That Still, Strong Voice.

That Still, Strong Voice. March 28, 2016

It seems to be an unspoken understanding among well-meaning adults that new mothers have no clue what they’re doing. I remember vividly sitting in a doctor’s office with my 4-month old son at the the ripe age of 22, listening to the pediatrician talking to me like I was 12.

Because I was 22 and polite, I listened intently, while thinking in my head, “Why are you treating me like an idiot? I’ve been caring for this baby, and I’m nursing him, and look at what a good job I’m doing.” But I smiled and nodded while secretly disagreeing with him from everything to giving my son rice cereal, to making him cry through the night.

(Image courtesy of

The stark contrast between those doctor appointments, teacher meetings, and playground scuffles is evident now. I wasn’t seen as an equal. Perhaps justifiably so.

There might be mothers out there who, once out of the gates, dive into motherhood with confidence and a degree of aggressive instinct needed for their babies. But, it seems that the more mothers I speak to, the more we’ve learned after the fact that being a nice, polite, young lady isn’t going to cut it in the long run of mothering.

This post is for you, new mom of little ones, who doesn’t want to disagree, argue, or make anyone upset. New mom, who, more than anything, wants to viewed as a wise woman worthy of respect.

But there’s a difference between the type of disputes a college student has arguing with his professor, and a mom wringing her hands because she doesn’t want to be difficult. What vibrant and youthful motherhood masks is the God-given instinct that a mother has for her child. While we might roll our eyes at the arrogant student, we need to listen carefully, and make sure to not take advantage of, what a mother’s gut is telling her. Because, deep down, she’s likely right.

I had three healthy sons before my daughter was born. She had several disconnected health problems, but doctors kept telling me she was fine. During her inpatient stays they’d visit our room and give their opinions. I’d nod and purse my lips, then burst into tears as soon as they left. I wanted to yell and demand, to insist and bet my whole life on being right, but I didn’t have the grit to do it.

The doctors had lab results, imaging, and a whole team that visited our room. They spoke with confidence and authority. I had nothing. The only thing I had to go on was an unresolved knot in my stomach that told me that something was very wrong with my daughter. But I didn’t have the voice to demand more, or to disagree with their analysis.

Shortly after, my hunch turned into a diagnosis. Something was wrong, and I wasn’t crazy. I was right. And I had known all along.

It was then that I resolved, “Never again.” Never again would I stifle my mother’s instinct. Never again would I fail my child for not speaking on her behalf. Never again would sit back and NOT fight!

A friend was telling me something similar recently. Her toddler son was playing at the playground and a preschooler who was old enough to know better, threw a handful of sand at her son’s face. Both of the boy’s parents were sitting close by, but instead of intervening, yelled at their son to apologize. The child pretended not to hear, and the parents didn’t follow through. My friend was so shocked by the lack of parenting, and so unsure of how to defend her little boy, that they both left the park in tears. Later she told me, “Never again. If they won’t parent their kids, I’ll make sure to demand an apology from bully kids myself.”

(Image property of Mallory Severson)

And so, dear mothers, use your voice. You can still be polite, you can still be respected. But, don’t be afraid to disagree or demand better. Don’t settle for being treated as a first time mom if you know better. Everyone is waiting for the leader. It CAN be you if you assert yourself.

It sounds like a cliche, but someone said to me, “You are their advocate. Children can’t speak for themselves, so you need to do it for them. You need to trust your gut.” This permission was a freeing moment as a mother. Because for the first time I realized the responsibility that I had to stick up for myself. For my children.

It’s up to us to ensure our children’s best treatment, care, and education. They cannot do it themselves. If you haven’t yet been given this permission, beautiful mothers, I implore you to take it from me, now. Be encouraged that when it comes to your children, tenacity will bring you much further than complicity.

Never Again. You can do it.

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