As a divorced mother of two boys, mother of a college athlete and a transition strategist to women, I have been watching the Ray Rice/NFL debacle unfold over the past few weeks with curiosity and a whole lot of opinions.
Through my work with women moving through transitions, especially divorce, I hear the following over and over again, "All I want is for my kids to be OK... I will do anything to make sure that they are."
And while I hear this from almost every mother that I work with, I am not sure that they truly understand when I share with them the one thing that will affect the outcome for their children the most; the thing that is the real responsibility of motherhood.
While nothing can guarantee the "okayness" of our children, the one thing that I do know impacts our children most is the degree to which we, as their mothers, are nothing short of happy, healthy and whole as women and people.
Our children take their cues from the two people that mean the most to them, their mother and father.
That means that living a life that reflects the values, energy, emotions, activities and habits that we hope they will grow into as adults is the best way for them to learn what that looks and feels like.
It means that as a mother, it is critical to show them what a fulfilled, courageous, confident, powerful, smart, fun-loving woman and partner really looks like.
If you want your children to be healthy and fit, then you must be healthy and fit.
If you want them to be curious, open and adventurous, then you must live the same way.
If you want them to have a romantic, sensual, emotionally connected and equal partnership and marriage, then you must create a marriage and partnership that reflects these qualities.
As a mother, it is my responsibility and commitment to model for my children not just what I hope for them as they reach adulthood, but HOW to do it. I must give them the raw and real truth about how it is done so that they learn how to do it for themselves.
Because I support women to do this for themselves and I am a mother of boys, I am acutely aware of how important this responsibility is regardless of whether you have sons or daughters. It is not only important for the mothers to model for their daughters, but in some ways even more important to model it for their sons.
Back to Ray Rice and the NFL debacle.
In my relationship with my boyfriend of almost seven years, football has become something sacred from September through the Super Bowl. It is something that we share together, grounding us in a cozy Sunday afternoon of NFL games, cooking and just simply being together.
As I have watched the numerous NFL scandals unfold and the many commentaries on each player, their actions and the reason their partners stay with them, I find myself taking time to think before reacting.
Having worked at a domestic violence crisis center and gotten trained and certified on domestic violence, I know that even though the psychology behind abuse is complicated, there is one thing that isn't; love should never, ever hurt. And there is never a justification for abuse... ever.
Listening to all of the rhetoric and debate, I reflect back on the real responsibility of motherhood.
Despite my divorce and its inevitable impact on my kids, I continue to take this responsibility more seriously than ever, especially as they become adults. How I have acted as a woman, especially as a single mom who was dating, creating a new intimate relationship with a partner and modeling what appropriate romance, dating and love is supposed to look and feel like, has had a significant influence on my boys as they emerge into young men.
There is no mistaking who I am and what I stand for as a woman, intimate love partner, and mother.
They have known from day one, and I mean from their toddler-hoods, that I don't believe there is ever an excuse to manage conflict or anger with violence. Not when they were 2, not when they were teenagers and had altercations with others who antagonized them, and certainly not ever with a girl or young woman, no matter what they say or do.
They see me honor myself, my time and my body; showing up in my life and relationships as a feminine woman with all of the power that comes with it.
They see me let go of things, relationships and commitments that don't support and serve me; and they see me do that with honor, integrity, grace and kindness.
They see me take full responsibility for my words, actions and behavior... always.
They know that I want the same for them and that I expect them to honor and support any woman who they choose to be in a relationship with so that she can create the same as well. No exceptions.
And being fully aware of what competitive athletics looks like and the "power" that often comes with being a talented athlete, I expect even more from our athletic governing bodies. They need to take a stand on demanding a strict adherence to the values they stand for. Neither talent nor money is an excuse for bad behavior.
Moms, when you question what you can do to keep your children safe, healthy and happy, remember that it is the quality of the life and love you create for yourself and model for them at every age, that will have the greatest impact.