This week we will be honoring volunteers who are doing incredible work in our communities. They are the fearless leaders who reach out and organize monthly- sometimes weekly- meetings for new parents to come together in a warm and welcoming space to learn about babywearing. Today, I want to introduce Ann Marie Rodgerson who is a leader for Babywearing International MD-DC-VA.
Tell us about yourself- where do you volunteer, and how did you get started?
I volunteer with Babywearing International of DC-MD-VA. I tried wearing my first and basically failed. I had a front pack that I couldn't figure out how you could hold the baby so she didn't fall while also snapping the snaps. Then I got a closed tail ring sling that was way too big and just didn't seem secure. I gave up. When my second came along, she was very needy and only wanted to be held by me. She was so different from my first and I knew I had to find a carrier solution. Someone on a forum online pointed me to TheBabywearer.com. From there, I discovered there was a local group (the predecessor to BWI of DC-MD-VA). I went to my first meeting and felt so welcomed and received so much help that all I could think was how I wished I had known about them with my first, and how I wanted to help other parents not have the frustration I felt failing at wearing with my oldest.
Who is your babywearing role model?
Gosh - I have so many. I would say Gretchen Pimentel and Nicole Nuemann were the first two. They were leaders in our group when I joined and they were so open to helping others. Susie Spence is someone else that I would count as a role model. She was the first president of Babywearing International, and I learned so much about non-profit work from her.
How has babywearing impacted your life?:
Babywearing has impacted so many aspects of my life. It has helped me to fulfill my children's needs while still doing the tasks I want to do. It has helped me grow closer to my children and be the parent I wanted to be to them as babies. In a wider sense, babywearing brought me friends, a clan to rely on as a parent. It brought me to recognize some leadership skills in myself as I dove into being on the board of Babywearing International and then chairing the 2010 International Babywearing Conference. I've be so blessed to be able to do something I love and share it with others.
What is your group/volunteer experience like?
It's a lot of fun most of the time. I love meeting a wide variety of families and seeing the smile and confidence they feel as their child settles into the right carrier for them.
What advice would you give to a brand new volunteer?
Respect yourself and your time. People can sometimes forget that you are a volunteer, so you need to set boundaries and be okay with people being unhappy. You can't give all of your time and effort to volunteering or you will burn out fast. Our chapter has had many volunteers who remained well after their babies aren't babies because we do encourage all of them to be respectful to themselves and their time.
What advice would you give to a brand new mom?
Forgive yourself. You'll do a million things before your baby is 10 that you'll wish you did differently. But as long as you love your baby with your whole heart, most of those "mistakes" will matter far more to you than to him/her.
What is your biggest triumph or accomplishment as a volunteer?
Honestly, it was helping to get Babywearing International moving. When I joined the board, it was in danger of fizzling out and with shear determination and stupid idealism, I helped shove it into gear and started adding chapters. In the 3 years I was on the board, the organization grew 10 fold. Since then, it has grown more than 3 times the size again. I'm so proud of all of the board members who have helped shepherd the organization and look forward to watching it grow.
How do you make volunteering "fit" into your life?
One of the great things about volunteering in a child-centered arena is that it allowed me to include my children in my volunteering. I wore them through meetings when they were babies, and as they grew into toddlers and now children, they have made friends and are used to playing nicely during meetings.
Do you have other hobbies or interests?
I like to read a lot, and watch TV. I write or edit most of the blog posts for our BWI chapter as well as my husband's business.
What's your favorite place to visit?
Oh gosh - I really loved Australia. I recall saying in Munich that if I spoke German I could live there. I love the bustle and history of London, I love the quiet and friendliness of Ireland.... I can't pick just one.
What's one thing someone may not know about you?
My undergraduate degrees are in English and Theatre Arts. I love the theatre and wish I could afford to go more often. I miss the rush of working behind the scenes during a show.