Hail to the Mom: Authority, Not Expert


When talking about the role of a stay-at-home mom, particularly in justifying her value to the family system, you can find articles that walk you through the amount of money one could expect to spend if her traditional duties were outsourced, including: laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. Moms get called the CEOs of the household in an attempt to make more tangible ,a role that is largely devoid of benchmarks of success or failure. I myself, chalk it up to a productive day when I have as many children at the end of it as when I started, and have a 100% success rate (so far) athankyouverymuch.

That said, I don’t think of myself as a CEO as much as I liken myself to the President, and here’s why: We don’t really expect the President to be an expert in anything, but we do expect her to carefully weigh the advice of those properly credentialed as experts when making decisions on behalf of the American people. It’s why we have a National Security Adviser, or a Secretary of Agriculture, despite a particular president’s experience in the military, or farming. In a perfect world, mothers do the same, no? We act in the best interests of our children, by listening to the voices of the experts.

The problem is, in the mommy world, experts are sometimes eschewed in favor of sentiments like, “when it comes to your child, YOU are the expert.”  To a certain extent, I understand the spirit in which this statement is intended. Yes, I know my children better than anyone, and am certainly qualified to speak to whether I feel something may be amiss with them, and will not be treated as a nuisance in pursuit of their best interests. However, when we move beyond the “knowing my children better than anyone” realm, I think it is a dangerous proposition to fancy yourself an expert in things that you are decidedly not (unless, you know, you are): medicine, nutrition, psychology, education… all of these fields require actual study in order to know what you are talking about.

As a people-pleaser (like a lot of women), I have learned to agree- to- disagree with the best of them, but maybe it’s time we make a statement that’s kind of hard to hear: Mom, you DON’T know everything when it comes to your kids. Disagreeing with your doctor on vaccines doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, preferring a Paleo diet doesn’t make you an authority on nutrition, and not liking one book being read in your child’s classroom doesn’t mean you should be the one crafting your the curriculum.

We ALL read a ton of articles on the internet, but that is not tantamount to research. The other day, I read a comment on a blog that said, “doctors don’t know anything about nutrition, and you don’t need to be a dietitian to know about it either.” There were several comments that followed that praised this sentiment, but all I could think to say was, “Wait, yes you do.”  Articles on the internet are either generated by someone who has NO idea what he is talking about, or by a professional, who studied it and does. Those are the two options. There is no third option where you suddenly possess the body of knowledge that went into generating that specific article, with a specific topic, and are now also an expert. Not everything is intuitive. Some stuff you either know, or you don’t. If you don’t, rely on those who do.

The reality of it is that being a mother doesn’t make you an expert in anything that you weren’t before you had children, but it does give you absolute authority in making decisions for them.  So, let’s spend more time celebrating the privilege (and power) of the decision making, because it’s a big enough job.  Just ask the President.

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