A very smart writer told me once that writing a book, like running a marathon and many other difficult things to which this analogy is often applied, is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration. Well, here’s my 1%. Only 99 to go…
DOMESTIC DIPLOMACY: Keeping the peace on the home front while raising a family abroad.
I have a Master’s of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University, but I’m neither a lawyer nor a diplomat. I’m a mom. For the past six years I have been raising my family of three children outside of the United States, first in London and presently in Hong Kong. I have always joked that I have a master’s degree in “cocktail party conversation” when trying to explain the complex utility of a Fletcher degree and the typically nonlinear career trajectory of my fellow graduates. My own career path was diverse, spanning two decades of work from humanitarian relief in Africa, to public relations in New York and LA, to directing a Center for Optimal Health for Amway and several others in-between. My degree gave me a tool kit of skills rather than a career.
Overall, international relations theory, diplomacy and the discipline of studying law translated to skills in exhaustive research, examining all sides of a situation, paying attention to details, follow through, consistency of performance, teamwork and clear analytical writing. These skills served me well in my professional career, but the real surprise, more than a decade into parenting, is how useful this training has been on the home front. Raising children is chaotic. But, view child rearing through the prism of international relations theory and a parallel discipline begins to emerge that can provide as useful an analytical framework as those offered by the latest popular child development specialist or clever mommy blogger. Returning to those principles upon which our society has been organized, namely, the rule of law and a reliable justice system supported by rational human thought and some version of the golden rule, parenting becomes not a fear-based exercise, but a logical journey.
As I began to pay attention to conscious decisions I have made as a parent, or to analyze situations that have not gone as I expected, I started to draw clear associations with my Harvard Business School case method courses and positions I had argued in law classes. Along with this realization emerged a growing sense that I was not “wasting my degree” but utilizing it in a new and profound way. Having met up with three of my dearest friends and fellow Fletcher graduates one summer for a chaotic day shepherding our ten children around Cape Elizabeth, Maine, I realized that though we were all living in the far reaches of the earth, (Hong Kong, Tashkent, Washington, DC and Luanda, Angola respectively) we shared one thing in common. We were all in the throws of parenting, applying our Fletcher degrees more to negotiating ice cream access than land usage rights, and that that was exactly what we were supposed to be doing.
STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK
In this book/series of articles, I will use my sixteen-course masters degree in law and diplomacy program as an outline and demonstrate, using real-life anechdotes, how the principles of international relations can be applied to parenting with fairness, respect and often, remarkable humor and compassion. I have been blessed with three thoughtful, independent and sometimes challenging, but always engaging children who have put me to the test daily, but whom I love all the more for it. I hope that our experience resonates for you. If I do it right, this book will be equally at home in the parenting and international relations sections of your bookstore.