May includes Mother's Day, a time to honor our mothers and other important female mentors. Positive women professional role models share characteristics associated with being "good-enough" mothers. They are always there for their "children," even when they mature and become independent. They support their dreams and aspirations, even when they appear unreachable. They go the extra mile for them. They encourage them to use their own voice and to share divergent opinions with a nonjudgmental spirit of openness. They offer them strength during times of challenge; share readily their guidance and wise counsel; and are consistent in their empathy and love.
In 2014, our field has advanced beyond "mother blaming" for pathology, to a scientific understanding of the power of positive mothering for building healthy attachments and resilience. And there are many more female heroines and role models for us to look to. Whether it is Katniss Everdeen from "The Hunger Games" or Hermione Granger from "Harry Potter," or Oprah Winfrey, or Mother Theresa, or our graduate school advisors/supervisors, or our coaches, or women leaders in psychology, or our best friends, or our own mothers, a wealth of women inspire us.
Moreover, women have been more actively searching for, if not insisting upon, meaningful connections with female mentors and sponsors. These relationships are enriching and often enduring. There is a resilient nature to these connections, as they survive often despite conflict and complicated emotions. Without question, both parties are significantly affected by and benefit from these associations in countless ways. I have been privileged to have had many strong, significant mentors who have been influential in my professional identity development. The reality is, given my age, most of my mentors early in my career were male and I am grateful to them for the myriad ways they helped foster and shape my career.
I have had the privilege of witnessing great change within psychology, such that there are many more female role models for our trainees, early career psychologists and those in the leadership pipeline. Moreover, we have a greater appreciation of the value of peer mentors, and I am lucky to have many women colleagues who serve in this role in my life. I have dedicated much of my career to mentoring my more junior colleagues, as I find that doing so is fun, rewarding and engaging. And the truth is I gain tremendously from these relationships as well, as my students have been some of my greatest teachers.
No mother-child relationship is ideal, and some can be quite challenging. Efforts toward differentiation can be empowering and facilitate growth. I am grateful that as is true for many people, my mother has been a close friend and kindred spirit throughout my life.
However, what makes our relationship somewhat unique is that we are both psychologists and active in APA. As such, especially early in my career, I found her guidance invaluable. Now I cherish the opportunity to talk with her about psychology nationally and internationally and to share experiences and to gain from each other's wisdom. For example, we both served as president of Div. 43 (Society for Family Psychology) and we both have a passion for travel. Fortunately, there are a growing number of mother-daughter and mother-son dyads within psychology.
This month, the Monitor features an article describing a new parenting trend: While moms still rule when it comes to caring for children, dads are stepping in more than ever before (see Mother's Day). I dedicate both that article and this column to my mother, all of you who are mothers and all of your mothers.
Happy Mother's Day and thank you to all our maternal figures!
- Hampton, T. (2010). Depression care effort brings dramatic drop in large HMO population's suicide rate. JAMA, 303, 1903-195. Doi: 10.1001/jama.2010.595.
- Kellam, S.G., Mackenzie, A.C.L., Brown, C.H., Poduska, J.M., Wang, W., Petras, H., & Wilcox, H.C. (2011). The Good Behavior Game and the future of prevention and treatment. Addiction Science and Clinical Practice, 6, 73-84. doi: Retrieved from http://www.ascpjournal.org/
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