A mom posted on Facebook that she was looking for a Catholic church with a cry room, and it got me thinking Between my three kids, I have put in some serious time in the "cry room" when they were little. Even now, I realize that if I was watching a live concert, I might need to be in the cry room because if I shush my kids too harshly, they might cry, and we would all be happier if we could just hang out in the cry room. What's a cry room? For those of you who don't attend church or have to deal with babies in public, a cry room is a little room in the back of the church where you go when your baby is crying. When you're in there, you can make all the noise you want and you can hear the sermon, but other people can't hear you. The mom that was asking about the cry room had a good point. She wants to take her children to church but also wants her baby to be a baby. I totally get that and understand where she is coming from. Looking back, I am amazed at how much the experience of being a breastfeeding mom in church has disrupted my religious life and shaped it. I'm not sure that I can fully express my feelings on the issue in this brief email. As a background note, I am not a naturally well-behaved individual, but I have been taught to avoid drawing too much attention to myself in church. (Unless you're playing the trumpet... in that case, be loud... as long as you sound good.) Meanwhile, mothers with babies get a lot of attention and can be put on a pedestal in ways that I cannot fully comprehend. But they can also get a lot of negative attention if they can't get their kids to behave. So. Nothing will fully prepare you for the moment when you're in church and your baby starts crying and you want to attend the service and participate and worship but the only thing that will make your baby stop crying is to breastfeed them. And that will require you to have a boob out in church and no, they will not do it if there is a cover. I don't know what other people are thinking, but I can see the entire congregation shift their eyes towards me, and I have never felt such intense levels of self-consciousness. And that is how I wound up spending the next ten years "going to church" ... but not really I was hanging out in the hallway, or outside, or the cry room and not hearing anything but just playing with the baby the whole time. And why do I feel ashamed, like I have to be hiding? And why do I feel like I am not a part of the congregation, like my religious life is on hold? Really, when you think about it, this moment when I'm not even paying attention to the real service may have been the most important part of my religious life. I mean, how many diapers do you suppose Mary changed while Jesus was a baby? Now, I have never been hired by a church to do marketing (But guess what? If I did, I would be very loyal to that church because it would make me feel valued as a person) but here are my two cents... If you want people to keep coming to church, take better care of the mothers. Go above and beyond. Spend money on the nursery. Buy new books for kids for the cry room, not just books that are old and falling part. And rotate them. Put some snacks and water in there. Bring the bread and wine a little closer to the cry room. Don't make the moms feel like they have to hide in that room. Acknowledge them and let them know that even if it seems like they are being "distracted", they are still on a worthwhile spiritual path. Otherwise, they will leave and take their babies with them. Having a sense of humor goes a long way too.
I remember one time when I was going up for communion and carrying my sweet child up the middle aisle. She was really making a fuss and drawing so much attention to me by crying and trying to get out of my arms. And I felt really self-conscious about it. Just when we were almost there, she accidentally head butted me on the mouth so hard that I tasted blood and felt my lip swell. I was going to cry in front of everyone.
The priest held up the host and took a moment to crack a joke: "You need two of these?" LOL. His joke made me laugh, distracted me from my frustration and I felt seen in my moment of struggle.
Anyway, whether it's a church or a business, the act of paying attention to people's needs and being considerate may be the most powerful form of "marketing" that you can do.
I encourage you to give your business a thorough examination and find three ways that you can be more accommodating to mothers or other customers that may need help in some way.
Tell me what ideas you come up with!