Our youngest daughter is leaving tomorrow to go back to the town where she attends college and is a sorority member.  She has been home for only 5 weeks, kind of an interim between when her semester ended, she went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic with her school and going on vacation with us.  This morning I am feeling a little sad..okay a whole lot sad.  I will miss her A LOT!!!  We have a great mother-daughter relationship!  I will miss just hanging out, our frozen yogurt runs, watching “Bun Heads” and “The Bachelorette”, shopping and just chatting about anything and everything.

Yesterday I was chatting with a mom about her daughter going through recruitment.  It’s that time of year when nerves and emotions are being to run high.  This dear, sweet mother made the comment that the reason she wanted her daughter to join a sorority is so that her daughter would have a “ready made” social group of friends.  She commented that then the daughter “would never be alone” and “would always have someone to hang out with”.  As we continued the conversation it became apparent that his mother saw the sorority as simply a “friend base” for her daughter.  She was very concerned that the daughter have a “social group” not a sisterhood.  In addition she felt that then she “the mother” wouldn’t have to worry about the daughter being “okay” at school because she had “all of those sorority girls” to take care of her.

So….we had to have a little “talk”.  I needed her to know that just because her daughter pledged a sorority did not mean that she was guaranteed a continuous group of girls who would be there to hold her hand through every stressful and difficult situation. In addition pledging did not alleviate the Mother’s role in “mothering” her daughter while she was away at school. In this mom’s defense she had not pledged in college and so her perceptions of sorority life were drawn on what she had seen on TV, read about in magazines and books and what she had learned by talking with her friends who had been sorority women or had daughters who were.

Yes…joining a sorority give a girl the opportunity to have a HUGE friend base.  With houses as large as 250 girls or more a pledge will have many. many girls with who she can connect and become friends with.  In addition each sorority has in place a “mentoring” system so to speak where a pledge is given an older girl (usually a Bid Day Buddy followed by a Big Sis) to help her navigate through that first year of sorority life.

BUT……..sorority life isn’t just about friends 24/7.  There are so many more components to being a “sorority girl”.  And Mammas….this is where you come in :).

First of all there is the process of going through recruitment.  Stressful..yes!!!!  Even what I would consider non-competitive recruitment carry some degree of stress.  In a short period of time a young woman must make a decision that will bind her to a sisiterhood for LIFE.  It’s stressful.  At the same time she is dealing with being away from the comforts of home, her routine and her support system.

So what can you do?  Starting now is a great time to begin to put a system of organization in place to help your daughter during these stressful times.  We made a HUGE list of everything we thought my daughter could possibly need for just the recruitment process (am planning on blogging on this tomorrow 🙂 ).  We labeled everything by the event it was used for as well as the day of recruitment she would need it.  In addition we used a color coed system, so at a glance she could grab the colors for that day.  We also had two options for each day, just in case she wasn’t “in the mood” for the first choice.

We set up a system of communication.  I DID NOT want to be “the mother” who called her daughter 24/7 but did want to be there for support.  We agreed that she would text me if she was wanting a call and that we would talk in the morning and at night.  Kind of a “get it going” pep talk in the morning and a “decompressing” talk at night.  I also let her now that it was totally okay if she wanted to cancel a talk because she was busy with friends.

I have always believed that you raise your children to spread their wings a fly and when they are ready they will.  I wanted her to fly but also know that I was her safety net and would be there if she needed me.

When recruitment was over I KNEW that a different type of stress would occur.  There was the stress of being a pledge.  As I shared with my mom friend sorority life just isn’t Swaps and parties.  During pledgeship there are many “required” activities and meetings. As it turned out my daughter had a “required” activity EVERY NIGHT of the week.  Her sorority also asked their pledges to sign up for “AT LEAST” 2 clubs on campus that were not “GREEK” related.  All of a sudden my daughter had class every day, meetings at night, homework and extra club activities as well as the “sorority social life”.

My suggestion is to inquire as to the “schedule” for pledges before your daughter gets to school .  We had bought a large calendar (Pottery Barn) and again color coded it my subject and activity.  It was wipe on, wipe off so my daughter could change it if a meeting time was moved or an assignment delayed.  At a glance she could tell what her days “looked” like and how busy she would be.  I have to tell you this system only works if your daughter is dedicated to filling it out.  I have to admit that as the semester went on and my daughter so busy and overwhelmed the calendar system went by the wayside!

After rambling on and on the point I wanted to make is that as a parent it’s helpful to get your daughter to make some sort of attempt at an organizational system.  Friends can’t do this…sisters can’t do this…mammas can do this 🙂 !!

There will be DRAMA….with 250 girls it’s inevitable.  You will get phone calls that are a rant about sister so and so made moves on sister so and so’s boyfriend.  Or that there are girls who are not doing their study hall hours and are not getting fined and your daughter missed two and did get fined.  For girls who had a large friend base in high school this is just a continuation but for girls who perhaps didn’t have that experience this can be emotional and yep…stressful.  You can’t just tell your daughter what to do to weather these situations but you as a mamma can be there to LISTEN and encourage her to explore ways to solve these problems.

Next comes what I call “The art of inspiration”.  As a parent it is our job to “inspire” our daughters to grow as young women and individuals.  I think being a member of a sorority is an excellent base for this process.  Once the organizational system is in place encourage your daughter to become “involved” in some aspect of her sorority.  I can be BIG like being Pledge Class President (PCP) or small like helping send out the weekly devotional or asking to help an older girl with Philanthropy.  Trust me from experience if your daughter does not make a connection and become involved there is a real chance that she may find this experience disappointing.  Remember it’s not all socially based!

Finally….there’s a quote I love that says ..”A mother understands what a child does not say”….listen to your daughters with your heart….allow them to grow and fly but be their safety net.  And most importantly remember that joining a sorority is not a free ticket for a group of friends and a social life but an opportunity to grow as a person and a young woman.