Advocate Like A Mother: Reflections from an Inspired Attendee

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Advocate Like A Mother: Reflections from an Inspired Attendee

There’s nothing we love more than seeing our events through the eyes of the mamas, papas, babes and friends who experience them with us. Here, Mindr mama Sally Cunningham shares her perspective on our recent #AdvocateLikeAMother event in celebration of International Women’s Day, both through an incredible short video she created to capture the event, and a beautiful written reflection. What does it mean to you to #AdvocateLikeAMother?

It’s been a couple of weeks since the incredible Mindr and Vox Media’s #AdvocateLikeAMother event in celebration of International Women’s Day, and I’m still energized. The inspiring stories and discussion sparked by the incredible women on the panel, and fostered by the Mindr mamas and papas in the audience, left me with plenty of food for thought. The event has also given me the unique opportunity to reflect on my own experience not only as a mother, but in a new way, as a mother and advocate.

If I am totally honest, until recently, “advocate” was not really a term I ever really thought about, talked about, or even fully understood. I thought it only related to people with political, legal or public platforms — activists, lawyers or politicians speaking on behalf of, defending, or demanding justice for those whose voices are not being heard. But since becoming a mother, I have come to realize the importance of being able to advocate for oneself. As parents, we are fierce advocates for our children. But the question we face is: how do we find that voice for ourselves?

Regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what our experiences are, when it comes to advocating for ourselves as mothers we are often in the dark with how to find and use our own voice, to have our own needs, wants and ambitions heard.

Cue the warm, welcoming and uplifting space created by Mindr and Vox Media. In this setting, stories were shared and celebrated, and questions like mine were asked and discussed. Listening to the personal stories of advocacy from the wonderfully diverse and inspiring panel of women, I noticed a recurring theme. Many of these women had spent their careers advocating for others in their capacity as lawyers, UN representatives and Human Rights advocates. However, once they became mothers, one of their toughest challenge became advocating for themselves. It made me realize that regardless of who we are, where we come from, and what our experiences are, when it comes to advocating for ourselves as mothers we are often in the dark with how to find and use our own voice, to have our own needs, wants and ambitions heard.

There were two moments, in particular, that stood out for me at the event. The first came from a beautifully candid exchange between Lawyers for Children lawyer Tara Sheoran-Khaimov and model/breastfeeding advocate Mara Martin. Towards the end of the event, while answering a question from the audience, Tara used her platform to praise Mara for breastfeeding her daughter while walking the catwalk at a Sports Illustrated casting last year. Tara highlighted how Mara’s action demonstrates how important breastfeeding was to her, and also reflected the importance so many of us place on being able to breastfeed our children. While this may have been a brief exchange on the panel, it demonstrated the importance of championing, supporting, and being allies to one another. It reminded me of the solidarity we all need when navigating the world as mothers, an experience that sometimes seems so isolating. Mara further demonstrated that camaraderie when she shared the story of how she came to find herself on the catwalk, breastfeeding her baby. She said that support she had from the people around her in that moment is what allowed her to make that choice. The knock-on effect of Mara’s actions in normalizing breastfeeding globally has been profound. This really hit home for me how seemingly small acts of support by enough people can lead to great change.

The second moment that really stuck with me came from a question by an attendee. She spoke of how being able to advocate for oneself is a privilege, highlighting that there are women and mothers who cannot advocate for themselves without risking repercussions. She asked the panel how those of us who do have that privilege can help and support women not just by advocating on their behalf but in empowering them to advocate for themselves. What a powerful and thought-provoking question.

We don’t need to have the platform or the public persona or even an overt intention to go out and advocate for a particular issue. By simply showing up, listening and supporting others, we are making it easier for others to advocate for themselves.

What both of these moments revealed to me is that an important condition of feeling able to advocate for oneself is having a supportive network and a safe space to do so. All of us, regardless of who we are, can be that support and create that space for someone else. We don’t need to have the platform or the public persona or even an overt intention to go out and advocate for a particular issue. By simply showing up, listening and supporting others, we are making it easier for others to advocate for themselves. And if we do have the privilege of a platform or a position of power or influence in any given situation, we need to share that platform, pass the mic and create a safe and supportive space for those who don’t have the opportunity to be heard to share their voices.

What I am realizing is that advocacy, like yoga, is a practice, something you need to commit to and work at. So I am going to start small, maybe telling the man-spreader on the train to move his legs so I can sit down. And build up from there. I want my child to know that she has a voice she can use to advocate for herself. But the best way she is going to learn that is from the actions I take and the example I set. So here goes.

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Mamas we love: Meaghan Murphy, Good Housekeeping

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Mamas we love: Meaghan Murphy, Good Housekeeping

As Executive Editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine, reaching an audience of 18.4 million people, and mom to ‘Irish Triplets’ Charlet (8), James (6) and Brooks (3), #MindrMama Meaghan Murphy knows a thing or two about staying busy. We caught up with this mama mogul to find out how priorities and positivity help to keep her head above water, why she believes a made bed means a quiet mind, and how a dinner invitation from J-Lo could lead to all the rules being thrown out the window.

You've said you're always guided by what's best for your family, who you call Team Murphy. Talk us through the ways family drives your decision-making, even when you're on deadline.

My motto is “family over everything” — and that requires creating some very distinct boundaries. For starters, I’m fiercely protective of my mornings and only work late two to three nights a month, when I have to because we’re closing an issue.

I front-load the day with quality kid time. After the kids wake up, we have a no TV/no devices rule and instead read a couple chapters of Captain Underpants (it’s the one series they all agree upon!). We eat breakfast, pack lunches, make beds, brush teeth… and argue over outfits. When the babysitter, arrives I power shower with just enough time to walk my little guy to preschool before hitting the train. I don’t schedule meetings before 10:30AM with the exception of a TV appearance so I have this Team Murphy time.

Once I’m at work, I’m there to work and I say no to things that aren’t work-related… a lot. The joke around the office is: “Don’t ask Meaghan for drinks because there’s a zero percent chance she’ll say yes.” It’s not that I don’t like my co-workers or business contacts, or that I don’t like to be social, but with an hour-plus commute to the ‘burbs, one drink means I miss what my family calls Highlights (a rundown of what made my kids say “YAY” that day) and the nightly tuck-in — and I need those things! A dinner request from JLo and A-Rod might be the only thing that would keep me in the city past 7PM!

As Executive Editor of Good Housekeeping, you're in a high profile and high pressure role. What do you do to look after yourself and stay fully charged? 

I’ve got a pretty consistent routine that keeps me operating at full battery. Exercise is key! I’ve found the only way to fit in fitness is to do it at the crack of dawn with my #goodvibetribe of like-minded workout buddies. We cheer each other on and make each other accountable. I’m at the gym by 5:30am and back by 7am, but I swear I feel like I’m going for drinks when I leave the house! Our exercise routine is pretty set: Extreme Boxing at POE on Mondays; Tuesdays it’s hot yoga at Home Power Yoga; FireBeat hot barre on Wednesdays; SLT Thursdays and The Blast (interval workout) on Fridays.

There’s also lots of “extras” that give me a charge: things like matching my mani to the cover of Good Housekeeping each month or over-decorating my house for every perceivable holiday!

You recently launched "The Yay List," recommending that people take the time to pay attention to the moments of joy that come up in any given day. Why do you think practicing positivity in this way is important?

Your brain might not be a muscle, but you have to train it like one to see the good. The more you actively and purposefully seek out the positive, the more easily you begin to automatically default to the positive, noticing all the awesome things around you. It doesn’t mean you no longer perceive the negative, it just prevents you from dwelling on it. The good vibes take over.

What is something you think needs to change about the way our culture treats parenthood? 

My husband didn’t carry our kids for nine months or push them out, but he is 50% responsible for their existence and their livelihood. Yet, I often feel like society puts more onus on the mom for everything. Somehow it’s supposed to be my job to: organize the play date; volunteer to be the class Mystery Reader; RSVP for the birthday party and buy the gift; etc. etc. etc. even though my husband and I both have full-time jobs. I love doing (most of) those things, but my life only works because I have an equal partner — a teammate who cooks, walks the dog, signs my son James up for karate and more. I applaud companies like Estee Lauder that now have 6 months paid leave for both moms and dads – it’s a start in the right direction!

What are your favorite go-to strategies for maintaining an organized home even amidst the chaos of working parent life?

Make the beds! Studies show that people who do are happier and more productive. When I leave the house with at least that one thing done I feel calmer, more in control and ready for the chaos ahead.

My #momlife hack is Beddy’s, zip-up bedding that makes it ridiculously simple for the kids to make their own beds. Also, if you can, hire help. Biweekly we have someone tackle the bathrooms, vacuum, dust…things I weirdly enjoy doing, but have to take a backseat to family time. You’ve gotta learn to outsource to the extent that you can!

Meaghan Murphy has been in the media for 20+ years. She got her start at YM when she was 19, after winning an essay contest on overcoming adversity, and being spotlighted on an NBC special. Two years later she was one of the founding editors of Teen People, an on-air lifestyle correspondent for MTV, worked on the creative team at Victoria’s Secret, helping to launch the PINK line, moved on to a senior editor role at Cosmopolitan before heading to SELF, where she was the fitness director and Deputy editor for nearly 9 years. Meaghan is now the Executive Editor at Good Housekeeping. She married her brother’s best friend who is 4 years her junior and they live a happy life in the Jersey suburb of Westfield where Meaghan was named Chief Spirit Officer, unofficially renaming the town Bestfield.

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Friday Five

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Friday Five

Happy Friday, Mindr fam! Here’s what you missed in the news this week:

1. The De Blasio Administration recently announced they are building four new monuments honoring female leaders as part of the She Built NYC Initiative. These pioneering women include mama Katherine Walker, godmother Billie Holiday, pediatrician Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, and kindergarten teacher Elizabeth Jennings Graham.

2. Calling all feminist historians! According to historian and author Bettany Hughes, only .5% of the last 3,500 years of recorded history is explicitly about women. This Women's History Month you can learn more about female change-makers by following New York Times Gender’s 31 Days of Women project.

3. This week Danish researchers announced their development of Q, the first program that produces a genderless voice for digital assistants. As most digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are female-presenting, the invention of Q is opening up discussions about gendered technology.

4. U.S. Women’s Soccer Players are suing U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination. Beyond pay discrimination, the women are also making a case for gender discrimination based on where they play, the medical treatment they receive, and their travel accommodations in comparison with male players.

5. Last week PwC released their 2019 Women In Work Index, an assessment of female economic empowerment across the 33 OECD member countries, and Iceland and Sweden topped the list once again. Sweden’s 480 days of parental leave and their pioneering use of the word feminist in their policy approach put them in the top two year after year.

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