March 24, 2011

I organize outings. Before my daughter was born, I didn’t organize outings for others. I was busy focused on my career or watching television. Just before my daughter came into this world, community became extremely important to me and we moved into a place where we no longer had free cable. Once my daughter was born, I wanted to be surrounded by as many parents as possible to share our experiences as new parents. I started a yahoo group – Natural Parenting LA – so we could have playdates and discussions on certain parental philosophies and as part of the yahoo group, I started organizing outings – nature walks by Children’s Nature Institute, animal rescue visits to The Gentle Barn, a whale watching excursion that my daughter slept in on the day so we missed, but later joined another group to see dolphins and whales. I enjoyed getting thank yous and meeting more moms whom I felt I didn’t need to explain why I’ve chosen to parent the way I parent – Attachment Parenting – and just commiserate about this new and slightly ill fitting identity we had taken on as parents.

This past week, I have been busy organizing three Matzah Factory tours – it’s almost Passover – a whale watching trip, two animal rescue visits, and three horseback riding classes. These outings have attracted over 350 people and I haven’t even begun to post about the field trips to the animal rescues. Clearly, my daughter and I will not be attending all of them. So why am I on this organizing frenzy? Because people have asked and I’m beginning to realize there is a huge need inside me to please. Yes, I am a people pleaser. Terrible. Terrible. I might as well be a dog panting by your leg even after you’ve kicked me. I feel that way sometimes – especially after I get emails which challenges my need to be so accommodating.

The first series of emails was from a homeschooling mother who first asked me what happens if the tour is cancelled – it won’t be – and if she doesn’t show up, who keeps her money – the factory – and then wanted to find out when it was the last day possible to send me a check just in case she wants to cancel her participation in the outing. I told her I didn’t know when the last day is because the tour was filling up fast. She wrote me back wanting to know the numbers of the tour and to see if she could send me a money order. As anyone who has read ads on Craigslist knows – do not accept a money order. Luckily, the tour did fill up before I had a chance to respond to her last request. I just wrote back to her letting her know it’s full, overly full. Maybe not the bravest thing to do but certainly honest and polite.

Another series of challenging emails was from a mother who said she hadn’t RSVPed before because in her eyes when she wrote me last with the number in her party, that wasn’t a RSVP. It’s only when she sends a check to me that it becomes a RSVP. I know when you make a reservation at a restaurant, you don’t send them a check to make a reservation. Yet, airlines consistently overbook flights knowing people tend to cancel or not show up. Do I need to start overly booking my field trips? Do I need to start thinking of written RSVPs as passe and only hard cash makes it a real RSVP? When do I start trusting someone’s words?

The thing that challenges me the most is – where’s the appreciation? Especially by other mothers who know we get very little appreciation in society. I get thank yous but then I also get more requests to make other people’s lives easier. Do I need to start thinking about me and only me – well, only me, my daughter, my husband and our cat? Or just start adding names of people I do not want on any of my outings on a list because they bug me? I’m half joking… What happened to the community I was looking for or is this it and I’ve come to realize I don’t want to be a part of it because I don’t have the time to answer everyone’s emails? I’m half joking again…

(These challenging emails are the exception.) Maybe I just need to start setting limits with some of the parents in a way that is firm but kind…

5 Responses to “When Is A RSVP A RSVP?”

  1. CindyC Says:

    Sorry to hear the challenges you’re going through. I really wonder how you have time to organize these things. I organize classes, but it’s a business for us. I *love* field trips (going on and organizing), but I don’t have much time with my other commitments.

    This organizing thing is difficult. I know people that accept emails as a maybe and the RSVP is confirmed when the check is received. Makes sense to me. I think most people appreciate what you are doing, even though they don’t say it.

    I make sure I don’t do it for the thank yous. I started doing it to provide classes for my daughter. Now, I just book stuff cuz it sounds fun. But you’re right, it’s nice when someone says thank you.

    As for the annoying emails? Answer them when you have time? Ignore them for 24 hours? Luckily, I don’t get many.

    It’s okay if you decide to cut back a bit. Really, it is.

    • mjmia Says:

      What happens if all of the people who email also send checks and I am doubly overbooked on the field trips? Do I randomly start bumping people off like an airline or ask for volunteers to not go on the field trips? I wouldn’t be giving any incentives since this is volunteer work.

  2. I feel for you about this.
    Firstly, THANK YOU so much for organizing these activities. My daughter CANNOT wait for whale watching and we loved The Gentle Barn (though I don’t know if our particular visit was organized by you.)

    Secondly, I feel your pain about this. I started a group to organize moms to get together to surf and watch eachother’s kids on the beach – and the RSVP issue was too much for me to handle. Then I handed it over to another mom and she couldn’t deal either.

    I strive to be clear and responsible when RSVPing to people’s events. Perhaps what you can do at the outset of every invitation is state a clear RSVP policy in advance and request that people be mindful or your time when making their own requests or asking simplistic questions.

    Either way, there’s always a learning curve with such things and getting past these challenges is a way to gain further mastery in what sounds like a passion of yours.

    Keep up the good work. I love your blog!

  3. Raygunwill Says:

    It’s very thoughtful and kind to organize these trips. One idea might be To have a deadline for payment. In other words, the RSVP will hold your spot till whatever date, ad if the check isn’t postmarked by whatever date you will simply return it? Just a thought…

  4. Christy Says:

    Yes this has become out of control lately. My sister who used to be general manager of a wedding site says the RSVP culture has gotten so lax that brides would be in tears because 80% of their guests had not replied yet one week before the wedding.

    I remember holding events where I had 6 yes and 30 maybe for a reservation at a restaurant. I think everyone thinks they are the only one with a special situation. Actually almost everyone has a special situation and it is tiring to plan with that.

    I have only been on one of your trips, so I don’t know if you already do this-

    Have you thought about making it 100% paypal and 100% first come first serve. So that way as soon as it is full you can send out an email. If anyone still pays you, you can easily shoot the money back to them. It is nice because it is fast and concrete numbers. I know some people get flustered by paypal but they are the minority. You are not running a business. If they really want to come, they can get a friend to help them.

    Thanks for the trouble arranging.


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