The Best TED Talks for Mothers

These talks, which touch on the realities of parenting, motherhood, inspiration, parental leave, and more, should be required viewing.

by Jonathan Stern
Originally Published: 

We could all use a little bit of perspective, insight, and inspiration. That’s exactly what TED talks provide. The speaker series consistently doles out some of the most affecting videos on the Internet across a huge swath of topics. The series has featured more than few highly intelligent, highly motivated women talking about parenting and the trials, tribulations, and rib-tickling aspects of being a mom, many of which are excellent inspiration for all parents. We think the 10 videos below are some of the best TED talks for mothers and parents in general.

Katherine Wintsch: Unmasking Motherhood

Some mothers are still trying to shape their world to reflect their Pinterest board, but Katherine Wintsch, founder of the consultancy the Mom Complex, recognized that a lot of brands like Walmart, Hasbro, and Kraft need cut it out with all the perfect mom-dom crap and start showing what being a modern mother is really like. Her TED talk is blunt, funny, very, very smart.

Julia Sweeney: It’s Time For “The Talk”

When you just have to laugh at the comedy of errors that is parenting, there’s comedian and former SNL cast member Julia Sweeny’s hilarious retelling of how she broke down the birds and the bees for her daughter. Consider her quote about female reproductive anatomy as “A little bit like having a waste treatment plant right next to an amusement park … Bad zoning.” It’s intelligent, funny, and very, very entertaining.

Jennifer Senior: For Parents, Happiness is a Very High Bar

Parenting is hard. Very hard. And happiness can be hard to achieve. Jennifer Senior gets it. Her New York Times bestseller, All Joy And No Fun: The Paradox Of Modern Parenting, and her TED talk distill why raising happy kids is such a crisis for modern parents. Hint: It’s not their fault, and happiness is the wrong goal.

Anne-Marie Slaughter: Can We Have It All?

Public policy expert Anne-Marie Slaughter penned an incredibly popular Atlantic article that try to understand “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” In her TED talk, Slaughter discusses that anachronistic chestnut, gender equality, and how not just women, but everyone should adjust their old ways of thinking. It’s required viewing for anyone looking for a plain-spoken chat about extremely complex and important issues.

Mel Robbins: How to Stop Screwing Yourself Over

If you’re going to go the self-help route, you could do worse than listening to an Ivy League-educated criminal lawyer with a bestselling book and a one of the most sought-after corporate coaching programs in the country. In the self-help world, Robbins no-nonsense approach is extremely refreshing, as is her thoughts on a very naughty word: “Fine.”

Jill Salzman: Why Moms Make The Best Entrepreneurs

Jill Salzman has worn a bunch of entrepreneurial caps. For instance, she started a music management firm and launched a baby jewelry company. Her latest venture is a monthly meet-up for like-minded moms where kids are welcome called The Founding Moms. Want your child to know what mom does all day? It’s never too early to learn how to white board.

Jessica Shortall: How America Fails New Parents — And Their Babies

Jessica Shortall is the author of Work. Pump. Repeat. and the former director of giving at TOMS shoes. In her TED talk she takes on paid parental leave and the ugly reality of women who are forced to go back to work just a few weeks after giving birth. It’s an important conversation given with nuance and intelligence.

Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the Intelligence, Passion, And Greatness of Girls

Nobel Peace Prize winner and a huge factor in ending the second Liberian civil war, Leymah Gbowee is a mother of four who has seen children in the absolute worst of circumstances. In her talk, Gbowee relates how not enough is being done to unlock the potential of girls around the world. If you’re an awesome role model, you’re halfway there.

Dr. Hawa Abdi + Dr. Deqo Mohamed: Mother Daughter Doctor Heroes

Sometimes mother/daughter time is painting pictures. Sometimes it’s helping a war-torn region get access to basic medical care. Doctors Hawa Abdi and Deqo Mohamed are the mother and daughter doctor duo who have been called “the saints of Somalia” after managing to build a medical clinic, hospital, and school in a region known for open hostility to women. Their talk is inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging for all to make a difference.

Nancy Frates: Why My Family Started the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS ice bucket challenge wasn’t just about getting A-list celebrities to pour freezing water on themselves — that was just a nice byproduct. When Nancy Frates son was diagnosed with ALS it was terrifying. But how she turned his disease into a moment of opportunity is a story that will have you crying buckets — and writing down ways to help the world.

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