If you’ve been on my site for a while, you probably already know that my life is centred around my daughter. After all, this blog was inspired by her. What you may not know is the amount of emotional growth that being a mother and writing about my experiences has gifted me. There is just something about opening up about the things that worry you that not only empowers but also allows one to see them for what they really are; little hurdles. Trust me when I say that there have been a few hurdles and skeletons in my past, a few of which I have chosen to share in a very abstract way over a five part series. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read my previous posts in the Accepting Grief series, do take a moment to do that as it will help a little with an understanding of my wellness journey.
When I fell pregnant with my daughter, I vowed to be a role model, someone she could look up to because my mother was that person for me. My views on motherhood were engrained by the great person that she was, so I knew that I too needed to be an inspiration to my children. It has been close to three years since I fell pregnant with my little angel and that burning desire to be the best version of myself only grows stronger with time. What has changed during this period is what being ‘a role model’ really means and how I choose to live it out. As I sit and ponder these goals, I have to admit that I was reaching for the stars and while it is a good thing to aim higher than your reach, it was a little silly on my part not to dig deeper to see where each point came from. To begin, let’s look at the goals:
My initial 5 step approach
- Keep my hair in its natural state
- Be the perfect housewife while maintaining a full time job
- Keep to a strict routine
- Be very patient at all times
- Be selfless at all times
Looking at the list in isolation, I should still strive to ace all of the self development goals because always trying to be the best version of myself would definitely teach my daughter to try her best, right? What makes this really wrong for me is that they are rigid and don’t leave any wiggle room for error. Lord, knows I always make mistakes! It’s ok though, because as a human it is only expected that I will make mistakes. What matters most is how I get back up after tripping over the hurdle. I’m older and wiser now (with lots of room for more improvement) and I hope that my personal experiences are able to help other young moms tweak their expectations.
Keeping that in mind, I have identified the errors in my goals and adjusted accordingly;
- Keep my hair in its natural state
Background: My fellow kinky haired sisters will relate best to this one. Across the globe, women of colour are taking part in a ‘movement’ to prove to the world that our natural hair is beautiful as it is and that we do not need to have straight, blond hair *cough, Beyonce* to be considered attractive or professional. My mom did not allow me to chemically straighten my hair growing up, but after losing her I decided to do so in an attempt to be like everyone else. Fast forward to 2014, I decided to do the ‘big chop’ and let my hair grow back in its natural state, but what I found was that with my lifestyle (exercise and long hours of work) I didn’t necessarily have the time or patience to do everything necessary to keep my hair healthy.
Problem: I stayed strong though, and after falling pregnant, I knew I had to stick with my guns so that my daughter would like her kinky hair that looked just like mommy’s. It didn’t matter that I was unhappy with my hair and wasted valuable time trying to detangle it, I had to do this for Gabby. What I’ve learnt is that it doesn’t matter how determined you are to do something for someone else because if it doesn’t make you happy, are you really transmitting the right message? So in 2019, with a new born adding to my to-do list, I made the personal decision to relax my time consuming hair.
Correction: Forget what others think, be the person that I want to be. In being comfortable in my own skin how I see fit, my children will learn that it is ok not to be like everyone else.
2. Be the perfect housewife while maintaining a full time job
Background: This mama over here is proudly African and although I was raised in Asia, my hardcore African dad made sure that my sisters and I knew everything about taking care of a household. That meant cooking, cleaning and serving your family while still getting good grades and working hard for that corner office job. My dad always said that you can employ people to run your household, but if you don’t know how to do it, you will never be able to ensure they do it right.
Problem: It is the twenty-first century and women are allowed in the workplace. Logically, that should mean that responsibilities at home should be shared – unless agreed upon otherwise as a couple. My husband is very hands on with the household chores, cooking and with our daughter so why struggle alone?
Correction: Be a good wife and mom, keep your home in check, but be easy on yourself if it isn’t always perfect. It’s completely fine to order dinner, or skip a load of dishes. Spending time with your family is more important than toiling away in the kitchen.
3. Keep to a strict routine
Background: If you are a new mom, I’m sure you will agree when I say that the bar is set quite high! Most of us stare admiringly at all the seasoned mothers who are so put together, make their kids’ food from scratch and are never late to an event. Guys, I am yet to arrive on time for a single function due to Gabby’s existence. In fact, the only thing I am mostly on time for these days is my office job!
Problem: In the early days I used to set alarms on my phone for feeds, diaper changes, etc because that it so that meant waking up a sleeping baby for feeds that she didn’t necessary have to have at that very moment. This later translated into other things around the house which nearly drove both my husband and me insane. It is great to strive for perfection, but with my history of low self esteem, it is not constructive to keep such rigid goals because when they are not met, my assumption is that I am a failure. Babies/kids are not predictable beings and it is far more important to adapt to their needs as and when they arise. Keeping mealtimes set is one thing, but living by a detailed and rigid schedule is very difficult to stick with.
Correction: Set a flexible routine and adjust accordingly. This will teach your child that they need to adapt to different circumstances.
4. Be patient at all times
Background: My mother was amazing. She was calm, caring and very calculated – the complete opposite of how I turned out! Believe me when I say that I can remember every single instance that my perfect mother ever shouted at me because she usually she reprimanded in a calm and collected manner. I have no idea how she did it or why that trait was not passed on to me, but it was something that helped me stay in line and really listen to the rationale behind why she was upset with me. This is one of the many reasons that she is my role model.
The problem: My mother was not a twenty something old mom with very little experience raising children, she was quite the opposite really. With my dad out of the picture in the early years, she was forced to be the breadwinner, the caregiver, the educator and everything else that comes with parenting, It took experience to teach her how to handle mischievous little ‘rugrats’ so it should take experience for me to do the same.
The correction: Try to stay calm, learn to express yourself calmly and don’t be hard on yourself if you mess up. This will teach your child to use their words and that imperfection is not a defect.
5. Be selfless at all times
Background: Remember when I said that a ‘good’ mother and wife does x, y and z for her family? Mothers will do anything to make sure that their kids are fed, bathed and that their ‘booboos’ are kissed with every band aid that’s placed.
The problem: My view that a mother should be selfless and loving has not changed and that usually means I find myself pushing my mental state to its breaking point and only slowing down to relax once the volcano erupts. Every mother will tell you that she often gets tired and needs a break to recharge – it’s normal. Taking care of yourself does not mean that you aren’t considering your family’s needs. If you wait until you get to that point, how likely is it that you will still be present for your family without needing to be committed into a psychiatric ward for going insane, or to prison for murder?
Correction: Take care of your family, but don’t forget to take care of yourself too. You can’t care for someone else if you cannot care for yourself.
As a takeaway, here is a quick summary of the new approach to role model parenting that I will be following, as well as the reasons why.
Revised 5 step role model approach:
- Start by loving yourself and constantly speak positively about your body, intelligence, etc. Your kids will pick up on these practices and adopt them for themselves.
- Live a balanced life and focus on a hierarchy of priorities. Your kids will realise that family is the most important element.
- Promote stability in your daily routines but be willing to adapt to change. Your kids will learn the importance of certain routines and understand when it is time to be serious or time to play.
- Pick your battles wisely as not everything is worth stressing over. Your kids will learn to process their emotions and react calmly.
- Establish some time for self care. Your kids will learn that they not only have to be kind to others, but must also love themselves.
Obviously each person’s list is different, but I challenge you to take a moment of reflection to really think about your approach. Is there something in your parenting style that may need improvement so you can be a role model for your children?