Too many times I have been out socially with women and have heard “I am only a stay at home mom” in response to the question “What do you do?” I am baffled at the frequency of the response and often ask, “What do you mean by 'only'?” The responses have included “Well, I don’t work,” “I don’t do anything exciting,” and “I don’t have a career.” But I still do not know what “only” means. More importantly, I hear an underlying tone that reveals a sense that their work, their contribution in the world, is not meaningful or important.
I was excited to see the acronym SAHM (stay at home mom) in recent parenting blogs. SAHM has a trendy, hip connotation that is playful and depicts an image that is definitely not unimportant. Excuse me, men -- I want to acknowledge that you, too, are parents, but for purposes of this post, I am focusing on the SAHM.
Women have been socialized to believe that child rearing is not powerful. I beg to differ. Maybe we have to step back and think about the definition of power. What is power? There are definitive gender differences in how people define power, own their power and exercise it (as will be showcased in my book about women and power). When women speak about power they generally pause and are reticent to acknowledge how much power they really have –maybe because they do not recognize themselves as powerful or fear the backlash of being powerful. However, if we were to dissect the aspects of power, what pieces lay before us? Power consists of creating impact, shaping and influencing others, making tough decisions even if unpopular, getting things done no matter what the obstacles, managing adversity, and having people defer to you for guidance and expertise.
Looking at this definition, how can anyone argue that parenting is not powerful? Unless the parent themselves is not ready to view themselves as having power. In speaking about power, I do not mean the ability to control your children-that is an entirely different blog. Controlling someone is not powerful at all-or not sustainable power-power will eventually decrease. All one has to do is look at our current economy and the leaders who have gotten us to this point and enough is said.
Powerful parenting involves the influence and shaping of others. The development of our children, at the very core, is in our hands. Yes, it is shaped by teachers, peers and society, but, powerful parents navigate their children through the labyrinth of life. Actively, we facilitate development through teaching, exposure to a spectrum of experiences, caring for them and instilling values and morals. Inadvertently, we are role models that showcase the behaviors and beliefs that we are imprinting on our children. We are constantly under the magnifying glass. If we think we are not, we are highly mistaken. Our children watch us like a hawk. They see first hand how we solve problems, treat other people, and deal with fear, sadness and every other emotion in our repertoire. They watch to see how we take accountability for our actions, how we pick ourselves up after we have fallen and how we accept or don’t accept our imperfections. A huge lesson for all is that nobody is perfect. Just ask Hannah Montana, she even sings about it. (Yes I have an 8-year-old daughter).