Leading by Example
Having children has changed me in so many ways. My priorities have changed, my outlook on the world, my lifestyle. It has made me re-think myself and truly evaluate whether I am the role model my children deserve. Having daughters especially, really highlights for me, all the insecurities I feel about how I look, my self-talk and who I am.
Recently I had plans to do a beach day with my girls. I’ve always loved the beach. Growing up never more than fifteen minutes away, I spent many summers into adulthood soaking up the Jersey Shore and really making good use of my close proximity. Yet, here I was, a preschooler and a baby into motherhood, all of a sudden wanting to back out of my plans and miss a beautiful day at the beach. After eight months postpartum and two c-sections I’ve been feeling a bit more like a beached whale rather than a bathing beauty. It really had me thinking. Although I don’t talk about my love hate relationship with my postpartum self in front of my girls, I was contemplating taking away a fun day with them because of my own insecurities.
Recently, I read a beautiful poem talking about body image as a mom to daughters, and how they are always watching so it’s important to love yourself, however you are, and set that great example. In this day and age there’s enough people to bring you down. You have to be your number one fan, a confidence I hope to instill in my girls. We all know the truth though, our children don’t always listen to what we say, but they surely do observe what we do and our actions many times make the most impact.
So I stood there, telling my husband my uneasiness about going to the beach and he so gently reminded me of the poem I had shared and my belief in being a good example. In reply, I said, “She was right, we do need to be those things but I’m not sure I’m confident enough to be that person”. I’ve been thinking about this and my struggle, and I realize that I’m so wrong. So very wrong to preach loving yourself and taking care of yourself and secretly doing the opposite. Teaching my daughters they are wonderful exactly the way they are, yet inside not feeling that way towards myself. Secretly feeling bad that I still can’t fit into my summer shorts or my favorite bathing suits. My daughters are still too young to pick up on this mismatch of words and actions so, I have time to make it right.
I want to teach my girls that loving who you are means taking care of yourself. Taking care of yourself through exercise and what you’re eating as well as your self-talk. My confession is that I have not been practicing what I preach. I also have been known to eat a daily pop tart or chipwich, both habits I have proudly quit. My self-talk is not always positive so I am also guilty there. Where these bad habits are, there should be gratitude, self-care and appreciation for all my body has done for me and showing my girls how to treat themselves. I am their role model, I am their mom and I want to re-kindle that love for myself, so I can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
I decided to confront my fear head on and to allow myself a little bit of grace. I was going to recognize that sometimes we are a work in progress, but that doesn’t mean we can’t love ourselves during the journey. For the sake of doing the right thing for them and me, I decided I was going to put on that bathing suit despite my reservations and have an amazing day at the beach with my children. I was going to try my hardest to own all my imperfections with confidence and work hard going forward to become a healthy version of myself, not only on the outside but on the inside as well. Breathe deep and just take the plunge.
With that being said, a few days later, I decided to suck it up, or in a little, and put on that suit and go. I changed into my bathing suit and cover up and my three year old came skipping in and says “Mom you look beautiful!” As I stood there stuffed in a bathing suit I wasn’t happy to be in, this small statement brought tears to my eyes. It hit me in that moment that she sees me SO differently than I see myself. She doesn’t see all the imperfections I can’t help but notice. She just sees her mom. She looks at me with love and that makes all the difference. That’s how we need to see ourselves too, with love.
I am going to try my hardest to also look at myself with love, however hard, for my sake and hers and focus a little less on all the imperfections and a little more on all the rest! I know that it’s not something I will change overnight, but I do know that I can work on it starting today.
Our children don’t care if our hair is a mess, we have a little extra padding in places we’d rather not, a wrinkle here or there, some gray hair etc. Not only do they not care, they don’t even see it most of the time, because to them we are just 'Mom' and this is how Mom is. What they truly do pay attention to, are the times we talk bad about ourselves, or cover something up, exclude ourselves from activities, cancel plans etc.
They notice our behavior and internalize this. Luckily for us they also notice the things that do matter, the love we show them, the attention we give them, the pride on our sometimes tired looking faces. They feel our energy and feed off it. It’s important to work on our self -love, self-care and self-talk. It’s not selfish to want to improve. Being a better you will validate all your words. So much of what we are and do will be mirrored in our children. So in conclusion, it’s time for me to be a mirror of love, health and kindness.