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March 03, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, March 03, 2004
COMMUNITY

Mothers get in the moment Mothers get in the moment (March 03, 2004)

Symposium promotes compassionate parenting techniques

by Rachel Metz

As any mom knows, it can be easy to lose sight of what's important.

In the heat of the moment, stressed by the hustle and bustle of life, mothers can forget to pause and cherish their children.

"Sometimes we do lose that insight. Any mother can relate to that, particularly here on the Peninsula, or anywhere. It's just a demanding world we live in and we're just trying to keep up," Palo Alto parent Jane Gee said.

This issue is important enough that Gee and other organizers of the local Symposium for Mothers decided to make it the focus of the sixth annual conference this weekend, "Mothering By Heart: Compassion Within the Moment."

This year's symposium centers on trusting one's parenting skills and staying in touch with kids. The event will talk about compassion and mindfulness, Gee said.

"I think people are scared and nervous as we raise our children and we need to be more optimistic and think from the heart and broaden that," Gee said.

What exactly is mindful mothering? To Amy Saltzman, a doctor and parent set to speak at the symposium, it's paying attention to the present moment and applying it to both pleasant and unpleasant parenting moments. Running late for school is one example she uses, pointing out the value of the parent stopping and taking a breath.

"Once you're present in the moment, that's when you can make choice. You can tie the shoes or give a clear instruction or just choose, 'OK, we're going to be late,'" she said.

This year speakers will include Stanford drama lecturer Patricia Ryan Madson and a musical performance by folk singer and songwriter Nancy Cassidy.

Saltzman is keyed up to be a part of the symposium. She's a mother of two young children.

"I've seen the symposium advertisements each year and wanted to go but actually chose to stay home with my kids. But it was definitely something I was excited about," she said.

The event is meant to refresh and celebrate mothers, event organizer Becky Beacom said. Beacom is also the health education manager for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

"It's sort of a pedicure for your soul," she said.

Moms don't usually get a lot of opportunities to be inspired about their roles, because "they're too busy taking care of everybody else," Beacom said.

Gee, a former real estate broker, created the first symposium seven years ago. She was struggling with the decision of whether she should go back to work after the birth of her second child.

"Over a bowl of soup with one of my friends I said, 'Maybe this is something we could do an outreach about,'" she said.

They snagged nine local mothers representing nine different non-profit groups, and centered the event around how to support moms in their decisions to stay home or continue working, Gee said.

Since then, the symposium has blossomed. Each year they have speakers and a different theme, and attendance has risen. The symposium started out with a lot of Palo Alto mothers, but now moms from other local cities -- like Redwood City, Mountain View and Menlo Park -- are also attending. There are also more mothers of teenagers coming to the symposium, whereas in the past there were more mothers of small children, Beacom said.

Palo Alto parent Jane Kershner helps companies aid their employees in balancing work and personal lives, so she's no stranger to the topics the forums cover. She's been to the forums several times and will attend this weekend.

The symposium is useful because women get a chance to connect with others and see many sides to parenting issues, she said.

"You're not coming to learn what's the answer, you're coming to see what's the different ways of thinking about things," she said.

The sixth annual Symposium for Mothers is sponsored by the city of Palo Alto, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, the Palo Alto Weekly and several other local groups.

The sixth annual Symposium for Mothers, "Mothering By Heart: Compassion Within the Moment" is on Saturday, March 6 from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Fairchild Auditorium at Stanford University. For more information call (650) 498-7826.


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