Author of The Heroines Club: A Mother-Daughter Empowerment Circle (Womancraft Publishing), Melia explains why we must show our girls what it truly means to be a woman by studying women’s history and the heroines that have shaped our lives from Frida Kahlo to Maya Angelou.
IF YOU ARE HOPING TO CONNECT WITH YOUR DAUGHTER in meaningful ways; if you want your daughter to possess the skills and tools she will need for a safe, confident and connected journey into woman hood; if you believe that it is you, as her mother, alongside a community of other like-minded mothers and daughters, that can best offer her these skills and tools, if you want your daughter to intimately know the real-life heronins from which she comes; if you long to build and maintain a relationship with your daughter based on love and mutuality; then the Herione’s Club is for you. Whether you are envisioning an intimate gathering of just a couple of other mothers and daughters or are planning to bring the gift of the Heroines Club to your larger community, building and sustaining a successful Heroines Club requires some conscious planning. Here are the most important questions you will want to consider before your first circle ever meets.
WHO WILL LEAD? In the methodology of the Heroines Club, there are one or two dedicated facilitators planning and guiding the circle. However, if a group of mothers wants to share the responsibility, facilitation duties can be rotated among members, or shared in some other way, as long as everyone is committed. Being an effective facilitator is a skill and an art, and a role for which any woman is qualified, should she feel called. The responsibility of the facilitator is to: plan and prepare for the circle, create an environment where participants can flourish, and guide discussions to maintain focus and depth, while honouring both the flow of the group and the time boundaries.
WHO WILL BE INVITED? Time and again, it has been my experience that the people who are meant for this kind of work are the ones drawn to it, and each mother and daughter who chooses to participate is there for a reason. With this in mind, choosing whom to invite is an important consideration as the health and longevity of your circle is largely determined by the cohesion of the circle as a whole. Diversity of race, religion, socio-economic status, and so forth is desirable, as people with different backgrounds, skills, attitudes and experiences will bring fresh ideas and perceptions. What is essential is that despite those differences, all of the mothers are united in their vision for the circle. Of utmost importance is that the mothers share similar values and are in accordance about the purpose of the Heroines Club. It is easier to discuss issues—both logistical and philosophical— and to know what the Heroines Club journey will entail, when all mothers have the same information for their foundation. For this reason, each mother should read at least Part One of The Heroines Club before committing to joining the circle. Having this as a prerequisite for participation will ensure a good fit between mothers, while providing a strong base of shared knowledge and inspiration for those women who will be joining your circle.
WHAT WILL BE THE AGE-RANGE OF DAUGHTERS? The Heroines Club circles that I facilitate at The MotherDaughter Nest in Athens, Georgia are divided into two age groups, lovingly referred to as “Little Sisters” and “Big Sisters.” The Little Sisters circle is for girls age seven to ten and the Big Sisters circle is for girls age eleven to fourteen. Having a mixed age-range of a few years optimizes the educative potential for all, as the younger girls learn from the older girls, and the older girls have an opportunity to strengthen their leadership skills. Of course, the needs of mothers and daughters and the nature of the discussions evolve as girls grow and mature. Therefore, it is not recommended to have an age-range larger than a few years.
WHAT IS AN IDEAL CIRCLE SIZE? Since the Heroines Club explores personal issues and matters of the heart, a smaller, more intimate circle is best. From experience, I have found that a circle of three to five pairs (six to ten people) is just right. This number of participants is enough to stimulate discussion, but not so many as to intimidate quieter members, or compromise privacy or emotional safety.
WHAT WILL BE THE INVESTMENT FROM THE PARTICIPANTS? The Heroines Club is not a “for-profit” venture; instead we aim that each member feels her investment is met with equal return, so that all may benefit together. The investments required to implement a successful Heroines Club circle include: Time and energy: To plan for each monthly circle using the curriculum as your guide. To buy, gather, create, and prepare the needed supplies for each monthly circle. To prepare the space before, and to clean the space after, each monthly circle. To implement the curriculum and facilitate the circle through an empowering, bonding, and heart-opening experience. The total investment of time, energy, and financial costs associated with the Heroines Club should be factored into the overall exchange among members and explicitly agreed upon ahead of time. There are many creative ways to address the investment among participants. For the health and longevity of your circle, it is absolutely necessary to give this careful thought and to be clear on this from the beginning. An equitable approach is to divide that amount by the number of participants, and require each member to contribute a “supply fee” prior to beginning the circle, which the facilitator will use solely for the purchasing of supplies. In addition to the financial investment for supplies, the amount of time, energy, and attention the facilitator is offering the circle must be compensated in some way, so as not to create a situation that breeds exhaustion, burnout, or resentment. For the health of your circle, the facilitator should create healthy boundaries and expectations to ensure that she is not doing it all with little return. The facilitator needs to receive energy, in order to give of her energy fully without experiencing burnout. This can be accomplished by dividing tasks and responsibilities among mothers, charging a small additional fee to compensate the facilitator for her time and energy, or bartering with the facilitator in some fashion.
I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. For many of us, this will be challenging because it can feel incredibly uncomfortable to ask for money to do the things we are good at doing, want to do, or enjoy doing—especially if it involves close friends. There is no right or wrong way to address the investment among participants. Each circle will be unique, and what feels good and right for one, may not for another. I encourage you to practice sovereignty in deciding what feels good and fair for you and your circle. Finally, a truth I have learned is this: others will only value our time and energy if we demonstrate that we value our time and energy.
WHERE WILL YOUR CIRCLE GATHER? The container for your circle sets the tone for the experience. The meeting space should feel special, cozy, and safe. I recommend meeting in a private office space or in members’ homes. Above all, the space you choose should feel physically comfortable and allow for close connection, while protecting the circle from any outside intrusion or unnecessary distractions.
WHAT WILL BE THE FREQUENCY AND DURATION OF CIRCLE GATHERINGS? The Heroines Club curriculum is designed to be a once-a-month gathering, spanning over the course of one year. However, some circles may choose to take off the summer or holiday months to allow for travel and other plans. The duration of the circle, given all of its elements, can last anywhere from one and a half to two hours. It is crucial to the health of the circle that whatever time boundaries are decided on are consistently honoured. This means that circle members trust that circle will start on time and end on time. To ensure this happens, I recommend explicitly stating and agreeing with the mothers ahead of time that each circle will begin and end at the designated times. If a member arrives late to circle, they are invited to quietly enter and take their seats in the already in progress circle. Periodically throughout the circle, the facilitator will check the time to ensure that the rhythm and pace is on track, making adjustments as needed, to honour the agreed upon end time.
KEEPING YOUR CIRCLE HEALTHY AND STRONG Here are some common growing pains that your club may encounter, and by anticipating and communicating about them, your club will remain healthy, strong, and sustainable. I recommend the following measures to prevent circle deterioration and to maintain overall enthusiasm and goodwill.
MOTHERS-ONLY ORGANIZATIONAL AND INTENTIONSETTING CIRCLE Prior to your first Heroines Club circle, hold an organizational and intention-setting circle for the mothers. This will allow time for mothers to meet one another, discuss the expectations for circle participation, set and share intentions for what each mother hopes to gain from this experience with her daughter, and also have the opportunity to share anything they would like the circle to know about them or about their daughter. The initial mothers-only circle is extremely powerful and special. It generates excitement for the upcoming year, and establishes a bond between the mothers that will continue to strengthen with each circle.
PERIODIC “HEALTH OF THE CIRCLE” CHECK-INS Seasonally, either in person or online, the facilitator will hold space for any sharing and reflection regarding the health of the circle as a whole.
HOW ARE THE COMMITMENTS BEING HONOURED? How is the circle as a whole serving the members? Is there anything that needs to be addressed? Is there anything not working anymore? Even if things are running smoothly, this preventative measure will promote group cohesion and ensure continued vitality.
MAINTAINING CONNECTION BETWEEN CIRCLES One of the greatest benefits of the Heroines Club is the supportive community and loving relationships that are created among members. When you close your monthly circle with the benediction, the circle is open, but it is never broken: members will maintain a loving energetic connection with one another throughout the month. This connection can be supported by making contact with one another, either through social gatherings or online. The Heroines Club that I facilitate has a private online Facebook group where mothers can check-in with one another, share inspiration and seek support throughout the month. There are many creative ways that your circle can maintain connection between circle gatherings, and it is a worthwhile endeavour to cultivate this connection in ways that feel supportive to all.
WHEN SOMEONE LEAVES THE CIRCLE No matter how committed everyone is at the beginning, lives and circumstances change and sometimes even the most committed club will lose a mother-daughter pair along the way. The Heroines Club circle is co-created among all members: each mother-daughter pair brings something special to the circle that would not exist without their presence. Like a hanging mobile, when one part changes or is moved, the other pieces are also affected. When this happens, it is helpful to honour the change with a simple ritual to acknowledge the circle’s evolution and to lovingly release the departing mother and daughter from the circle. The bonds formed between circle members strengthen over the course of the year, and the understanding of how the circle “works” is learned together as the year progresses. Therefore, depending on when a membership change occurs, it may or may not feel appropriate to replace lost members. As with everything, let your heart and intuition be your guide.
DEALING WITH CONFLICT BETWEEN MEMBERS The Heroines Club is a very intimate experience, and there are no substantive human relationships that are completely devoid of conflict. In fact, conflict can be healthy as every person in our lives acts as a mirror for us, reflecting parts of ourselves back to us, and offering us an opportunity to grow. In her book, Calling the Circle, Christian Baldwin recommends considering the following questions if you find yourself feeling provoked or thinking negatively about another circle member: How have I been pulled off centre? What’s my body telling me? What’s my mind telling my body? Whose shadow work is this? And how do I own my piece with integrity? Who does this person remind me of? Am I seeing this situation through a filter of a past memory? Of judgment? Of fear? After considering these questions, if the matter remains an issue, open and honest communication among members may be needed. In my experience, the Heroines Club has had very little serious conflict, perhaps from luck or perhaps due to the personalities of the members that are drawn to this work. Regardless, if your circle experiences conflict, it is best to approach it in an authentic, heartcentred way, allowing each member to share their thoughts and feelings, while owning their experience and speaking from the “I” place.
HONOURING THE CIRCLE’S END At the end of the twelvemonth journey together, your Heroines Club circle will have shared a beautiful experience that will always be remembered and cherished. Just as you close circle each month with a ritual and benediction, you will mark and honour the circle’s completion in some special way to provide space for reflection and closure. There are many ways to accomplish a meaningful end. At the end of every year’s Heroines Club, I like to hold a pot-luck meal. During this shared meal, we discuss questions, such as, “Who was your favourite heroine we got to know? What will you always remember about the Heroines Club? What did you enjoy most? What are you grateful for about this experience with your mother/ daughter?” At the end of the meal, we do a sweet ritual called the Sacred Give-Away, that I learned from an elder in my community. Each participant brings a gift from their “world” that has been meaningful in some way and reflects the journey they have experienced in circle this year. This is not a gift that is bought, but rather something which you already have and feel it is time for another person to own. I have seen rocks, feathers, scarves, paintings, books, candles, jewellery, household items, decorations and even a telescope brought as a sacred gift. It is not the monetary value of the item that counts, but rather the intention behind the gift and what it represents. Have each person place their unwrapped gift on the centre altar and decide who will go first (we usually like to pick a number between one and twenty.) Whomever is chosen to go first then goes to the altar and chooses the gift that calls to them. They will say, “I believe this is my gift” and share why they chose it. They then ask, “Who brought me this gift?” At that point, the person who brought the gift will let themselves be known and tell the story of the object and what it represents to them. It is then the giver’s turn to receive a gift from the altar. And so it goes until all the gifts are given and each person has a special reminder of the magic that was made together that year.
READ The Heroines Club by Melia (£14.99 Womancraft Publishing)
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