How Moms Can Change the World

It was the strangest time to have the blues. I was preparing to graduate summa cum laude from a prestigious university. Once a week, a favorite professor would meet me in the hallway outside my classroom with a clipboard of ideas for the things I could do and achieve in my life. But the more success I achieved, the less I cared, and it took me a while to realize why: Everything I did was all about me.

My depression amplified my self-centeredness. I worried incessantly about when I was going to feel better. How was I going to make myself feel right again?

Then, for reasons I really can't explain, I started visiting a bunch of ladies in a nursing home. I read Edgar Allen Poe to Dorothy and USA Today to Beth. Edie loved me to do her fingernails in sunset red, and Pauline just wanted me to listen to her talk about her great-grandchildren who lived far, far away. As I sat listening to their stories, painting their fingernails, and playing some very long checkers games, I began to see myself through their eyes. To these women, I was a person with value just because I was sitting there. As demanding as my days were in those final months of college, the only thing that really mattered to anyone was that I showed up at the Candlelight Lodge at 3 pm. And so I did.

Now that I'm a stay-at-home/work-at-home mom, I sometimes feel - perhaps like many of you - that I don't have anything left to give at the end of the day. But people who live their life in service to others just seem to have that extra "oomph" of energy when they need it, as though their work is so important that their spirit won't allow them to tire so soon. They have the energy they need to be the people they need to be.

Who better to change the world than a mother, with her instinctive capacity for compassion, empathy, and unconditional love? Here are a few ways - large and small - that we moms can make a difference in our world.

Focus on Motherhood
No one knows about living a life of service quite like a mother. We know that the best way to nurture ourselves is to nurture other people. Each day, we dedicate ourselves to enhancing the future generation. It is not only our legacy but our responsibility.

When you frame each chore as something you do out of love for your family, suddenly even plunging your hands in soapy dishwater, slicing the carrots for tonight's stew, and changing the baby's diaper take on new meaning. Let us remind one another that, each day, we all make a contribution by performing at our personal best.

Get Informed
Use the Internet to research the issues you are interested in. Virtually every cause has a host of websites, information, and specific calls to action published online.

Visit http://www.makeadifferenceday.com to find projects you can participate in locally, and spend a few moments with the Project Idea Generator, which will give you ideas and examples of past projects that match your specific skills and style of giving.

Volunteer
If you're prone to the holiday blues, helping someone in need is an effective way to ward off depression. In fact, RealAge.com reports that people who volunteer show improvement in areas such as "life satisfaction, well-being, and overall health." That's because, RealAge.com speculates, volunteers also experience more meaningfulness and social interaction in their lives.

With the isolation many stay-at-home moms experience from time to time, this social interaction component is not to be overlooked. You can meet people your own age by volunteering, or get a group of friends united in a cause and spend a guilt-free afternoon away from the house.

During the holiday season, opportunities abound. Just look in your local paper. On the Internet, Volunteermatch can set you up with an opportunity or idea with your specific skills in mind.

Voice Your Opinions
Be politically pro-active by writing to your congressperson and staying up-to-date on the issues that matter to you. Log on to http://www.house.gov or http://www.senate.gov for representative names, contact information, and bill numbers.

Share
We women tend to divide our donations among a number of causes. This year, consider giving to one or two causes that mean a lot to you, or combine your contributions with those of your friends so you can make a real difference. You can also start your own fundraising drive, or give holiday gifts by donating in your friend or relative's name. For ideas and more tips on effective giving, visit the Women's Philanthropy Institute.

When we share the wealth, we model a sense of selflessness to our children. Encourage them to follow-through by asking that they give away toys they no longer use, set aside a portion of their allowance for needy children, or share their time by visiting a retirement center or convalescent home along with you.

Mentor
Confident parents make wonderful mentors. Big Brothers and Big Sisters is a national program that pairs children from single-parent homes with adult mentors. Similar programs may exist specific to your area, as well.

Mentoring children doesn't have to mean joining an organized effort. Perhaps you know a child who just needs a little extra time and attention. And, if you're a stay-at-home mom, you can simply make sure your home is the kids' hangout. Then get to know their friends on a personal level.

Make a personal contribution
Everyone has a special skill that can make a difference in the world. What's yours? Be enterprising. Brainstorm ways you can help others. If you can teach, volunteer to share your knowledge at your local free university or at one of the many online education portals. If you can write, pen persuasive letters to the editor or tutor a child in the skill. Do you know anyone who doesn't have a place to go for the holidays? Take them in this year.

Look around you. What do people in your community need? If you're ready to make a big commitment, the world needs foster parents, adoptive parents, and people willing to speak out on behalf of mothers and children.

The world needs a mother's caring, compassion, and strength. Let us show the world what a difference we can make.