A listener of my radio show recently wrote to tell me how she spoke up in her karate class to a single 20-year-old woman who got pregnant by the instructor.
The couple married, and the young mother is now going to school and putting the infant in day care. Watching the girl with her child, my listener, a parent herself, picked up on how disinterested the mother seemed to be.
My listener told her that she is “hurting her precious baby by putting her in babysitting while she goes to school, and that she is the best mom for her baby girl.”
You’d think that compliment — being told you’re the best for your child — would be met with happy tears. Nope. The girl went ballistic on her.
My listener is not sorry she tried to refocus the young woman toward mothering instead of just getting on with her life in spite of having a child.
After reading the e-mail on air, I asked people to send me their perspective on whether the listener was right in giving her unsolicited opinion when it was sincerely intended to benefit a child.
The responses ranged from “She should have kept her mouth closed” to “I wish someone would have told me sooner that it was the right thing to do [become a full-time, stay-at-home mommy].”
One writer bemoaned not having the “courage to say what needs to be said” with a similar situation in her own family.
The most compelling argument I received about standing up for motherhood was this: “I absolutely do not think she needs to apologize to anyone. How frequently we are bombarded by friends, family, and the media that being a career woman is much preferable to being a stay-at-home mom. Do they ever consider how this tramples the feelings of children of at-home mothers? Has anyone ever apologized for that?”
When you are trying to say something that people generally don’t want to hear, tone and technique are important. Telling them “you are hurting your child” won’t win friends.
It works better to say: “It’s great that you’re continuing with school, but every moment your child spends with you impacts their sense of safety and love. Being a mom myself, I know it is exhausting and frustrating — and the best thing I’ve ever done. If you’d like me to help you figure this out so you can be with your child more . . .”
Hopefully, your words will make people ponder.
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