Muslim Mom Activism: 5 Tips for “Momenteers”

If you’ve ever wondered, “Where are the sisters?” at any meeting for planning or organizing a project or event, if they are mothers, chances are that they are probably at home or in their car, doing five or six things at once, while wishing they could be part of your project.

Many Muslim organizations have made significant strides in including more women on their boards, in Masjid committees, and in various other capacities. However, those who are mothers find the door closed to them due not to their gender, but because of the limitations specific to their current life situation.

Mothers bring to the table a unique perspective. Their direct experience raising children is invaluable to any Masjid or Islamic organization. However, a number of logistical issues, among others, often make it difficult for them to participate. By helping to remove or at least work around these roadblocks, more mothers may be inclined to participate. Here are the top five:

1. Meetings

The worst time to have a meeting for a mother with children, especially younger children, is on a weeknight. While most fathers can kick back and relax after a grueling work day, from 4 pm to 10 pm, a mother is usually involved in:

-making and/or feeding her family dinner
-cleaning up the post-dinner mess
-shuttling her child or children to an extracurricular activity, waiting for them in the car while it’s going on, then driving them home from it
-helping kids with homework
-buying something for her child’s school project due the next day, which her child failed to tell her about weeks before
-bathing a younger child or arguing with an older one to take a shower
-getting the kids to go to sleep at a decent time

And this is on a relatively “easy” day, when no one is sick, or having other issues.

So please schedule meetings in person on a weekend, perhaps even early morning, when everyone else in a mother’s home is usually sleeping and she has a couple of hours to do something uninterrupted.

But don’t forget the best option: conference calls. This is really the ideal choice because mothers can participate from anywhere, and they can join on speakerphone or some other device that leaves hands free to change a diaper, blow someone’s nose, or wash dishes.

2. The short email: the best way to get a mom’s input

A mother may not always have an hour to spare for a conference call, but she often does have about 20 minutes squeezed in somewhere to read a short email and offer quick feedback. Mothers are experts in quick thinking and quick typing.

To make it more likely your email won’t be lost or forgotten, state clearly in the subject line what you need from her. For example, “Salam. Should we invite Mr. X or Ms. Y to be speaker at May 10 fundraising dinner” would be ideal. Short, to the point, and she does not have to take the extra step of opening the email to figure out what it’s about.

3. Trusted babysitting at meetings

This one is a no-brainer, but it’s the “trusted” part that matters. I usually skip the babysitting at most events I attend after I discovered at one dinner that my then two-year-old was wandering around alone in the bathroom. The babysitters had either too many kids to handle or were not paying attention. Such carelessness is a parent’s nightmare and will guarantee no mother will even bother attending your meeting or event.

4. Be ready for an emergency

Most mothers who are and/or want to be active are fairly good at dealing with last-minute snafus like a son throwing up right before they have to attend a meeting or a daughter coming down with the flu the weekend they were going to work on a report for the Masjid’s latest project. You should also be ready by being flexible with deadlines. I would recommend giving two. One for the “ideal target date” and the other for an emergency. That will ease some of the pressure and make it more likely that your “momunteer” will be able to deliver on what she owes you.

5. Appreciation, appreciation, appreciation

If “location, location, location” is the key to success in real estate, appreciation is the same for dealing with volunteers. Volunteers are volunteers because they care deeply for the cause they are working for. While they don’t expect payment for the precious hours and effort they spend, the best currency you can spend on them is appreciation. Mothers, especially, can feel taken for granted for work that is usually undervalued and unpaid. Appreciation by calling out their names at your next fundraising dinner, in your newsletter, and making sure they can easily attend your volunteer appreciation lunch/dinner will make them feel their efforts were worth it.

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