03/20/2013 04:51 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Global Mom Relay: Why You Should Kiss Those Tiny Feet

This post is part of the Global Mom Relay. Every time you share this blog, $5 will go to women and girls around the world. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.

Ten years ago, I left the world of clinical medicine to join a new community of individuals committed to improving the health of communities in low-resource settings outside the U.S. -- a field known as "global health." Driven by my belief that philanthropy could spark new solutions for long-standing challenges, I found myself working to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the health and well-being of women, girls and children.

In my work-related travels around the world, I observed consistent themes. Women, for the most part, were the community's front-line responders to its most urgent health and social challenges. Mothers made tremendous sacrifices and took great risks as they strived to ensure their children had better lives than they. And children, especially girls, hungered for attention and education.

Five years ago, I joined another community -- the global community of mothers. Having our daughter and, soon after, our son transformed my relationship to my work. I saw myself in every mother I met and the former or future versions of my children in every child I encountered. I also began to reach out to other mothers (and fathers) who also worked in global health. Like me, they are connected to their work in a very personal way. Based in international NGOs, UN agencies, foundations, and corporations, this community offers technical assistance to colleagues on the front-lines, provides funding support, and creates advocacy campaigns to raise awareness for the substantial needs in global health and visibility for approaches that work.

While we talk about things that many mothers discuss, as a "tribe" of global health professionals we have our own "cultural" peculiarities that shape our conversations. We trade pointers on flying direct to Addis Abba, skyping with the kids so they don't think we are gone forever, and getting out of the hotel and into the community when we are attending a 4-day conference. Of the countless bits of wisdom, the best piece of parenting advice I ever received remains "kiss those tiny feet." It's simple, it's playful, and it instantly reconnects you to all that you thought and felt when your child was born and you were counting those 10 fingers and 10 toes for the first time.

Those soft feet, that are barely the size of your thumb, grow quickly over time to a point when you no longer can or want to kiss them and before your eyes your children have transformed into amazing young adults.

Last year, when our daughter turned five, I entered yet another community -- of parents who can celebrate their child's fifth birthday. It's a community missing millions of mothers around the world because seven million children die each year from preventable causes before the age of five.
Together we must strive to ensure that these mothers are not denied entry to this community, that their child turning 5 is a common and uneventful milestone they can celebrate. Instead of feeling fear that their young children will not survive, these mothers can kiss those tiny feet and be awestruck by how much and how fast their children have grown.

Each time you share this Global Mom Relay piece on Facebook, Twitter, or Email, or donate $5 or more through clicking on the above graphic, a $5 donation (up to $62,500 per week or $125,000 every two weeks) will be donated by Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Girl Up. Join us by sharing it forward and unlock the potential for women and children around the globe. For more information, visit The United Nations Foundation, Johnson & Johnson, BabyCenter, The Huffington Post, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation created the Global Mom Relay, a first-of-its-kind virtual relay with a goal of improving the lives of women and children around the globe.

This post was originally published on Baby Center.