Monday, May 11, 2015

What Motherhood Has Taught Me

It's a funny thing, being a mom. Everyone tells you your life is about to change and it does. That part wasn't much of a surprise. The thing I didn't expect was how profoundly it would change the way I viewed myself. I have heard people say that they lost themselves once they had kids because everything became about the kids and they had nothing left. The opposite happened to me. 

I've always had an idea of what my values were and what values I wanted to instill in my kids. And as my kids grow, I am constantly thinking of the kind of human I want to raise. At the end of the day, my job is to teach them and prepare them to be respectful, intelligent, kind and independent people. What is the best way to do that? Be an example. I use different tactics and give them certain responsibilities to drive this all home, but it always comes back to me and their dad. There is nothing more effective than practicing what you preach. As I came to this realization, it occurred to me that my ideals did not always align with how I was really living. I had become lazy and comfortable and my kids were forcing me to step it up. I had some work to do. 

So here are all the things that I strive to teach my kids everyday that have now become areas I am working on. We're all in this together.

- Believe in yourself. I didn't intend to start this off sounding like an after school special, but it's true that it's something I needed help in. Have you ever heard of the idea that you shouldn't say anything about yourself that you wouldn't say about your best friend? The idea being that we are much harder on ourselves than the people we love most in this world. And if we just realized that we are human and most people in the world are faking it just as much as we are, we start to gain the confidence we need to move forward. I can say my career has soared since I became a mother and I don't think that is a coincidence. Also, as you get older you just give less shits. So there's that too.

- Celebrate failure. It's a lot easier to say you can't do something and give up than endure the hardships of failing. Sounds obvious when you say it, but I never really thought about it until a study came out a couple years ago stating that kids that were praised for the process (failing) over accomplishments were more successful. If they just realized that eventually they would succeed, they were much more likely to keep trying. Failing is just a sign that you are closer to succeeding. Realizing that simple fact has made an impact on me too. 

- Be kind, not nice. I think I had the kind part down, but the part about being not nice was harder for me. What do I mean by that? Well, I want to teach my kids it is ok to say no sometimes. I don't want them to get walked over and for some reason I have always had a hard time saying no. Saying no has freed me from feeling overwhelmed and stressed and I want the same for my kids.

- Stop whining and fix it. Ok, I don't think I whine a lot but teaching my kids to recognize and solve problems is a big one. Reiterating it to them constantly just puts it in the forefront for me. It has become routine around here to stop a situation from getting out of hand and talk about what the problem really is and how we can best solve it. I mean, how can that not help me?

- Broaden your horizons. Make lots of different kinds of friends and experience different places. I've always loved to travel, but I just haven't done as much of it in my life as I would like. We've made it a priority to take a family trip every year to somewhere new so the kids can experience different parts of the country and eventually, the world. Experiencing different places and people builds empathy and a realization that the world is a lot bigger than our little bubble at home. Showing them around also helps me slash stuff off my bucket list. Plus it's fun to see them experience new things.

My kids have made sure that I am no longer a caricature of what I've always wanted to be. That ideal hasn't been reached but I am lot closer to it than I ever have been and it feels good to know that when I tell my kids it's important to xyz, it's coming from a place of honesty and not hypocrisy. So thanks kids. I love you for it.