The Multiples of America (aka NOMOTC) Convention last week was an intense experience. I learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. I was inspired in my parenting, my writing, and my advocacy. Above all, I had fun. A lot of fun.
Before I Arrived
I took the entire week off work to attend. I could have easily attended Wednesday through Saturday and learned nearly as much. The first few days were purely social, filled with tours of the local sights and get-to-know-each-other activities. Pre-convention activities began on Sunday, July 20, but I didn’t show up until Monday.
I’d never really considered attending the conference before this year, although I was vaguely aware of its existence. This time it was in Austin (Texas), where I work. My children were away visiting their Dad. The timing and location just seemed right. It seemed to me that How Do You Do It? being a resource for parents of multiples, we should know a little something about this organization for parents of multiples. I encourage you to check out Multiples of America’s quarterly magazine, Notebook, filled with articles and ideas specific to parents of multiples and the clubs that support us.
I went into the convention without expectations. I’d given the schedule a once-over, but I had no idea what the participation in the various events would be. I didn’t know whether everyone would be carrying diaper bags, backpacks, or purses. I guessed that conference goers would be predominantly female, but I didn’t know. I knew a little about Multiples of America: that it maintained a registry of MoM clubs around the US and that it supports research into all things multiples. That was pretty much everything I knew Monday morning.
As I wrote on the way back from the Hill Country tour, I was overwhelmed by how warm and welcoming everyone was. I felt that the convention was more like a family reunion than like the professional conferences I’ve attended in the past. (I work in IT.) MoMs who had been coming for years, most whose children are now adults, were there to see their friends. They were quick to open their hearts to me as a new member of the family. A few husbands tagged along, but this was definitely a women’s get-together.
I was among the youngest, if not the youngest, of the MoMs to attend the pre-convention fun. A couple of adult multiples, accompanying their mothers, were younger than I. (I’m 35, my twin daughters 8.) I suspect that this is not unusual. The pre-convention tours, while mostly not actively excluding children, were not child-friendly. My daughters would have probably loved the LBJ ranch tour, but wine tasting and the cute stores in Fredericksburg might not have been as much fun for them. I didn’t attend the Austin Sixth Street club/bar night, but that would certainly been out of the question with children in tow.
In addition to being better kid-free, the tour prices were prohibitive. Few mothers of young children have $35-$65 to spare for each of up to 5 tours, especially after factoring in travel expenses and hotel room costs. I had a surprise windfall with which to pamper myself: when my ex-husband suddenly decided that he wanted our daughters to visit for nearly 2 months, I was able to recoup summer camp costs. Still, I didn’t stay at the hotel and didn’t have to worry about travel expenses beyond what I usually spend on my work commute.
I understand from the lovely women planning next year’s convention in Cincinnati that there will be more child-oriented activities. Still, I will have to scrimp and save to make it to that convention, and will likely have to bring my daughters if I am able to attend. Judging by the number of adult multiples I met who have been attending the Multiples of America (then NOMOTC) conventions since they were children, my girls would be welcome, loved, and plenty spoiled, even if we were limited to participation in only certain convention events.
I’m an extreme extrovert, so my favourite part of convention was the downtime. I loved getting to know so many lovely women on the bus to and from our tour locations, over meals at local restaurants, and over drinks in the hotel lobby.
Heather and Anna, two of the wonderful new MoM friends I made. Photo by Hannah Day.
I have a feeling that many of these women will be friends of mine for life. I loved hearing about pairs who see each other only once a year at convention, and who have shared hotel rooms annually for 20 years or more.
There were mixers, dances, and banquets aplenty, in addition to the downtime. I can’t remember the last time I danced so much or had so much fun doing it! I appreciated the thought that went into ensuring that some of the events seated strangers together while others, especially those later in the convention, allowed people to choose the others at their table. Door prizes and raffles provided extra encouragement to show up!
There was raffle after raffle, thanks to a plethora of donations. And in the background are Janie and Corky, the very first of my new friends to take me under their wings. Photo by Hannah Day.
Getting Down to Business
The Multiples of America Convention 2014 wasn’t all fun and games, although there was plenty of that. The business at hand included voting on proposed changes to its laws, electing the next executive board, deciding on future convention locations, reviewing the budget and organization finances, and other non-profit concerns. Only delegates of Multiples of America member clubs were eligible to vote, although all convention attendees were welcome to attend the business meetings. Only existing executive board members ran for their positions, so the board was reelected by default.
The executive board appointed additional volunteers, called National Workers, to move the organization’s mission forward over the next year. I was appointed Single Parent Coordinator, and hope to use that role to advocate for outreach to single parents of multiples and military families by local parents of multiples groups around the country. I’ve already learned that one obstacle some single parents face in joining a club is the membership fee. Please be aware that many such clubs are prepared to cover membership costs for parents of multiples who can’t afford them. Don’t be afraid to ask!
I detected some severe generational tension between NOMOTC traditionalists and younger Multiples of America members. In the age of social media, clubs that meet in person can feel outmoded, and I got the impression that local clubs with younger memberships tend to feel that Multiples of America no longer adds value. I love that the organization changed its name last year to recognize the greater number of higher order multiples in the population, as well as the increased parenting role that fathers and other non-mother caregivers are taking in our world. I think there’s plenty of room for communities of all sorts, especially when our shared goal is to do the best we can for our children. Membership in multiples clubs in general has been dwindling, and I’m certain that the ease of finding community online is partly responsible. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, by any means, but there’s a place for both online and local community. I hope that the executive board hears this and acts on it. Multiples of America should be about supporting multiple birth families, not just keeping Multiples of America going.
In addition to the core business meetings of Multiples of America, the Austin Mothers of Multiples group that organized the convention allowed time for structured sharing of ideas between parents and between club representatives. There was a resource room and MoMs’ Mall with information and products available to the multiple mom, whether new, expecting, or experienced. Discussions on consignment sales and school placement were particularly active and rewarding. I can honestly say it had never occurred to me how much goes into keeping a MoM club running! Since HDYDI is an informal group funded out of my family budget, I’d never given any thought to what location-specific clubs have to do to guard against embezzlement or legal challenges that might exist to providing childcare during club meetings. I’m starting to realize how little I know!
I appreciated learning about the research that is underway in partnership with Multiples of America. Of particular interest was Dr. Susan Griffith’s presentation on the Post-Partum Mood Disorder study that the International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations (ICOMBO) is running. It’s not too late to participate! They need all MoMs, whether or not you’ve dealt with PPD, to fill out their survey, to get a handle on how PPD affects us after multiples births in particular.
Multiples of America has also partnered with local clubs to raise awareness of multiple births in the month of April. Who knows? Maybe HDYDI will participate in Multiple Birth Awareness Month next year!
I am so very glad I went to the Multiples of America Convention this year. I made many new friends and got some wonderful parenting insights. I’ll be writing another post on the different concerns that parents of fraternal multiples have from those of identical multiples when it comes to school and education. I came back energized to speak up for issues specific to multiples and empowered to advocate for single and military parents in my volunteer coordinator role.
Thank you to Debbie, Ada, Heather, Karen, and Elizabeth for all the work that went into putting on an extremely successful convention. And if you’re in Central Texas and looking for a photographer, Hannah Day was amazing! She managed to get all the pictures without ever seeming to be in the way.
Have you ever attended a state or national multiples convention? How does your experience compare?
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She is the newly minted Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America, also known as the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC). She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and currently blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering as well as here at HDYDI.