YOUNG GUIDERS AROUND THE WORLD

CHILDLESS LEADERS

Last updated Februrary 1, 1998

Compiled by Jennifer Walker, Edmonton AB


I had a hard time coming up with a good name for this section, as there are many situations in which a leader does not have a daughter in their own troop/unit:

1) not ready to have children yet
2) unable to have children
3) decided not to have children
4) has children but only boys (my biggest fear! ;-) )
5) "My Daughter Dropped Out But I'm Not Leaving" -thanks to Gwen Corey for that title
6) daughter still involved, but just not in the same unit/troop for whatever reason

Obviously, not all leaders in this category are young (though young at heart!), but since the discussion arose out of a situation involving a Young Guider, I'm including these comments here. The issues affecting these Guiders often overlap with those affecting Young Guiders, so it's not a total misfit to include them here.

-Jennifer


24 Nov 1997
We too have few leaders in our service unit without daughters. And as I read your post I realized many times I too hear them introduced as leaders without scouts in the program - but you know - the only ones introduced that way are the younger leaders. Our service unit manager is a great one to be introduced that way - in some respects it not surprising.

Why do I think she is introduced that way? Well for one reason - she is extremely pretty and about 10-15yrs younger than the rest of us. She dresses very well and has all the confidence youth bestows on her. Sometimes just looking at her makes me feel very old. But do I respect her? You bet! She is a great service unit manager.

She also has something may people are leary of - she is committed to the program, not a specfic girl. Most of our leaders are there because they had to be or their daughters wouldn't be in a troop. Not that they aren't converts once they join the program but always their daughter is the reason, they move up the levels with their girls and start again with the n ext girl most times. Their commitment is to the girl not to the program. On the other hand you are obvisously committed to the program much like our su manager is. Sometimes that will scare people, othertimes it will just confuse them. Why? Gosh, I don't know, perhaps because American women (at least around here!) seem to run from thing to thing for the benefit of their husband, their kids, their pets, their parents but very rarely for their own self. To run into someone who commits themself for a cause they choose rather than as something done for someone else can be threatening.

--Ann Bilbrey


24 Nov 1997
It does seem that most leaders are people who have children in their troops, but there are leaders who don't. Neither I nor Sara do--we've both been in GS since we were Brownies. I had a longer hiatus from GS during and after college, but Sara got me back into it as her co-leader when we were in graduate school together. I've gently pointed out in both the councils I've been involved in that not all leaders have children, and for the most part people seem to be impressed with my dedication (which always seems misplaced to me). In my service unit there are several women who've been involved for years, who have outlasted their kids! They hold various positions in council and are a real resource for the rest of us. I share your frustration, though, with getting involved with a troop without having a daughter. My first leadership experience was in Michigan, when Sara invited me to work with her. When I moved to Indianapolis, my service unit (neighborhood assn.) had a troop who had no parent willing to lead, so they were happy to have me. But when that troop folded 3 years later, the service unit didn't seem to know what to do with me, and I spend a year and a half without a troop (even though I knew they were forming new troops and looking for leaders). This year, I called the field exec. for my area and inquired about moving to a different service unit; since I am in the Jewish Community Center often, I offered to see if I could work with a troop there. That helped get the SU attention, and now I"m having a good experience with a newly formed and large Cadette troop (we merged all the little Cadette troops in the neighborhood into one big troop--25 girls!).

My recommendation would be to go at things from different perspectives--see if you get get involved as a Council trainer, or see if there's someone in Council who organizes older girl activities and work with them, or see if you can work with a different neighborhood.

--Susan-Marie Harrington


24 Nov 1997
The woman whose brainchild was the "Coastal Rompers" (marine science) interest group was in such a situation (young, no children). In her home town, the local SU made it plain that she was not welcome as a troop leader. She has years of GS experience and was eager to volunteer. Calls were not returned; letters went unanswered.

One day, her letter was passed on to me. I looked at the date and nearly didn't call her myself. The post date was over 4 months old! I thought that lady is probably going to rant at me. Well, what took you so long!". But that was only 'probably' so I took a chance. Later she confided that my call made her whole week. She told her roommate, "Finally! I actually got a call from the Girl Scouts!" We met and she became my Cadette troop co-leader. Later she coordinated museum sleepovers, became a trainer for the council, and assistant day camp director, and so on... Well, you get the idea.

Bottom line is that there is almost NO means of identifying young women who might care to volunteer in GS. GSUSA gives lip service to the idea but the infrastructure (such as "Link") virtually does not exist at the local council or any other level that I know about.

A quick counterexample, though: a college student from an upstate NY council was able to establish contact right away with the local council - because she had earned her Gold Award, her council offered the service of writing letters of introduction to the council local to where Gold Award GS were going to school.

So here's a tip: if a young, childless, woman is transferring from one GG-GS jurisdiction to another, try getting your old council to write a letter of introduction/recommendation. A kind of GS Exec to GS Exec communication might be the answer.

--Neil Savage


24 Nov 1997
I have a daughter in Girl Scouting. And... yes, I began as her leader. Two years ago, we chose to take a break from one another. That didn't work exactly as planned. Tag....I was the assistant leader for two years. This year, she bridged to Cadettes. Mom, me ; ), stayed behind to lead the Juniors for a year. It's been good for both of us. Our meetings are at the same time and now we each have something to share with one another after the meetings. I am one who is committed to the program and that is not because I have a daughter.My daughter understands that should she choose to quit, *this* Mom is NOT quitting with her! I love do love me daughter... however, I also love Girl Scouting! To me.... there is room for EVERYONE! Others may be more near-sighted in that respect. They simply do not see the possibilities. Imagine... if we all worked together and not only for ourselves, our daughters, or our troop.... Girl Scouting would shine! Visibility would NOT be lacking. Wow! What a concept, eh?

From one who has been on the receiving side of negative comments, may I suggest that you never give up or quit something you enjoy because of others. Keep smiling and move forward.

--Gwen Corey


24 Nov 1997

I am really enjoying seeing all the messages posted from leaders without children since I am the only leader in my SU without kids in the troop or at all. I am an older 20-something with a seventh grade Cadette troop who started with the troop when they were first graders and I was a younger 20-something. I have always felt pretty welcome perhaps since I too spent lots of time in the SU as a girl before becoming a leader. Of course that has its own problems such as that "Mrs. X" has now become "Jane" when she still really seems like "Mrs. X" to me. Some people are surprised to find out I have no daughter in the troop but I think they just appreciate more that I am willing to give my time. I guess I should feel lucky that I have always been accepted and hope I always find it that way if I move out of my hometown. Of course with the WAGGGS-L list, I bet I could find someone to connect with right away just about anywhere I went!

--Sharon


24 Nov 1997
My first experience as a leader started when I was just 18 and a freshman in college. My best friend there had been an LIT in high school, and knew of a troop that needed leadership. I just remember how happy the parents and other leaders were to have me join them. I was from out of state and she commuted, so it helped keep me busy by visiting her hometown and having dinner with her family on troop meeting days. We still keep in touch although 2,800 miles and almost 30 years are between us now.

I was also a leader with my daughters. However, my youngest daughter didn't want me to be her leader any more (she was in the 8th grade), so she agreed to help me with a younger troop when we relocated. I led a Junior troop for 2 years and often was asked by a new parent- "which one is your daughter?" When I replied that none of them were- I got some strange looks; (she must be crazy to do this!)

As I have always done when I relocate- I called the new council in advance of the move to 'warn' them of my arrival! I am also a council trainer, so that has helped get my foot in the door- but oh, has it been tough.

My experiences have made me very conscious of trying to place those who are committed to the program regardless of their having a daughter in a troop or not. When working as a field assistant or a volunteer membership recruiter, I have always tried to link 'non-traditional' volunteers. I call these experienced Scouts- *gifts*. Service units don't know how lucky they are to receive them!

We should all keep in mind that the founder of Girl Scouting in the USA (Juliette Gordon Low) didn't have any daughters either. Would we all be here today if she had met with the same coolness that many of us have expereienced? Thank goodness she didn't back down!!! Perhaps we need to be reminded of her resolve in those down times. She certainly faced opposition to her cause when getting the organization off the ground here in the United States.

--Terri Tock


25 Nov 1997
Actually, I don't think J. Low would have noticed if she got a cool reception. She would have just plowed her way through anyway!

When my daughter was in kindergarten I agreed to drive for an all day field trip to Sea World. My daughter wanted to go with a group that her teacher was escorting, so I said 'fine'. I got a different group to escort and when one of the fathers going found out I was spending the day at Sea World without my daughter he doubled over laughing. Thought that was the funniest thing he ever heard.

Many of us have had to make the decision about continuing in GSs if our kids didn't. Many chose to stay with it. My daughter managed to get to her Senior year in GSs, but now that she is in college, I continue on. And am beginning to do my best work now, I might add...

At this stage we know what's what and who's who, so that does make life simpler. The movement is what motivates a lot of us and having a child in the organization is usually our first intro, but if someone comes to offer help with open arms we are nuts to not pull them into the circle. I am preaching to the choir here, though.

--Clare Zimmermann


25 Nov 1997
I became a leader when I was 24. I wasn't sure what I was doing those first few years, but I had good co-leaders and I learned. I've been a leader for 13 years now and have been a leader at every level except Daisys and have also been on our Service Team for several years. My two year old daughter (only child) won't be a Daisy for 3 more years, so I will have been a leader for over 15 years before I ever have a daughter in Girl Scouting! Our Service Unit has been in desperate need of leaders this year, and I would love to have a dozen "non-parent leaders" show up at my door because I'd sign them up in a minute! What I have found in our service unit is that leaders who are parents are extremely busy and Girl Scout activities are often hard to fit in to busy schedules. I was much more ready and able to volunteer to help out with events and extra activities when I wasn't a parent! So, I think anyone out there who thinks non-parents shouldn't be leaders needs to re-evaluate!!

--Sarah Wilson - Senior Leader, Registrar, Contact Person, Troop Organizer
Keene, New Hampshire Swift Water Girl Scout Council


25 Nov 1997
Subject: D I N K S --- Did that get your attention?

That explains my situation. Double Income No Kids. I too started Brownies here in Australia at age 8 and continued on. I left Guides at 14 but was too young to be a leader, but my kind Brownie Leader, knowing how eager I was, said I could come and help them out.

At age 17 I had a year off, but went back the next year and became a Guide leader (10-14 years). I was married at 22, and left the unit I was with because we were moving to a new area. Something was calling me back to Guides, and I was talking to the girl next door one day and asked if they had two leaders. Next thing I know I was on the door step of the hall.

Ten years later I am still there and still no children. Sometimes I am really grateful for being a leader because I have so many children. The worst part is that I probably have "grandchildren" now at age 33.

One night at Brownies one of my girls asked me if I had any children. When I said "no", she said, "Yes, you have. You have us."  Times like that make me realize why I am still a leader.

--Sue Callaghan, Australia


4 Dec 1997
I also have no children. Some people you meet really don't say the right thing to us childless women.Girl Scouting really helped me through my feelings of being childless a lot. It sometimes hurts but it is a good feeling to know others are experiencing the same feelings. Maybe we should start our own support group via email, or write a book. "Childless Leaders - What Girl Scouting Did For Us" - - Just Joking!!! :) :)

--Roslyn


4 Dec 1997
I don't qualify as childless, as I have two of the BEST daughters anyone could ask for, but they are both in high school. I lead troops of Brownies and Juniors. My daughters have never been in a troop I've been a leader of. I am occasionally asked which girl is mine - I say simply "all of them!" It seems I am always talking about "my girls" at work, and sometimes friends that know I'm involved with GS ask "which girls?", my two daughters or my 48 Girl Scouts. Others hear me talking about my girls (meaning Scouts) and wonder how many children I have. This is always good for a laugh. I tell them there are 48 but only 35 could attend whatever..... The expression on their faces is worth a pot of gold.

--Mike Baird


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