I recently had the opportunity to serve as MOPS mentor for the second time. This completed the circle folks. I have now served in every position in the program. This however takes the cake! I love the ability to help, teach and encourage. This time I was on a panel and we were answering questions about balancing roles, training, and the many challenges of being a mother through the years. I was doing quite well (if I do say so myself... and I just did) of giving advice with humor and usable tidbits until... (dun dun dun) the last question. We were asked "If you could go back and change one thing about how you raised your kids, what would you change?" For the record... they did not tell us this one in advance. As I answered I surprised myself. I have thought it over so much since that day and I still agree with answer but I wanted to add a little more depth to what I said. Since I cannot do it with them... I will do it here. I know, you're so lucky!!! LOL
What would I change? I would be as careful about how I treated myself as I was with my children. Many of my friends have heard me say that "I tried so hard not to become my mother, I became my father" and as far as personality, that's pretty true. The problem is that as I get older, the more of my mother I see in the mirror staring back at me. The way I learned to see myself as a mom is largely influenced by how my mother saw herself. Therein lies the problem. You see, my mom was so encouraging to all of us. We heard how special, talented, beautiful and funny we were to her. Yet, when she spoke about herself she used harsh criticism, negative words about her looks, personality and performance. I have struggled with the same thing. I always went out of my way to praise my children and would never have thought of using the words I used to describe myself, to describe them. Now that I see how much I resemble my mother, those tapes she played about herself feel personal and it is hard to turn them off. I can see hints of that in my girls sometimes already. That makes me so sad.
So here is my advice to mother's of young children. If I could go back and change one thing, I would be careful to use positive words and encouragement on myself too. Especially in front of my children. I wouldn't talk about needing to diet, I wouldn't pinch that inch as I turn to the side in the mirror, I wouldn't reprimand myself cruelly when I didn't get something right the first, second or third time. For the record, I am not preaching the gospel of self love and guilt free living. What I mean is that I would have been as careful choosing my words with myself as I was with them because when they suddenly look in the mirror and see a bit of me staring back, I want them to smile. I don't want them to see hand me down genes, problem areas or shortcomings. I want them to see little glimpses of a mother who loved our family (including herself) well.