Sue Groner is the founder of The Parenting Mentor, which provides on-site and virtual coaching sessions for parents of toddlers through teens. As a University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School graduate and a former advertising executive, Groner uses her training in creative problem-solving along with her CLEARR™ methodology (Communication, Love, Empathy, Awareness, Rules, and Respect), to help parents foster and maintain a more fulfilling and stress-free experience while in the trenches of day-to-day childrearing. She lives in New York City and Bedford, NY with her husband and two children (when they aren’t away at school!)
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I realized early on that in order to be happy, I needed to find creative outlets for myself. Raising my children is and continues to be profoundly fulfilling, but I thrive in an environment that offers the kind of non-stop, creative problem-solving opportunities I used to have when I worked in advertising. Not that parenting isn’t one problem-solving opportunity after another! But I started to see that solving my children’s problems was not helping them or me get what we needed. I need to be making, building, and learning. I believe nurturing those parts of myself has made a better mom.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a mom?
I think I’ve always had decent interpersonal skills, but being a mother has really taught me how important listening and empathizing are for a highly functional relationship. Over the years, I’ve become much better able to view the world from the perspective of my children in addition to my own. I’ve learned to validate more and fix less, a lesson that has made things better in almost every corner of my life.
What relationships and activities help you stay connected to yourself?
I have always made it a priority to spend time with my friends. Many of my close friends are long-term relationships – people that have known me for years. When we’re together, I see how we’ve evolved as women. It allows me to be connected to my past and present. It’s as if I have instant access to parts of me that I may have stored away for a while. And I get to review those parts and see if anything should come back into heavier rotation.
I’m also a bit of a culture hound, which is very easy in New York City. I feel like my best self when I’m immersed in the creative arts: sitting in a theater, taking an art class, or working with my vocal coach. Nurturing my creative side helps me be a problem solver and a thinker.
How do you think we can change our culture from one in which a woman is expected to be a “perfect mother” to one in which she is encouraged to discover and explore her evolving self?
First of all, I hate the P word, which I talk about in my book. There are two reasons for this. One is simply, there’s no such thing as “perfect.” It’s an unattainable goal, and therefore just a source of making women feel less than great about all wonderful things they do.
More important, however, is that “perfect mother” implies that the barometer for success is having the “perfect child.” In fact, par of my practice revolves around helping parents stop trying to engineer “perfect” lives for their children in the name of being a “great parent.” It’s a noble pursuit, but the way most of us go about it invariably backfires. Children need to be able to fail in order to grow. They need to be able to deal with adversity, to learn to fix things on their own, to become resilient and self-reliant. These are the skills that make strong, competent adults.
As a culture, our whole conversation about our children needs to change. Being a mother may be the best and most important thing we do, but it should not exclusively define us. I think that a mother can and should continue to discover, explore, and evolve as a person. As mothers, we all need to encourage each other to become Beyond Moms, in whatever ways that may mean for each of us. The culture will shift only when we begin to support each other in shifting the conversation.
Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
I love what Maria Shriver has said about the P-Word: “Perfectionism does not make you feel perfect. It makes you feel inadequate.”
Do you have a Beyond dream that you are pursuing?
It would be great to be one of the parenting experts for The Today Show as my small contribution in changing the parenting conversation. So many of my clients say, “I thought being a mom would be more joyful.” And I believe this echoes the feeling of so many parents out there. I would love to sit with Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotbe and share with them and their viewers how simple it can be to be a happier and more relaxed parent.
What causes and topics are you most passionate about right now?
I gravitate toward organizations that support children and/or the arts. Two groups that do a great job of making a difference in the future of at-risk and underserved children are Rosie’s Theater Kids and HourChildren. I’ve also recently become involved with Room to Grow which supports low-income parents with very young children (infants to 3-year-olds).
Also, as the mom of a daughter, I am quite passionate about the movement to change the perception and treatment of women in the workplace and beyond. I think the #metoo movement will have far-reaching effects, not the least of which is an attitudinal shift in women to take themselves more seriously. I believe this attitude will become the new normal.
Favorite go-to’s for:
Beyond Food (what do you cook & where do you go?)
One of my favorite places for breakfast or lunch is Bluestone Lane on Greenwich Avenue. They have the best breakfast bowl and golden latte! For dinner, my husband and I love to sit at the bar at Vic’s (on Great Jones Street) or at Loring Place (on 8th Street) although we are still exploring the neighborhood and beyond in all directions!
Beyond Content (Books & Podcasts)
I’m a fan of Malcolm Gladwell and his thought-provoking podcast, “Revisionist History”. He delves so deeply into whatever subject he is exploring and discussing. I also love to listen to Simon Sinek and almost any TED Talk. A recent favorite is from the Ted Radio Hour entitled “Decoding Emotions”.
I’m mostly a sweater and jeans kind of girl. Lately, I’m loving my Mother jeans with a cashmere sweater. I add velvet booties and some great jewelry, like my Roxanne Assoulin bracelets (given to me by a friend for no reason!!) and I’m ready to go.
I’m obsessed with CityRow. My son, who is on the crew team at his school, got me interested. It’s a hard workout but I feel so great when I’m done. When I’m at our house in Bedford, I do classes on my Peloton bike. Seeing the metrics throughout my workout helps to motivate me. I also love to take long walks and hikes, weather permitting.