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Does Motherhood Make You Stupid?

2. Improving Communication

The best workplaces are those where there is open communication and where information flows freely. When people feel heard and valued for their ideas, production goes up and the bottom line gets bigger. Mindful moms can use the trenches of motherhood to strengthen their communications skills with their kids and be better prepared to use them at the office as well.

Remember to listen more than you talk. You already know what YOU think. The idea is to learn what YOUR CHILD thinks. Don’t pre-judge a situation and don’t draw conclusions or give advice until you’ve asked a lot of questions, explored the situation from every angle and believe you fully understand the perspective of your child. Only then will your child respect and accept what you have to say.

I can illustrate by telling you a story of my own. One night about midnight some years ago, my teenage daughter called me from a friend’s house to ask if she could spend the night. I asked, I probed, I listened, and what I learned was that she was the only girl there—along with five other guys. I had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from blurting out how ridiculous her request was, but instead, we went back and forth respectfully until she felt heard. When I finally said, “I’m sorry, but the answer is no,” she complied and was home in ten minutes. That night we proved to each other that we could talk about differences without agreeing and even build our bond of relationship in the process. And I learned that listening to and respecting someone else’s point of view is a skill that works as well outside the home as within it.

2. Empowering others

One of the most important qualities of a good leader is to see potential in her employees or team members. A successful career woman told me once that she often says, “Gee, this person has strengths in a particular area and she doesn’t even know it. Maybe if I push her a little, she’ll see it and grow into it.” Mindful moms can maximize their natural skill of empowering on the home front by encouraging their kids to think for themselves and work independently and by inspiring them to be their best.

Helicopter parents hover over their kids, controlling them to make sure they don’t fail or make mistakes. The message to kids is that their parents don’t trust them to make wise choices, to take care of themselves or to be responsible. And kids respond by living out those parental expectations. But if parents are purposeful in noticing and affirming the talents, skills and positive traits in their kids, it motivates them to reach for the stars.

Here are some tips for letting go of your kids in age appropriate ways that make them feel empowered and build their self-esteem. When they’re very young, give them two choices, both of which would be okay. Would they like to go to the pool or the park? Before their nap, would they like to color or read a book? When they get slightly older, let them choose what clothes they will wear or which vegetable they want for dinner. As pre-teens, allow them to decorate their rooms—within reason. And as teenagers, talk with them about all the issues and then let them make their own decisions whenever possible. Will they get into trouble and make stupid mistakes? Sure. All kids do. But the idea is to discuss the goal and then let them find their own way to get there. This is a skill that good leaders use every day.

When working moms enhance their skills at home, they’re also more effective at work. So when moms leave work to have a baby, they need to proudly assert, “I’m going to take time to advance my leadership skills and come back better than I was before.” And when they return, they can confidently list the leadership skills they’ve learned and have been practicing on their children. For example, I’ve been parenting for five years and I’ve intentionally used my time at home to be pro-active. The experience has sharpened, not dulled my leadership skills, which are both powerful and valuable. Here’s what they are: I am an expert in multi-tasking—I know when to juggle and when to focus; I’ve learned to prioritize so that I know how to separate the urgent from the important; I’ve gained expertise in decision-making that works for everyone involved in that decision. I am very good at treating people with respect and dignity and to motivate and empower them to do more than they believe they can do. I am able to deal with conflict and to help people settle their own differences when possible. I’m a good listener and appreciate the value of open communication where people feel safe to share sensitive information. I’m a doer, and at the end of the day, I accomplish what needed to be done. I engender trust; I am very good at dealing with chaos and at going with the flow when plans change; and I’ve created a mission statement and goals for a group of people to move into the future in harmony and cooperation.

Think how different this sounds than the old fashioned statement we’ve heard so often, “I’m just a mom.”

It’s time for working moms to feel proud of our accomplishments. Parenting is not a gap in our resumes. It’s the most effective training we could get in leadership skills.

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Joanne Stern

Joanne Stern, PhD, is a psychotherapist with a private practice emphasizing counseling with families, parents, couples and teens. She’s a teacher, consultant, speaker, and expert guest on parenting and family topics, including communication, discipline, self-esteem, addictions, eating disorders, grief, and loss. Parenting Is a Contact Sport: 8 Ways to Stay Connected to Your Kids for Life is her first book. A mother and grandmother, she and her husband, Terry Hale, live in Aspen, Colorado.

73 comments

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7:47PM PDT on Sep 22, 2010

I think these suggestions are valuable, but not appropriate for every age. A 2 year old will trust their parent, usually and it's not like you can have an open conversation with them when their vocabulary consists of the word "no." These were fine for teens, but when you have infants and toddlers at home, while this is the most important job you will ever have, you will have to find some way to stay mentally sharp and interesting, at least until you children are older.

7:19AM PDT on Sep 14, 2010

THE Most Important Job In The World .

5:27PM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

I definitely think my brains gone to pot since having my boy!! Haha!

7:44AM PDT on Sep 10, 2010

Great point,thank you for the information.

10:59PM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

and don't forget the best satisfaction and the most important job. training the next generation.

11:28AM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

I would love to be a mom under the condition that I get to stay home with the kids. There is nothing stupid about a job well done....motherhood. My mom stayed home until I was 9.

3:17AM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

good

2:51AM PDT on Sep 7, 2010

very nice

9:58PM PDT on Sep 6, 2010

excellent article!

3:54PM PDT on Sep 4, 2010

I got a part time job when all the kids were of school age. Worked while they were in school. I could feel my brain going back into high gear. What a difference it made for me!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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