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Passing the ‘Mom Test’ and making a difference

When I was growing up, I didn’t realize how much my mother did for me and my nine other older siblings.

It must have been very hard for her — the challenges, the sacrifices — all to give us a better life. Now, looking back, I can see her life. To all the mothers in this world I say, “Thank you for all you have done; for all you are.”

An earlier issue of the Rotarian, Rotary’s magazine, highlighted the areas where mothers have significant impact. Here are some facts of the matter.

A mother’s influence on her children’s health and well-being begins before delivery. Daughters of mothers who are overweight before pregnancy are up to six times more likely to be obese by the age of 18. After delivery, a mother’s nutrition and eating patterns are predictors of her daughter’s likelihood of becoming overweight.

Daughters of mothers who smoke tobacco while pregnant are four times more likely to smoke, and both daughters and sons of women who smoke while pregnant are at an increased risk of behavioral problems.

Mothers who breast-feed their infants provide their children with immunities to diarrheal diseases, respiratory and ear infections and skin disorders. Breast-fed children also have lower rates of adult-onset high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Mothers who give birth before the age of 20 are more likely to have children who also become young mothers, a trend that declines as a daughter’s education level rises.

The United Nations estimates that worldwide, at least one in every three women will be abused in their lifetime. Women in safe, non-abusive relationships have children with a lower risk of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol abuse, smoking, suicide, depression and later-life medical problems such as heart, lung, and liver diseases.

Worldwide, the education level of parents, particularly mothers, influences the probability that children will attend school. The likelihood of children staying in school increases with the years of education that their parents attain.

In developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the education of mothers — even at low levels — is associated with reductions in child mortality. Mothers’ schooling is associated with a greater likelihood of prenatal care, childbirth assistance from trained health care providers, and postnatal provision of childhood vaccinations and medical care.

Children whose mothers read aloud to them are more likely to develop the skills and knowledge that influence written and oral language abilities.

Mothers who participate in activities with their children, convey expectations for school performance, and are present when their children wake up in the morning, arrive from school, or go to sleep reduce the likelihood of their children’s involvement in violent behaviors such as fighting, carrying a weapon, stealing, bullying and homicide.

Mothers whose daughters view them as positive role models influence their daughters’ confidence. Daughters who aspire to emulate their mothers develop stronger self-esteem and more positive body image than girls who don’t identify with their moms.

Here is a fun anecdote about the “Mom Test,” which I’m reprinting by popular demand. We can’t overestimate the influence a mother has on her child (sorry, Dad).

I was out walking with my 4-year-old daughter. She picked up something off the ground and started to put it in her mouth. I took the item away from her and told her not to do that.

“Why?” my daughter asked.

“Because it’s been on the ground, you don’t know where it’s been, it’s dirty, and probably has germs,” I replied.

At this point my daughter looked at me with total admiration and asked, “Momma, how do you know all this stuff? You are so smart!”

I was thinking quickly. “All moms know this stuff. It’s on the ‘Mom Test.’ You have to know it, or they don’t let you be a mom.”

We walked along in silence for two or three minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information.

“Oh! I get it!” she beamed. “So if you don’t pass the test you have to be the dad.”

“Exactly,” I replied back with a big smile on my face.

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