Lopez: How can parents “get it right”? Is there a template?
Meeker: No — there is no template for parenting, but again this isn’t a parenting book per se. It is a book to help any mother reclaim her sense of passion and purpose in life — to live in her sweet spot. Can every mother come to understand her true value as a mother? Yes. Can every mother trust her instincts more and pay less attention to what other mothers are doing? Yes. Does it benefit every mother to cut stuff out of her schedule and her kids’ schedules in order to enjoy time with her kids more? Yes.
Lopez: How tiring are the “mommy wars” headlines? How harmful?
Meeker: The “mommy wars” headlines are very harmful to mothers for two big reasons. First, the attention that we give them pits mothers against one another and thus undermines our ability to have meaningful friendships with other mothers. And we need friendships with women in order to stay sane. Second, the “mommy wars” serve to devalue the role of mothers of all types — whether employed outside the home or not. Competition between moms is a real problem and focusing on it only heightens the tension. We must stop competing with one another because when we do, we all lose.
Lopez: Is there a mother’s recipe for successfully raising a daughter?
Meeker: Yes — show her how to love her life. The best way to raise a daughter who values herself, realizes her strengths, and has the courage to act on them to better the world around her is to do all of this ourselves and let our daughters watch. The most powerful way to teach a daughter how to enjoy life and find her true purpose is to let her see her mother do the same.
Lopez: Why solitude now and again might be important seems obvious. But how is that doable in the busy life of a mother?
Meeker: Mothers need moments of solitude so that we can hear ourselves think, figure out what we really want out of life, and most importantly to learn to like our own company. Many mothers with young children have very little time for solitude, but there are simple ways to start. They can steal a few minutes while kids are napping, wake up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to start the day with quiet, prayer, or meditation. Mothers who do this consistently say that starting their day this way makes the day much smoother. Working mothers can opt to stay alone in their offices at lunch time, turn off the computer, Blackberry, or iPod, and enjoy even 20 minutes of quiet. Spending time in solitude means shutting off all outside noise and allowing our minds to settle. The old adage that “we find time to do what we really want to do” is true when it comes to solitude.
Lopez: Why are friendships with other women essential? Aren’t a husband, kids, and family more than enough?
Meeker: Women need women friends so that we can decrease our expectations of our husbands and kids. This always improves those relationships. All too often mothers expect too much from spouses because we don’t take time for friends and this can kill a good marriage. For instance, many mothers expect husbands to listen to their problems and comfort them routinely. The truth is, women friends listen very differently than men do. Women offer women things which husbands and kids can’t — understanding, comfort, and often physical help. This doesn’t demean what husbands give us. In fact, good women friendships can serve to strengthen marriages by providing a sort of release valve.
Lopez: Overcoming fears is one or your recommended habits. Isn’t that just solid advice for anyone?
Meeker: Of course, it’s good for everyone to confront her fears, but I am speaking very specifically of the fears we mothers harbor (subconsciously) which drive much of our parenting. For instance, we sign our kids up for too many activities because we “fear” feeling like a failure if we don’t provide every opportunity for our kids. Many mothers drive ourselves to work compulsively because we “fear” that we will feel like failures at work.
I strongly believe that we mothers should never live our lives out of fear and we should most certainly never parent out of fear. In my chapter on fear, I address the specific fears that most mothers face which, I believe, are sapping us of energy and joy.
Lopez: Is trust somehow especially hard for mothers?
Meeker: Yes. Trust is hard for mothers because when we love someone, we want to be in charge of their lives. We want to be the protectors, the comforters, the providers, and we don’t want to abdicate any part of our roles to anyone else.