In any community of sufficient size, there turns out to be a wide range of people – different ages, different genders and/or sexualities, different living situations and family structures, different incomes, different health concerns, and different levels of comfort in any given situation. And as a community, it’s our job as members to be generally welcoming (and I don’t mean welcoming dangerous people, mind you, but that the random person who walks in, no matter their situation, should be welcomed), and to make the community workable for all.
On average, our communities suck at that on a regular basis. Hospitality is a thing – an important thing for many of us in our spiritual paths, and we as a community fail to be hospitable on a regular basis.
It’s been a pet peeve of mine for a while how families with children are seen in the Pagan community. So many things are deemed “not for children” – even when there’s no obvious reason that they should be restricted. And so many parents are told that if they want something for their kids, they have to do it all.
Here’s the thing.
By restricting those spaces, you are effectively telling those parents, who were likely actively involved before they had kids, that they are no longer welcome. Which means you’re telling them their help is not welcome, even as you’re asking for volunteers and money and participation in your events. You’re telling people that they have to choose between your event or group and their family, and I can tell you that most of the time, you’re going to lose in that case.
And once they’re not active, their likelihood of re-joining you when their children are older and independent is pretty small – they will have moved on to activities that were more inviting and more family friendly.
Have you noticed that the people who are busiest get the most done? Parents are pretty damn busy. PTO groups raise tens of thousands of dollars per school, all done by parents. Kids’ sports leagues play games every week, and kids get to practices, have uniforms, and have snacks ready when they get there….because parents do the work.
So why are you turning down the labor of willing volunteers?
Many times, events in the Pagan community put volunteers to work in shifts, covering different portions of the needed work. Why is it so hard to imagine some sort of child friendly space that operates on the same principles?
A while back, I read a book called Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind – it’s an interesting little anthology about social movements and how families are, were, or weren’t included. I strongly recommend that you read it if you run events or groups and wonder what to do about the families in your midst.