As I’m about to have my baby girl any day now, I look back at the journey that is almost over – yet a much longer one is about to begin. 9 months doesn’t seem like a long time until you are pregnant and faced with the parenthood dilemmas you didn’t give much thought to before.
I spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like and how can I possibly get ready for what’s coming. Having read a couple of books about parenting I found myself only more confused and quickly realized that there is absolutely no way I can prepare for a task this big: bringing a child into this world. At the same time I wondered: how can I raise an empowered young girl who is free of preconceived ideas of what a girl, then a woman, should be like?
I thought that there is something I could do – in fact it may be the greatest gift I could give her: to be happy and true to myself. I’d like her to see me as someone who loves her dearly and unconditionally, but just as important, also loves herself and as such sets an example of how to authentically prioritize herself in all kinds of relationships: as a woman, a mother, a partner and a friend. I’d like her to see how to radiate self-worth and confidence and invite others to treat her the same way – with a spark in her eyes and a smile on her face. It’s time women stopped behaving like martyrs – most of the time it’s neither expected nor necessary.
The legacy of happy parents
How many of us can honestly say we have happy parents, especially happy mothers? This seems to be an elusive task and for some reason the words we’d use to describe our loving mothers are closer to them being devoted and caring, hard-working, relentless perfectionists who forgot how to have fun. They are also tired, feeling guilty, often running from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed thinking that they need to be there for you. Happy? Sometimes and from time to time. But this seems life a selfish thing to be when the entire world demands your attention. But is it really? Or is it a choice we willingly make not to feel guilty about choosing our own well-being?
Just because virtually everyone does it doesn’t make it right. This is one of the principles by which I live my life. When I hear something like this is not how things are done and you’ll see yourself I immediately feel challenged. In a good way! Only a small percentage of people have lives I could be inspired by – so I don’t expect the collective consciousness to reflect that. Instead I look for at least one example of someone who’s been able to do it differently and that becomes my reference point. Everything in life works this way and it’s our job to figure it out, to challenge the status quo and be true to ourselves about what we want to accomplish and how we want to feel – or to accept we don’t want to look for an alternative, but then we also shouldn’t complain about life not being the way we’d want it to be.
Actions speak louder than words
It’s not a cliché that kids usually don’t listen to what you say but instead, pay full attention to the way you behave and live your life. They are smarter than we think, with their emotional intelligence being well developed from the moment they are born. One book on parenting that stood out for me is Your Competent Child: Toward A New Paradigm In Parenting And Education written by a brilliant Danish family therapist Jesper Juul. I won’t be getting into the details here but it only amplified what I already felt was true: that we shouldn’t expect our kids to follow our words, but try to inspire them with actions. If you can only read one book about parenting, I’d encourage you to give this one a try.
Literally speaking as parents we lead by example and as such in last several months I’ve been increasingly conscious of how I behave, in moments of doubt asking myself – what would I want my daughter to see and how would I want her to behave under similar circumstances?
Being happy and at peace with herself – which is such a broad topic – is the most important thing I’d like to make sure she learns from me. I realize that I’m still oblivious to many challenges connected to raising a child, from sleepless nights to feeling responsible from the day she is born. Yet I also see this as a great privilege: having an opportunity to dream about how different it could be. How my daughter could learn to value and prioritise herself in a healthy way; how she could learn the importance of knowing and loving herself; how she could be free of the disease to please that is still an issue for me sometimes.
The same things I do automatically because of how I was raised – and the vast majority of other women too – could pose much less of a challenge for her as she begins her journey.
I know I’d love for her to know her value and not let anyone – a friend, a boyfriend or a co-worker – question her potential, diminish her worth or affect the way she feels about herself (it has nothing to do with an inflated ego). I’d love for her to look for power inside of her, instead of looking for validation in others. That to me is authentic empowerment.
That’s a dream I have for both of us. And I truly believe that not only women as mothers would benefit, but their families would function better, too. After all we are solely responsible for the trajectories of our lives and maybe if we reminded ourselves that it’s our responsibility to prioritise our well-being it wouldn’t seem to be so unattainable?