My Guest Spot on Awesome Women Entrepreneurs Radio Show

I had a blast today talking with Karen Bate, host of the AWE Radio Show on WERA 96.7 FM in Arlington, Virginia.  We chatted a bit about how I got into parent education, the work I do with Gardener Parenting Consultants, The Parenting 411 and my take on challenges parents face today.  Check it out!  To learn more about Awesome Women Entrepreneurs, visit www.awesomewomen.com. (Air Date:  April 12, 2018)

Beauty and The Breast

A woman’s breast is a thing of beauty.  For generations men and boys alike have been enamored with the sight of it, whether clothed, bare, captured in portraits, off in the distance or close up.  So, it puzzles me that, lately, society seems to have a love-hate relationship with the breast.  On one hand it is to be ogled, caressed and admired when tumbling out of bustier, over a plunging neckline, or peeking through a clingy blouse.  BUT, heaven forbid, even a few centimeters of it is revealed as it performs its life-sustaining, God-ordained function – breastfeeding a young child!

I was struck anew by this paradox when I recently watched a video of an online social experiment.  The researchers wanted to see how passersby would respond when they saw a voluptuous woman baring her breasts in a revealing blouse vs. a woman breastfeeding her baby in public, in a comparatively low-key fashion.  The woman in the revealing blouse got many admiring looks and a few compliments from men, with one man asking for permission to sit down beside her.  Women who passed by offered no comments or disapproving glances.  When the breast-feeding mom replaced her on the bench, people could not contain themselves.  Reactions ranged from lectures about how inappropriate, even disgusting, her behavior was, sharp questions about why she needed to “do that” there, to advice that she should find someplace else to do “that”.  To do what?  Feed her baby?? How many of us adults eat in a closet or bathroom?   Suddenly, the same body part that only moments ago was admired effusively became a disgusting appendage meant to be covered.

It is hard to believe that, today, when there is so much science to substantiate the preeminent nutritional value provided by breast milk, women still have to defend themselves for offering this sustenance to their hungry little ones.  The World Health Organization offers these guidelines when it comes to breastfeeding1:

  • Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large. 
  • Colostrum, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by WHO as the perfect food for the newborn, and feeding should be initiated within the first hour after birth.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

Yet, recent studies conducted in England and Canada suggest that not only are bystanders often resistant, but a third of nursing mothers report feeling embarrassed about breastfeeding in public. It is no wonder, then, that champions of breastfeeding felt vindicated and took to social media expressing their admiration when this photo started making the rounds this week:

What was essentially a candid moment of a mother lovingly feeding her child during a break in a photo shoot became a portrait of empowerment and encouragement for mothers who are committed to breastfeeding.  That this was ‘a moment’ this week suggests the battle is still on for the dignity and wide-open respect for this practice; a battle that was being waged as far back as the 1950’s when La Leche League was launched by determined mothers who fiercely promoted breast-feeding as “God’s plan for mothers and babies”.  It’s time we evolve and recognize that, indeed, the breast is a beautiful thing – in form AND function.

 

1 World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/

 

 

 

Sexual Harassment in the News:  What Do We Tell The Children?

It seems every other day, we are hearing about another instance of sexual harassment/misconduct involving a high-profile person in the news.  How do we make sense of this for our children?  With this topic and all news, be mindful of the content your younger school-age children are taking in. When they come to you with questions about news they have heard, start with keeping your response simple and age-appropriate.  In cases where your child has not heard about a particular incident, but a valuable lesson is there to be learned, open a dialogue, perhaps in hypothetical terms.  Invite questions and share information in language he understands with just enough detail to get your point across.  Some important points to make when addressing sexual harassment, assault, or bullying that might occur in your child’s world are:

  • Boundaries. Talk to your child about the concept of personal space. He has a right to it and should speak up to protect it.  Communicate that unwanted touching or hovering are indisputable violations.  Role play with him, so he can get practice using assertive language to help preserve his boundaries.  In turn, he should learn to respect the personal space of others.
  • Respect at home. Create an environment of respect at home for everyone no matter their age.  Aside from respect for their bodies, physical belongings and such, this includes respect for ideas. Allow your child to respectfully express opposing views. She should feel comfortable saying “No” when appropriate with family members as well as friends.
  • Forum for speaking up. Regularly engage in discussions about current affairs, events in his life, areas of interest to him, and family decisions, as appropriate. He will not only be developing his voice; he will learn he has a right to be heard, at home and elsewhere.
  • Channels for seeking assistance. At home, keep the lines of communication open, so that your child feels comfortable coming to you with concerns.  Encourage her to seek assistance or guidance from teachers and school staff on routine matters, so that if/when a crisis arises, the comfort level and rapport are already there.

We know the dysfunctional desire to dominate others can be rooted in feelings of hurt, inadequacy, insecurity, or ironically, powerlessness on the part of the oppressor.  Whatever the cause, those around him/her are in turn made to feel powerless, and hopeless.  One step we can take with our children to try to keep them off the receiving, and giving, end of abuse and harassment is to show them their positive power at an early age.

The Parenting 411 – How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here?

That is a good question!

It was a circuitous journey, to say the least.  When I completed my undergraduate degree in Fashion Merchandising and embarked on a career in the industry, there was one thing I never envisioned doing – becoming a stay-at-home mom.  It was not part of my detailed life plan, and friends and family can tell you that I declared, specifically, it would not ever be part of my plan.  I certainly hoped to get married one day and have children.  I just didn’t think I would ever leave the workforce and give my undivided attention to those endeavors.  It is a perfectly respectable choice, but it simply wasn’t what I saw growing up in my family and among the families of my friends.  Our mothers were educated, like our fathers, and they worked outside of the home, like our fathers.  Having said ALL of that, I don’t believe I would be here doing this work that fulfills me in a way that NO other work has, had I not done this thing I said I would NEVER do.

After working in fashion retailing for about 2 years, I wanted to make a change.  I took my talents in forecasting, planning, and analysis to a new arena – the federal government where I managed a multimillion dollar inventory program for naval aviation electronics. I was learning to be flexible way back then.  After a couple years of that, I wanted a change.  I left my job and headed for graduate school and I got change, alright.  Yet, when I emerged two years later with an MBA degree, the hard work and sacrifice was all worth it (I should probably mention I met my wonderful husband there, too!).  I felt equipped to pursue the career in marketing I desired.  I was, in fact, equipped to do a lot of things though I didn’t fully appreciate it then.  I landed at a quasi-government agency and hung out there a lot longer – 10 years!  By the time I left, I had become a Senior Marketing Program Manager where I managed a product portfolio exceeding $1 billion in annual revenue.  I enjoyed the people I worked with, I think they respected me, and we accomplished great things together.   However, I left because my life was about to change.

I left my office on a Friday afternoon, fully expecting to return to work Monday, lead a workshop series, finish out the week, and THEN take a well-deserved rest for two weeks as I prepared to give birth to our wonder twins.  This was MY plan but, they had other plans – they showed up early, and I never made it back to the office to do the workshop or anything else. I even missed the baby shower my colleagues had planned!  Here again, the sacrifice has been well worth it, though I AM hoping to recoup that two-week vacation one of these days…. Anyway, I was a happy mom, a tired mom; a sometimes exhausted and delirious mom (hey, sleep deprivation is REAL!).

After those early months, I became restless, thinking about my next move. I decided to launch a marketing consulting company.  This was a difficult undertaking that first year and my little guys weren’t exactly going with the flow.  I mean, why should they?  They had plans, too.  They were a bit of a handful (or a couple of hands full), and I made the choice to set aside my ambitions for a moment and focus on my boys.  While I tended to their needs and explored the world with them, I spent time reading and learning as much as I could about children and how they develop.  I then began sharing what I learned, first informally among friends and later more formally, with community organizations I served.

As I ended my term as president of one of these groups, I settled down for a good night’s sleep after a somewhat stressful year in office, and in life.  I almost immediately received a message from God in a dream and He let me know change was coming. The message went something like this, “I want you to start a company and share what you know.”  I was highly skeptical — “God, nobody wants to hear me speak.” He said, “Not only will they listen to you, they will pay to hear you speak.”  This was becoming a full-blown dialogue now: “God, how will I do that when I don’t know how to….”  Every obstacle I identified, he named a specific person(s) in my life that could help me overcome it.  Still, unconvinced, I responded, “You know [insert name] is busy, she won’t be able to help me.” (Don’t know why, but He only mentioned women. 😉 ).  He responded, “She will help; ask her.” Then He said, “You don’t have to do it now, though; get the children into school.” Then He stopped talking.  Wait, you laid this at my feet and you’re done talking?  “Really, God??? I have so many more questions!!!!”

I’d love to tell you I jumped right in to preparing for this ‘assignment’ the very next day, but…  in truth, it took about 5 more years; essentially 3 years longer than when He told me to start.   Even then, I only took the first crucial step after an opportunity that I almost overlooked presented itself and I co-founded Gardener Parenting Consultants.

That was 8 years ago and it has been a fulfilling experience for to work with parents and families.  It has been my privilege to meet many like-minded professionals who also serve families, and collaborate with them on special projects outside of the company.  It was one such meeting that led me to step out on faith again and launch a radio show 3 years ago – yet another change though I’ve been preparing for it for years without even realizing it.

That is how I got here.  I’m enjoying the ride and I don’t know where it will end.  I just know I am going to enjoy my time with you and change is GOOD!

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