Musing on 16 Years of Volunteering with Visiting Moms
Posted by Daphne Petri
I read the names of the 37 new parents and their babies whose lives have touched me in the Lauren & Mark Rubin Visiting Moms® program over the past 16 years. I visited them for 3-10 months in the first months of their parenthood. They were young women and men taking on the lifetime responsibility for their child, for another human being.
They let me in because the first steps on this journey as a new parent are often not easy. They each brought and bring their own particular challenges and their common path. Each brought the courage to have a child and get up each morning and care-take a new human being, their child. Each brought a commitment to do and feel better. Each was willing to let another person, a mother, walk with them on their journey from the intimacy of their own home. Each found their own way to say thank you. Each taught me something about myself and about parenting; its joys and challenges. I learned to listen deeper and more honestly by meeting them where they were without the intent to change them. And with each new parent, I saw and believed in the power that lives in all people to be whole and healthy.
And so it is to them that I offer my gratitude today, 16 years since my first meeting with the first new mom and her daughter. They have all given me the gift of trust and I have given them my honesty, my patience, my humor and humanity, and my steadfast belief that they would find their footing and become the parent they wish to be.
There was a story I told many new parents. This parenting job is a job they would not likely apply for. No strict set of guidelines, a client who can only minimally communicate, no clear way of knowing what to expect in the weeks and months ahead, no way of planning their day as some days stretch into working through the night while others are quiet and sleepy, many separate references and consultants who try to influence and judge their work, and no quick way of knowing if you have done the ‘right’ thing. On top of all that, for many the hard part was how to find the love for their new baby that they thought would be built in to the job from the get go. And yet people keep giving birth and becoming parents even as it’s not always easy.
It was my mother in law, Judith Schwartz, who inspired me to give back to others what she had given me. I learned from her the comfort and power of listening, encouraging, not judging, and, above all, trusting that human strength and compassion would guide the process, mine and the new parent’s together. And it was Judith who helped me see that I loved my own newborn children beyond my sweetest dreams. She helped me to notice the big and little miracles that were unfolding every day in their lives, in my life, and between us. To her I owe a deep gratitude.
And I also owe a huge gratitude to my guides in this work: Terri, Peggy, and Debbie of JF&CS. In different ways you each have helped me grow as the program grew. You have been firm and loving hands on the tiller. This work is important. Your leadership will carry it on. And your friendship and guidance will shine in my life forever and forward.
Daphne shared her story for the 2014 JF&CS Women's Breakfast. Learn more and join us for this year's Women's Breakfast.
Daphne Petri thrives on an active life of fun and service at home and abroad with her husband, two grown daughters, extended family, friends, and colleagues devoted to the healthy development of children and girls in Rwanda and Massachusetts. Her life has been enthusiastically divided between enjoying a long term relationship and adventures with her husband, nurturing and supporting her daughters in San Francisco and developing her professional and personal commitment to a career in architecture and her community at home and far away.
She began work on the Maranyundo Girls School in 2009 and has been on the Maranyundo Initiative Board since 2011 and Chair since 2013. She is also the principal of Daphne Petri Architects and serves on the Board of Directors of Gardens for Health International and on the National Advisory Board for the Union of Concerned Scientists. She is on the JF&CS Center for Early Relationship Support Advisory Committee and was a longtime Volunteer with the Visiting Moms program.