and let them run around the nursery watching themselves or following me around. It worked out okay and if anyone complained, well, then they could do my job so I could take my children home or they could volunteer to help out. Now that I am not in that calling, I just don't go. One less thing to worry about. Someday it will be my turn to go to enrichment meetings and maybe then I'll just volunteer to work in the nursery so some young mom can have an enjoyable evening. Good luck Jenna. I don't know any answer for you but know that you are not alone in your frustration. I wish they wouldn't ask if there was something they could do to help you though unless they planned to at least acknowledge your request. The least they could do is give you an explanation and be sympathetic to your situation. HUGS!

Cristy said...

Hi Jenna! Love finding other LDS bloggers! We got to stick together!

So I was the Enrichment Assistant in our Ward for 3 years. We always had a nursery. In our nursery we had the YW come (or Elders Quorum if the YW were invited) and we would plan snacks, even activities and a lesson for the kids. Often only a few kids would attend, but that was one person's job on the board. I'm really frustrated your ward isn't doing this, especially when you've told them repeatedly! Sigh... But I promise the Church is still true! Even if it is run by us regular people...

molly said...

This is against our family values. I can't believe this. We not only value "these precious little children" but the mothers of said children as well. This is upsetting and baffling.