Can raising confident children be accomplished when a mother resents who she is?

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Answered by: Kelly, An Expert in the Raise Your Children Category
This should be an easy topic; after all, I am a self-proclaimed expert at raising confident children. I have four of them and all of them, so far, are showing signs of being strong and confident in whom they are. I was sitting in front of a blank screen armed with one, then two, then three cups of coffee…a little jittery, but still no words.

I looked at the clock as another deadline neared. A night with the girls, this is a rare gift that my husband gives to me when he is home, it is rare because of our insane schedules. Maybe a much-needed night out would do the trick. Yes, that would be the answer, I could have a drink with amazing girlfriends and start fresh in the morning.

You know the saying, “God knows more than we do each moment?” No? Well, maybe I just made that up, but it has been applicable to my life. It would apply to me faster than expected. As I was getting dressed to go out, I was rummaging through my closet. Nothing fit the way I wanted, nothing jumped out at me and or made me feel "great".

I was cursing the state of my physical appearance; as well as my husband for not sending me on the much needed therapeutic shopping spree for magically slimming and age defying clothes. I knew they existed at some boutique, I had not yet found, because I have seen them on self-confident women with similar body types to my own. How was it that I did not look like I did a decade ago? I glanced in the mirror, something that was not easy for me to do, because in the recent decade Mr. Mirror and I have had a cold and distant relationship. He reflects so many lies and has no problem being cruel to the eyes. I have learned it is easier to avoid the toxic situation altogether, than to confront it head on.

This is childhood advice from my mother that I have carried with me; it is also amazing how it applies to inanimate objects as well. While looking into this distant “friend”, I did not see the woman I knew existed in my head. It was puzzling to me because up until that point, I had been an amazing liar, in that I had been raising confident children contrary to my own example.

I felt angry and betrayed; that I had let myself fall away from what I and society thought was an acceptable appearance. I was also dealing with another issue, at that moment; I was racked with the guilt of leaving my kids for the evening, not because I had to, but because I needed to. I was feeling the need to connect with a little piece of sanity that did not include dirty diapers or complaining being poisoned by the dinner I had served them.

I had been trying to remind myself that in time they will be more thankful and less narcissistic. It is funny how the confidence embedded in them can be used against you at times. I am aware that the day will come when I would give anything to have them back in this moment. (So empty nesting parents have promised), but a small part of me was feeling resentful at this moment and I needed to be with friends. I had been constantly tending to their needs that I had completely neglected myself. I did not have any time for myself and I was screaming inside for the opportunity to reconnect with the carefree, confident woman I knew was hidden inside the “mommy jeans” I hated wearing. (Those, by the way, are so deceptive and should have been outlawed across the globe years ago.)

I oscillated between giving in or going out. It would be much easier to avoid the mirror and feel sorry for myself at home in elastic wasted warm-ups and a self-help book. I deeply missed my girlfriends and the camaraderie, they always know exactly what I am going through; yet, I had come up with similar excuses to not go out with my girlfriends, way too many times to count, in the decade I was reproducing.

Not completely happy with how I looked, I decided to go. I was able to tell myself it did not matter because I was not a “cougar” on the prowl and even if I was, it did not matter, because I had way too much baggage for someone to notice anyhow. (I should insert the apology to my husband here, because my intentions were never to be a prowling animal, just to escape my mothering reality for an evening!) I ended up having a great time and I did not once think about how I looked or felt earlier in the day. The confidence I instilled in my children daily had magically appeared in me.

On my way home, I realized what I would have missed had I given into my ego and feelings of not being free to do what I wanted. I thought about what it really came down to, my own free will to be where I was in life. Was this a moment of a great Epiphany or just a bit of the leftover margarita in me? (I did drink responsibly, in case you are wondering!) In that moment of clarity it hit me, I needed to make changes and be the example I was hoping my children would learn. I always thought that is what having free will was, but I was off base. It was not free will; it was my ego. I was not doing some of the things that pleased me in case it interfered with my motherly, wifely or societal duties. That included my feelings for my life and myself. I was given free will to make good decisions and love all that I am, but it has been my ego that has controlled all that I have done. I was feeling bad about my appearance because I had chosen to be a mother. I felt guilty about enjoying a night out because I didn’t have the confidence and balance of living in both situations.

When I returned home, I set a challenge for myself and I did something I was never comfortable doing before, with the exception of being vain. I looked into a mirror. I reflected upon all that I was, all that I wanted to be and all that I am. Yes, there are imperfections to my body, age to my face, extra weight and stretch marks from my children. But every line, mark or pound had a story. It was the story of me and all of the grace in my life. I looked at my body, it has been abused over time, hurt accidentally, taken advantage of by my actions as well as others. It has endured numerous surgeries, it has hosted and fought cancers, and it has been a vessel for my four amazing and completely loved children. It has nurtured them, fed them and taught them about life, being stewards of the planet and seekers of all things true, pure and with love. It has endured life-altering situations; it has been bent and twisted. Everything but broken, it has managed to endure so much and still be strong.

Through all of it, it has never been more harshly judged by anyone other than myself. What an amazing accomplishment and all I ever saw was the imperfections and hardships it carried. For 30 plus years, all I had done was criticize my faults; I had never managed to give thanks when it was in good spirit or health. Why is it that we want so much for those we love, but are too afraid to ask for it ourselves? This question is not just for myself, I realize that this is something that has plagued my mother, grandmother and their generations and is currently affecting mothers today.

How do we raise children to be compassionate adults, when we cannot set examples for them within ourselves? The answer is simple, just like all things good and pure, we just have to look deep enough in our egos and forgive all of our flaws. The results will yield a new generation of confident children being raised by women who truly understand self-value and do not bend to pressures of an egotistical world.

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