No matter where you are in the world, if you want to get a quick read on what’s happening on the ground, ask a Mother. There is something about Motherhood that awakens and deepens our protective instincts to a level that I never fully appreciated until I had children of my own. And I’ve been trained throughout my professional life on a variety of intelligence gathering techniques but even my formalized training hardly compares to what happens instinctually after one becomes a parent. That’s not to say that people without children aren’t exceptional at gathering intelligence, it is merely time that we recognize and place value on the real skillsets that Mothers develop and for law enforcement and intelligence services to engage this intel and start leveraging the hell out of it.
The Skillsets That Set Mothers Apart
Situational Awareness + Emotional Intelligence + Deception Detection + Collective Community Power
Many Mothers will discount their skillsets and especially stay at home Mothers, who are Saints in my book as I was raised by one, will often start their sentences about what they do with an “I’m just...”. Anyone who underestimates the intellectual, social and psychological capital of a Mother is, well, an idiot. Mothers have exceptional situational awareness, negotiation skills and the ability to assess, adapt and redirect on the fly. We build these skillsets and wealth of experience over time as we are consistently practicing and honing these skills on the daily. We are also some of the best multitaskers on the planet. We just don’t have the same amount of time to do anything once we become Mothers and we have to get everything done — and I mean everything — in a third of the time. When you do this out of necessity, especially Mothers who work outside the home, you become an expert at time management and responding to asymmetric challenges. They also know how to communicate, listen, empathize and influence across a wide spectrum in even the most diverse of communities in record time. I’ve also found Mothers to be extraordinary lie detectors, especially Mothers of toddlers and teen-agers. We learn to read between the lines, study behavioral patterns and respond accordingly. Put several Mothers together and you’ve compounded the skillset and experience set to a level that will blow any contrived government effort out of the water. Mothers groups — and most every community across the US has them — are not only tremendous sources of local intelligence and the place to go if you want to spread any message far and wide, but also exceptional at crisis response. These skillsets have value, deep value, that I wish were more widely recognized, appreciated and tapped into.
MOMINT & Mama Haris
All of these skillsets should be tremendous assets to intelligence services and law enforcement. Marketing and advertising agencies long ago recognized this power and have been targeting and tapping into it. I wonder if US intelligence and law enforcement are doing the same. MI6 has recruited Mothers on Mumsnet and geopolitical think tank STRATFOR recently posted a piece called “Unlocking the secrets of MOMINT”. In the post they discuss the changing nature of intelligence collection and in particular how the Chinese are patient, focused on the long game and leveraging old school intel tactics that still work brilliantly even in the digital age. They end the piece alluding to the engagement of Mothers in intelligence collection, ‘One can't help but wonder how many other "Mama Haris" are still out there operating for foreign intelligence services’.
Here’s hoping that MOMINT becomes something that US intel and law enforcement tap into. Given the asymmetrical threats we increasingly face in communities across the US, we can’t afford not to. After all, foreign powers around the world are doing so...shouldn’t we be tapping into this tremendous asset here at home?