Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Do As I Say, Not As I Do" is Not Enough

One of our most important jobs as parents is to serve as role models for our children. That should include modeling self-care. So, as I began to think about this post, I thought about my primary role model - my mother.

Although my mother's marital status changed during my childhood, the main image that I hold of her is of the single, working mother who did whatever it took to take care of her children. She embodied strength and sacrifice and always made sure that we got what we needed. 

So, I know where my "Superwoman, I'll do it all and love it" attitude came from. But, I've also seen up close the cost of so much sacrifice and so little self-care. My mother's self-neglect eventually led to depression and substance abuse.

Now I have a sense of why I feel the need to do so much and I have an extreme example of how I don't want my life to end up. The question is, what do I do? It's a complex dance trying to instill in our children a strong work ethic and internal motivation to do their best without also passing on the legacy of tireless effort and self-sacrifice. 
For example, as I look around, I see many of my older son's peers scheduled to the hilt, playing multiple sports, learning one or two instruments, and already working on that "college edge." I'm all for wanting our children to be well-rounded and to have as many options for the future available to them as possible. But, I worry about what we're inadvertently teaching them.

And worse yet, if I live my own life like an unending relay race where each leg is a different important task and there is never really a hand-off, why would they possibly do anything different?

No pressure (okay, a little actually), but those of you with daughters have a particular duty to dispel the "Superwoman" image and to serve as healthy, realistic role models. They must learn that downtime is good, that their health and happiness is just as important as everyone else's, and that doing for themselves can ultimately help them do for others.

And this can't just be wise words spoken from on high - you must espouse self-care in word and deed. Children learn from what they see as much or more so than from what they're told. It is essential to your daughters, to all of our children, that we embody the self-care that we want them to engage in.

So, now I tell my boys that Mommy needs her quiet time just as much as they need theirs. I think that's a good start...

No comments:

Post a Comment