Call her the kinder, gentler Tiger Mom, offering advice based on years of talking with mothers and being one herself. Meg Meeker is physician practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine, mom of four, and author of The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity. She talks with NRO’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the joys of family life that’s simpler, grounded, and saner than the world frequently dictates.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: You wrote this book because if momma ain’t happy, no one is, right?
Meg Meeker: Yes! After 25 years taking care of kids, I have realized one very important truth: One of the best things that I can do to help kids is to help their parents. If mothers live on an even keel, life at home is much more stable for everyone in the home. In most families, mothers set the tone of the home. If Mom is stressed, everyone feels it. Dads can feel stressed, but often mothers serve as a buffer for other family members.
Lopez: Someone is looking at this Q&A and thinking: “I’m a busy mother with NO TIME TO READ THIS INTERVIEW NEVER MIND YOUR BOOK. What do you want out of me besides my Amazon purchase? How exactly do you suggest I find time to take all your advice?
Meeker: The reason that you have no time to read, spend a few moments relaxing, or play Monopoly with your kids is that your life is out of control. You, like many mothers in America spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of things that you don’t need to do. We mothers succumb to more peer pressure than our kids do. We over-schedule ourselves and our kids — making us all crazy — because we feel that’s what successful mothers do! Where does that thought come from? The subculture of mothers around us. We have jumped aboard the hyper-performance train where each of us feels that we need to raise stellar kids, perform as outstanding mothers (be home-room Mom, bake cookies from scratch), advance in our careers, and — of course — hit the gym four times per week for 45 minutes to battle that last ten pounds. The course we are on is unsustainable and we are stressed to the max.
Lopez: If you believe we overschedule ourselves, you’re not a Tiger Mom, are you?
Meeker: My biggest problem with Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the focus on producing high-performance kids rather than kids who are solid and good citizens, loved by parents who can accept them as they are. Though I do accept her observation that we wrongly parent our kids as though they are fragile, not strong.
Lopez: How are there fundamental truths about mothers? Aren’t we all different? How can you pretend to have a blueprint for motherhood?
Meeker: The Ten Habits of Happy Mothers isn’t a book on how to be a better mother — it is a book about how to reclaim our joy in being moms. It is meant to make mothers of differing socioeconomic backgrounds, marital status, and employment situations take a big breath, stand back, and ask ourselves why we do what we do. It operates on the belief that many of us need to take a keen look at our priorities and ask ourselves some hard questions like: Are we living the life that we want to live or are we living one that we don’t like but feel pressured to live?
The “habits”: To spend more time in solitude, simplify our out-of-control lives, pay attention to our faith, stop competing with other mothers, etc., are habits which are applicable to all moms. Fundamentally, our struggles have many common threads. We all struggle with wanting to push our kids and ourselves and the recommendations address the felt needs which are common to all mothers.
Lopez: How did you narrow your habits down to ten?
Meeker: I chose these ten because I wanted to sift out the habits which are most important to changing the deeper current of our lives. These ten exhort mothers to pay less attention to the superficial aspects of life and focus on the deeper issues. At first glance, they appear simplistic, but the truth is, the hardest and most rewarding changes we make are the most simple, i.e., to love our kids better.