Joan Peloso, Regional Administrator of Leader Accreditation (RALA) LLL Alliance
Hooray! Someone in the Group is interested in LLL leadership. You are so pleased because you’ve had your eye on her for some time: the way she speaks to her children, offers encouraging words to others at meetings, and helps with Group events. You’ve never worked with a Leader Applicant, so you look for a copy of the most recent Leader Recommendation form. Because Areas and Area Networks use different languages and currencies, LLLI prefers that Leaders obtain the forms from their local Area Leader Accreditation Department (LAD). So, you contact your Area Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (CLA) or LAD Secretary to get the form used in your location. Once the CLA knows you are getting ready to fill out a recommendation, she will be available to answer your questions. You read over the form and realize that this may be harder than you thought; it’s a good thing the CLA can be consulted. But, where do you begin? Do all the questions on the form need answers? Here are some things to keep in mind as you look it over and begin to fill it out.
The Leader Recommendation form asks for information pertaining to the LLLI Prerequisites to Applying for LLL Leadership, following the order they are mentioned in Appendix 18 of LLLI Policies and Standing Rules Notebook. (https://www.llli.org/docs/lad/PSR-Appendix18.pdf or ask your local CLA for a copy). You can look at the blank form together with the mother interested in leadership as you discuss breastfeeding and mothering experiences during your pre-application dialogue, making notes for yourself as you go along. The Leader Recommendation form is a handy tool for discussing all the pertinent points related to the prerequisites. As you explore how the interested mother interprets and implements LLL philosophy, you may learn details that have not been apparent during your interactions together at LLL meetings. You can then provide more specific details on the form. If someone with whom you are not well acquainted comes to you asking about leadership , you can use the Leader Recommendation form to show that you need to get to know each other before you can consider writing a recommendation.
Setting the stage
Imagine that the CLA/LAD Secretary is learning about the mother for leadership through your eyes and words. You are setting the stage to view this person as a future Leader. When you write unique and thorough comments in each section, it shows that you know enough to vouch for her readiness to apply for leadership. If you find you are repeating information or seem to be explaining why the interested mother made decisions that marginally fit the prerequisites, it is better for you to consult the CLA now, before completing the recommendation.
Here are some ideas to consider when answering questions about the candidate’s Mothering Experience.
- Please give some examples which show how the mother values nursing at the breast as the optimal way to nourish, nurture, and comfort her baby.
- Please provide some examples which show that the mother recognizes, understands, and responds to her baby’s need for her presence as well as her milk.
Please notice that although the questions both pertain to the mother-child relationship, they do not ask for the same information. Recommendations have sometimes included an answer of “see above” to the second question, referring back to the first question. This is not helpful to the CLA, who is looking for specific examples of different aspects of the Mothering Experience Prerequisites.
The first question requests examples of how you have seen her mother through breastfeeding. Helpful answers may include that the mother nursed on cue, continued to breastfeed through challenging situations, protected the milk supply when certain courses of action may have compromised it, or followed the child’s lead in weaning.
If you have not witnessed her breastfeeding her child, it would be helpful to the CLA if you describe how you know she is mothering through breastfeeding, or did when the child was younger. That might include relating a conversation you had with her where she told you about breastfeeding when the child was a baby.
The second question refers to the mother’s understanding of her child’s need for her presence, as separate from the moments they are breastfeeding. This would include instances where the mother responds to the child’s needs, with details included. Some answers may include co-sleeping, bed sharing, or other ways of meeting nighttime needs, using a baby carrier, family activities together, or traveling with the child rather than leaving the young one with a caregiver.
If you have not seen the mother responding to her child, perhaps another conversation would help you identify such occasions. An open-ended question can garner much useful information to include on your recommendation, for example “Tell me more about the ways you meet your child’s needs for your presence when you are not breastfeeding.”
What if you are not sure whether the person you want to recommend meets the prerequisites? Perhaps you are not certain that she fully agrees with LLL philosophy. The Leader Recommendation form is useful to ascertain how the prerequisites are met or not met. Fill it out to the best of your ability and send it to the CLA, asking for her thoughts on the information you’ve included. She will be able to tell you whether the information is sufficient or whether you need to explain more about how the mother meets the specific prerequisites. She will give you questions to discuss with the interested mother so that you can add the information to the form before you submit it. After your discussions, if you find you cannot recommend the mother, the CLA can help you with wording to explain your decision to the interested mother.
When using the Leader Recommendation form as your guideline in this way, wait until you are satisfied that you have discussed all your concerns with the CLA and completed additional dialogue with the interested mother before sharing the Application form with the mother and explaining the payment of the application fee.
There are a few common reasons why you may be unsure whether the mother currently meets the prerequisites to applying. They generally fall into the categories of breastfeeding/mothering experience or personal traits. A concern about the mother’s communication skills may appear on the recommendation as, “This mother is a firm believer in breastfeeding and gives good information. The way she gives the information can sound a bit strong, even offensive to some who are not comfortable with such a direct manner.” When asked, the Leader may respond, “I decided to send in the recommendation and let the LAD handle it during the application dialogue.” That thinking would lead to a recommendation that misrepresents the mother’s readiness to represent LLL.
It would be more beneficial to explore the subject of less than adequate communication skills with the CLA before sending in the recommendation and application. In this way, the CLA can suggest ways of approaching the topic and provide some tools for improving those skills before the mother applies. If the mother plans to develop effective communication skills during the application, the recommending Leader needs to be confident that the mother can achieve that goal. In that case, the mother will be accredited after everyone has agreed that she has indeed acquired the skill. You may also want to keep in mind that the mother may be your co-Leader one day; you will want positive interactions between yourselves right from the beginning of the pre-application time.
Questions about breastfeeding and mothering experience may pertain to ongoing separation from the baby, approach to sleep issues, beliefs about discipline, differences in parenting style, or perhaps breastfeeding experience in the past. If separation is part of this person’s experience, please read through Pre-Application Dialogue about Separation Experiences – Guidelines for Leaders http://www.llli.org/docs/lll_leadership/pre-app_dialogue_separation_experiences.pdf or ask your local CLA for a copy) before filling out the recommendation.
Interested mother after weaning
Let’s focus briefly on interest in leadership after weaning has occurred as an example of how to explore the Personal Breastfeeding Experience and Mothering Experience Prerequisites. If weaning occurred before you met the mother, you may not have seen her mothering through breastfeeding. If her child is still young, you can observe how she parents now; if her children are grown you will learn more through pre-application dialogue about how she implemented LLL philosophy during the early years. How does she view her parenting experience in comparison with those who are currently attending meetings? It is important to find out whether breastfeeding continued past the child’s first birthday, which may be difficult to remember after two or three decades. There are applications received from those who meet the prerequisites in all ways but do not meet the criterion of having nursed for at least a year if the child has already been weaned. It can be painful for a mother to make an effort to discuss the early years of breastfeeding, fill out a form, and then be told that she didn’t nurse long enough. Careful pre-application dialogue and attention to the questions on the Leader Recommendation form may prevent this painful situation from occurring.
Perhaps a co-Leader wants to recommend someone whom other Leaders do not think is ready to apply, or who does not meet the prerequisites. The person’s communication or parenting style may be quite different from the current Group Leaders, and it’s difficult to imagine her as a representative of LLL. This is the time to consult with the CLA for another perspective; she may be able to offer some aspects to consider during your co-Leader conversation. When discussing concerns, be specific and use examples to explain viewpoints. To which prerequisites do these points directly apply? It is important for the co-Leaders to verbalize and record their points of agreement and disagreement, and bring this information back to the CLA. Hopefully, your discussion together will help you all come to an agreement about the application. If one co-Leader decides to continue with a recommendation without the other co-Leader’s agreement, it is appropriate to note on the form which co-Leader does not support the application at this time. Separate correspondence may be used to explain the reasons if there isn’t sufficient space on the form.
In-depth pre-application dialogue is the key to preparing a positive recommendation. Writing a detailed and informative Leader Recommendation takes time. Putting in the effort may lead to the reward of a new co-Leader working with you to spread the word about LLL further into your community. For further questions, contact your Area Coordinator of Leader Accreditation, who will be more than happy to help you fill out your recommendation for a new candidate for leadership.