Lopez: How does one decide to hope? I thought that meant to vote for Barack Obama.
Meeker: A lot of hope he has brought us.
Having hope is extremely important because when we are stressed, we focus only on the present and the past, and we fail to look forward. Hope forces us to look forward with a positive attitude. Hope also causes us to question what we put our hope in and this challenge prompts us to dig deeper and ask ourselves serious questions. For instance, if we choose to look forward with positivity, can we trust that someone or something greater than ourselves is at work guiding and helping us? These are extremely important questions that we think about but are never pushed to answer. Choosing to live with an attitude of hope forces us to answer these deep questions: Can we put our hope in God? If so, are we sure that He exists, and if we decide that He does, is He good? These questions are foundational to our core values.
Lopez: Another impossible one seems to be your mandate to live simply. School. Lessons. Homework. Birthday parties. Never mind the unavoidable and routine and mundane errands. Who has time to live simply?
Meeker: Those mothers who have no time to look at how to simplify their lives are in the greatest need of doing so. The best thing that we can give our kids is time with us. They need card games with us more than they do more ballet lessons. Teen boys need to wash their cars with their fathers more than they need another video game or football practice. Our kids need to live life beside us and they are drifting further away because of the glut of electronics in their lives. They need face-to-face time with us, not more texts. They need more touch from us and they need to be in the same room with us as we work out our disagreements so they can learn to solve problems.
We need to be bold in cutting activities from our kids’ schedules. Whether it’s hockey practice, flute lessons, or tutoring, we need to realize that kids simply aren’t getting enough time with us. And time with us is very important because sound identity formation in kids comes from being with parents, discovering what we think about them and expect from them, and then internalizing what they glean. If we don’t simplify their lives and ours in order to open up more time for our kids, the results from kids can be poor identity formation. The bottom line is that if our kids don’t find their identity by spending time with us, they will find it elsewhere — and those other places are usually very dangerous (gangs, forming a new “family of their own,” etc.)
Lopez: As a pediatrician, what do you believe you uniquely bring to the table: to the “how to” shelf, perhaps, as well as public-policy discussions?
Meeker: As a pediatrician, I have listened to literally thousands of parents over my 25 years of practice. And when parents come to me, the conversations we have are deep because parents are worried, anxious, and in need of help. I am privileged to talk with mothers and fathers on a very intimate and confidential level because they are vulnerable and often scared. In short, I see a very “real” side of life. I know what depression looks like, what fear looks like in the eyes of a pregnant teen, and how grief distorts the face of a parent when his child is dying.
Since I believe that my work is my calling in life, if you will, I take it seriously and put my heart and soul into it.
Lopez: Can a mother be happy without a husband?
Meeker: I would never tell any group of individuals that they can’t be happy because clearly happiness is something that we choose. Mothers who have good marriages live with far less stress because they enjoy physical and emotional help. Single mothers contend with some extremely difficult challenges — particularly when their kids hit the teen years. In my experience, single mothers suffer from anxiety and depression much more frequently than married mothers.
Lopez: You’ve written a book on fathers and daughters and a book on boys. What have you learned from your readers?
Meeker: I have learned that many men feel sabotaged by our culture. They are depicted by the media as saps and fools, in desperate need of correction by their 13-year-olds, and this bothers them terribly. I have learned that teens (particularly boys) don’t feel that we adults respect them as thinking, feeling, capable young men, and that mothers feel very stressed. In fact, one mother told me that I should have titled this new book Mother Never Good Enough.