By Bonnie Harris MS Ed.
Thanks to Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen's comment about Ann Romney (stay-at-home-mom and wife of presidential candidate Mitt Romney) for never working a day in her life, the subject of mothering has come to the fore once again-just in time for Mother's Day.
While I believe parenting, whether done primarily by a mother or a father, is indeed the hardest and most important job anyone will ever undertake, I do not think society as a whole gives mothering any more than lip service. On Mother's Day we can give mothers that pat on the back fulfilling our obligation and then be done with it. If indeed it is the hardest job, why do we not feel the need to give parents every opportunity to do the job well?
We certainly consider doctoring a critically important job, hence the years of training necessary to do it. The same can be said of any job. We need education to drive a car, fly a plane, work in a bank, be a neighborhood watchman. But giving birth requires no education at all. We place so little value on the job of mothering that it's easy for a highly educated woman to make the comment Mrs. Romney has never worked a day in her life.
Every mother out there, whether satisfied or dissatisfied with her parenting will tell you how important it is to know what to do and how to do it. From understanding child development and individual temperaments in order to know what is appropriate to expect of a child; to understanding child behavior and what it means so a mother doesn't fly off the handle every time a child screams, "No," a mother's-day-in-and-day-out responses to her children are critical to the future of our society.
I will argue that every abhorrent and dysfunctional behavior that costs our society megabucks as well as lives can be traced back to dysfunctional family relationships-to parenting. We can argue we have been raising children from the beginning of time and there's nothing to learn. Oh yeah? How many parents have argued, "I was raised that way, and I turned out just fine." Exactly the evidence needed to argue for parenting education. None of us even know our potential had we been raised in a better way. And how different is our present day culture from the one we were raised in, our parents and grandparents were raised in? Things change; the need for educating parents on the latest research and in the context of more and more technology is a no-brainer.
As a society, we don't even understand the meaning of behavior. We react to it at face value. If we like it, we reward it, and if we don't, we punish it. Never do we look below the surface to see the needs that are provoking the behavior. Rarely do parents even understand what a child's needs are.
Many mothers do better jobs than others and many children are easier to raise than others. The fit of a mother's and a child's temperaments often make the critical difference between raising a healthy child whose needs have been satisfied and an unhealthy child who requires external stimulation (often at the cost of society) to fulfill those needs. Many of our addictions, dependencies, physical and mental health issues have direct roots in parenting. And any parent's current parenting has roots deeply embedded in their own childhoods.
Isn't it about time we celebrated Mother's Day with the gift of valuing the job done by supporting parents with parenting classes in all communities, with huge tax credits for any parent who chooses to stay home to raise or home-school children, with more focus on flex time in work environments. Would we get stuck in the quagmire of invasion of personal rights or would this save the government billions and help us raise a healthier society?
Bonnie Harris, MS Ed, director of Connective Parenting, child behavior and parenting specialist, author of When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You'll Love to Live. Bonnie counsels parents, speaks, teaches workshops and offers professional trainings internationally. She founded The Parent Guidance Center in NH and has two grown children. To learn more visit www.bonnieharris.com. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com