Tuesday was a good day. It fact, it was an amazing, extraordinary day. I could feel energy and connection in the room. And you know what else? SUPPORT.
I have long been a proponent of moms feeling empowered to make the decisions that are right for their own families without fear of criticism or judgement. This particular afternoon at the Strong Moms Empowerment Summit, sponsored by Similac in New York City gave me an official opportunity to add my voice to the conversation. I joined the Advisory Board for the Strong Moms Program for a few reasons:
- I have been on the receiving end of ‘mothering’ judgement: I originally chose to stay home with my children. Now, I am a working mother. I travel for work. My kids attend a private school. I share photos of my family online (this drew an extreme amount of criticism after one of our family photos was stolen in 2009 and used in a billboard advertisement). I allowed my daughter to start a blog and both of my small people have iPod touches. I both breastfed and bottle-fed my children, earning me the benefit of opinions on both fronts. Both of my children are very active in sports – some would say – and have said, too active. And these are just a few of the ‘most critiqued’.
- I have witnessed mothers tearing each other apart on everything from discipline to eating habits to homeschooling, both in person and online. (I suspect you have as well) And there is a survey and more that discusses how this effects us.
- And, as important as the previous two, I have found myself judging another’s choices – whether it is a mom losing patience with a young child at the grocery store (I’ve done it too), food choices (you’re going to let them eat THAT? (thought, though never said)), an unsupervised child on the playground or a list of many others. Many of my mental critiques happened before I had experienced a particular parenting challenge. For example…. I was, in fact, surprised to find, that my son was more ‘rough- and-tumble’ on the playground than my daughter. And yes, he occasionally knocked smaller children over – leaving me as the parent of ‘that boy’, frequently chasing after him, forcing him to apologize and echoing that apology. When I was the mother of one sweet little girl, I couldn’t understand the mothers that weren’t controlling their strong, tough boys. Little did I know.
Whatever category you find fits you best…. I know this above all, it needs to stop.
With me at the Strong Moms Summit this week, extraordinary women: parenting expert Michele Borba Ed.D, pediatrician and The Kids Doctor, Sue Hubbard, MD, President of The Kid’s Doctor Media and an entertainment veteran – Dina Conte Schulz, media personalities Denise Albert and Melissa Musen Gerstein from The Moms, someone I have known from quite some time, blogger at The Chatty Momma – Tonia Sanders, and special guest three-time Olympic Gold Medalist in beach volleyball and mother of three, Kerri Walsh.
Though we all have varied backgrounds, parenting styles and opinions on raising our children, we have one common goal – that moms recognize that they are truly ‘enough’. Additionally we must trust our instincts and remember that we, and we alone, are the only ones who truly know what is best for our children and families.
At one point during the afternoon, Dr. Borba told the audience that one in three women consciously make parenting decisions to avoid criticisms from other mothers. Think about that for a moment… our self esteem and confidence is so affected by the opinions of others, we are often willing to go against our very own instincts when it comes to how we parent our children. That hurts my heart.
Dr. Hubbard addressed how the increased stress a mother feels from all of this pressure to conform can negatively impact the health and well-being of her children. It can manifest in the form of behavior problems, self-esteem issues, mental and physical health and cognitive and social functioning. She said, when parents are stressed or worried, nearly half of tweens and nearly one third of teens confess to feeling ‘sad’. Again, my heart.
So, what is the solution?
Support. Support. And More Support. Faith in each other. Respect. We broke it down into some ABC’s
- A – Accept and Support – Respect each other’s decisions, both on and offline.
- B – Be Confident – YOU know what is best for you and your family
- C- Community – Identify a small circle of trusted friends you can go to for support
And, friends? When all else fails? Bite your tongue. And worry about yourself.
The beauty of this afternoon – it was just the beginning of the conversation. As I looked around the room, I could see and feel women sitting up straighter, considering the moments when they had felt judged, questioned their own parenting decisions or even possibly questioned another’s.
If we simply take a few moments to consider how little we truly know about someone else’s circumstances, and how much stronger we are as a community of mothers when we remember what we are each doing is extraordinary, I think we can empower each other to make the decisions that are right for our individual families.
What do you think?
Fabulous Photo Credits to Diane Bondareff/Invision
Disclosure: As mentioned in this post above, I am a proud member of the Strong Moms Advisory Board. This program is sponsored by Similac. As is true for everything I do and everything I share on this site, all thought and opinions are mine.