Is your life out of control? Stressed? Exhausted? So many crises have beset our world this spring—on top of the tough challenge of daily life in America. Well, here’s help! Dr. Meg Meeker has given us a nuts-and-bolts approach to The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity. (And, just for Dads, her earlier book is Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know.)
IN PART 1, you’ll enjoy an excerpt of 10 Habits of Happy Mothers.
TODAY in FriendshipAndFaith, we share Meg’s thoughts on why women form unique friendships.
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR INTERVIEW
WITH DR. MEG MEEKER
ON 10 HABITS OF HAPPY MOTHERS
DAVID: You’re a doctor who treats kids. But you’re a best-selling author of books for adults. Is that a role reversal?
MEG: As a professional, I listen to parents. Moms are as much my patients as their kids are—and I see enormous angst among Moms. Moms are feeling they’re not good enough: not good enough as mothers, wives, employees, friends. To keep up with all the demands in our lives, we’ve isolated ourselves and put tremendous pressure on our homes and our families. In this new book, I’m trying to help Moms become emotionally and spiritually healthy.
DAVID: Your book includes some wise advice about the importance of faith in our lives, but your publisher does all kinds of mainstream secular books. You don’t really identify yourself with a specific denomination. So, tell us more. What’s your own religious affiliation?
MEG: I walk a very thin line with this. I’ve always worked with secular publishers, but my publisher for these books lets me write about faith and I do. If you know Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline,” then you’ll recognize that I’m following a similar pattern in this new book. I love Foster’s book; I think it’s solid in helping us to nurture our inner spiritual life. I’m trying to do something similar: to help mothers who are sort of going off the deep end, these days.
I grew up in the Catholic faith and I do a lot of work with Catholics and Catholic groups. I’ve appeared a lot on Catholic radio. I just did EWTN television. I love the Catholic church and consider myself very much Catholic. But, my husband is evangelical. I go to my Catholic parish, but I also go to a Reformed church that is more of an evangelical church with my husband.
DR. MEG MEEKER: THE CRISIS OUR FAMILIES ARE FACING
DAVID: This book is full of positive ideas from cover to cover, but there’s also a strong and honest word of warning here. Readers only need to read a section of your book like the page on loneliness to realize you’re describing a real crisis here. Talk a little bit about the situation you see unfolding for famlies.
MEG: I’m very concerned about families because we live in a culture that is profoundly narcissistic and the easy answer to all our happiness lies in the next thing we can buy. We’re always in search of the next new thing: new iPod, new furniture, new house, new husband. We’ve become addicted to this search for the next thing we can get. You may think of that as something that guys do, but women have jumped on this train of buy-better-buy-better-buy-better. We’ve been duped by peer pressure and our culture. We need to get off that train. Most of us know we do, but we want the next woman to be the first one to jump off. You want me to pull my kids out of a few of their activities, each week, so we can have more time together as a family? Well, you first! When I see you do it, I’ll do it, too. A lot of women are crashing and burning in this cycle.
I am very worried about mothers, but here’s where I believe in hope—where I live out hope through my faith. God knows we’re crazy people living crazy lives. Inside ourselves, we say we know that what we’re doing isn’t working. We know that it doesn’t work to continually try to out perform everybody around us—and raise high-performance kids to do even more. At some point, most of us have stopped for at least a moment and said: Wait! Something’s not working. Maybe you’re on your third husband, working full time and you wake up later in life and you’ve missed the childhood of your own kids. We want to find the real stuff that makes life truly satisfying, but we can’t get off this train that’s moving so fast.
The truth is this: As crazy as our lives may be today, people know what they want and they’re seeking it. There is hope if we can help people find that. God is with us and that transcends everything, if we’re willing to recognize our situation and start to simplify life. When we quiet ourselves and allow God to speak, that’s when our own salvation this side of heaven really starts to happen.
DR. MEG MEEKER: ‘FAITH CAN BE A CORE OF HAPPINESS’
DAVID: You deal with a whole lot of topics in this book. You help women wrestle with anger, fear, competition—a whole lot of everyday crises people face. But spiritual themes run cover to cover. And, early in the book, you talk about the importance of faith in one’s life. You’re evangelical and it’s clear in your book that you’re writing for the majority of Americans who come from some kind of Christian background. But you’re not arguing that people have to become Christian, right?
MEG: I want to say to everyone: You know in your heart of hearts that you have a spiritual dimension to your life and paying attention to that, praying about that, raising questions about faith—these are good things to do. So, start with that.
I’m saying to women: It’s safe to take a look at God. You may be wondering if God is real or isn’t real. Talk about it. Take a baby step. At the center of life itself is our relationship to God and if we’re not paying attention to that, then I’m saying: Try it and see what you think. Start with curiosity about faith.
I don’t think that faith is the same thing as religion. I’m very aware that some readers out there may say: OK, you’re an evangelical and I’m not—so I’m not even going to read this book. I want readers to realize what I’m actually saying: I’m not trying to make you do anything. I’m just saying that it’s helpful to start talking about the importance of faith in your life. Readers will find a really gentle invitation here to explore God. I believe God is real, but I’m just saying to readers who may not have taken time for faith: At least consider that faith can be a core component of happiness in your life. Don’t be afraid of it.
DR. MEG MEEKER: THE TASTE OF FRIENDSHIP
DAVID: I really appreciated seeing in your book an acknowledgment that sharing food is a key step in building healthy relationships, especially friendship.
MEG: Very much so for women! One of the ways we love and nurture people and show them affection is by feeding them. It’s just an instinct from the time our babies are born. Some of the most stressed mothers I see are mothers with children who won’t eat. That’s the most fundamental thing we give our children: sustenance, nutrition and the enjoyment of food that helps them to grow.
Of course, this is such a loaded issue with women. We have weight issues—our own and issues with our children’s weight. We have to get back to a more balanced understanding of the ways we use food. It’s still a basic expression of love and concern. It’s why any time I host a book club at my house, I wouldn’t think of inviting people without providing some food. It’s why women show up with food at a friend’s house when someone dies. That’s what we do. We can’t bring the loved one back to life, so we show our love by giving sustenance to the grieving family. But we need balance.
DAVID: Discernment might be another word to describe a lot of your advice in the book. You also tell women to be discerning in choosing their friends. Why?
MEG: We need to have balanced friendships. I see a lot of women entering friendships where they’re really agreeing to serve another person and they’re only giving in that relationship. Now that may be fine in some relationships, but I see women who collect a whole series of friends like this and eventually they’re just going around meeting need after need after need. It becomes exhausting.
We need to think about balancing our friendships so our relationships are more sustainable. Take inventory of the types of friendships you’re in—and ask some hard questions: Are these friends going to be there for me, when I have a problem? And, when it’s their turn, will I have the energy to give back? You want women in your inner circle who have this kind of balance with you. Real friends go the distance—both ways, give and take.
DAVID: Despite all the tough stuff you see unfolding out there, your book is remarkably hopeful. Give us an example of the signs of hope you’re seeing.
MEG: I see the next generation of women out there saying: Wait a minute! I can’t live this way. And, I see them actually doing something about it. Maybe I’ve just seen a skewed population of younger women, but I am seeing some out there who are opting for a simpler life. One of my own daughters now is teaching in a Muslim school in Indonesia and she doesn’t own a car and she loves her simple life there as a teacher. She’s a good example of a lot of younger women who are saying: I want a good life—but not a rich life, not a crazy life. The good life is more than just getting that next great thing. We all want the good life, I suppose—but I see more signs in the next generation that they just might be simplifying their lives enough to get it.
REMEMBER you can order The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose, and Sanity, by Dr. Meg Meeker from Amazon at a discount.
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(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.)