Raising Healthy Women for the Future Means Dropping the Guilt.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Apr 20, 2013
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Motherhood can be wonderful for your feminine self-esteem—and it can also be very challenging.

I consider myself to be a stay-at-home yogi. It’s the term that I made up to define my status as a yoga teacher who works around the schedule of my child.

Initially I taught quite a bit after becoming a mother.

I taught constantly while pregnant and then went back to my early morning classes pretty darn quickly after giving birth. My little girl is now two and a half, and, since her arrival, my tiny family (that consists of myself, my husband and our little lady) relocated to a new area—which happens to be about two and a half hours away from my favorite babysitter, the woman that I happen to call “Mom.”

It’s been difficult for me to maintain my internal “good mommy” status while simultaneously maintaining a successful teaching career, especially considering my lack of extended family.

Essentially, I’ve turned into a stay-at-home mom, but I keep my feet wet by putting my name on local studio sub lists, attending teacher trainings and writing (quite a bit, not shockingly, about yoga).

Still, even though I like to think of myself as a mother with her own life, passions and career, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed, more often than I’d like to admit, at the weight of the reality that much of my daughter’s development, self-esteem and overall early life experiences falls heavily onto my fairly narrow shoulders.

Yet this is my choice, and it’s a choice that I continually reaffirm—because there’s no other person in the world who I’d rather spend my time with.

Regardless, I frequently battle feelings of unworthiness; of thoughts that I’m not performing this humbling and important job well enough.

After all, in life there’s always room for improvement. (This concept partly inspired my recent  “Self-Help is Selfish” article.)

Thankfully, though, I’m slowly growing into an alternate reality that while I’m certain that I could absolutely be better at life than I am, I also do many other things quite capably, and, even more importantly, as well as I’m able to.

I think that as we age, we (hopefully) discover that our positive and negative qualities are the flip sides of the same coin. This is definitely helpful in accepting our demons; the ones that we find we cannot easily change.

I’m fiery and passionate—and easily angered.

I’m sensitive and creative—and moody.

I’m determined and strong—and stubborn.

You get the idea.

The thing is, my daughter will also find qualities about herself that she alternately loves and, perhaps, loathes.

What kind of message am I sending to her if I beat myself up when I’m honestly trying my hardest to be the best wife, mother and woman that I can?

What am I teaching her to feel if I’m continually showing her that I’m feeling guilt by focusing more on my failures than on my successes?

I’ll tell you what I’m teaching her: to feel guilt.

This isn’t to say that I shouldn’t be continually working on upping my game. Motherhood is a full-time job—and, I’m not going to lie, it’s a big one.

There’s nothing in this world that’s more important than raising healthy kids to take over our world from us. If I don’t treat my role in her life in an appropriately serious manner then I’m also teaching my daughter that she’s not important, which clearly isn’t true. These types of circular ideas are what make motherhood, and parenthood in general, tricky and not easily navigated areas of life.

There’s a reason there’s no manual on parenthood: no one has ever done it perfectly.

Soon I’ll be heading out to a yoga workshop and getting home late—well after my daughter’s bedtime. Then bright and early tomorrow morning I’ll leave again for my on-going teacher training. (This is actually what prompted me to write this article in the first place.)

Speaking of writing, when I work on an article I almost always write it quickly and submit it. I try very hard not to over-think my piece beyond editing requirements—and I try equally hard to not over-think my sharing of personal subjects. Over-thinking leads to poor writing, in my opinion. Also, in my opinion, when I share something from deep within the depths of my human experience—and I write it like no one is going to read it—this is when readers ultimately get the most from my words; and yet I am writing this for someone—I’m writing this for other mothers and for our little girls.

I’m writing because I want the next generation of women to hold themselves up high—but not on unnecessarily wobbly pedestals that are easily toppled.

Some women work full time and come home to their kids after a long day in the office—these women are still full-time mothers. Trust me when I say that they carry their children in their hearts all day long.

Some women, like me, change more dirty diapers in a lifetime than most people want to imagine—we are still women. Trust me when I say that we have fantasies and self-expectations that exceed  beyond our innate need to be a special mommy.

When I sat down to write this article, it took me longer than probably any other.

I stopped writing once so that my daughter could read to me. Then I halted my process again so that I could read to her. I walked away from my laptop after hitting the “save draft” option a handful of times before I finally sat down for completion (and this, because my handsome husband came home significantly early). In short,  I’m currently taking time away from my entire little family simply to get my thoughts out through my fingertips—and I don’t regret it.

I don’t regret it because my family is so important to me that I owe them my best self; my happiest self.

As it turns out, my best and happiest self is a writer, a chronic thinker, a yogi—and, yes, a mom.

So, mamas, don’t let your ladies grow up to feel guilty.

Remember, no one’s perfect—but damned if I come close (or at least that’s what I’ll tell myself from here on out).

I’ll tell myself this because I’m reborn through my daughter. I can offer her opportunities I didn’t have. I can give her love that I didn’t know existed before I knew her. I give her all of this and more, simply because she’s my child and she inspires within me latent greatness.

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” ~Rajneesh


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Ed: Kate Bartolotta






About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


6 Responses to “Raising Healthy Women for the Future Means Dropping the Guilt.”

  1. Sara says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for this beautiful, inspired and powerful piece of honesty!!! I'm not a mother, but as I think about becoming one I am almost scared out of my mind that I'll repeat the mistakes my parents made, that I won't do something "right", that I'll pass my insecurities onto my own children and all that does is make me not want to have children! But when I sit down and think about all the amazing things I've done in my life and will contiue to do, and the ways that I'm learning and growning and challenging myself, I realize that is what I will pass onto my children. Hearing you vocalize these truths so accurately makes my heart open and my own inner critic take a back seat….thank you for that!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Jennifer, Thank you for spread this world with your Love, Inspiration and Motherhood spirit!!
    I was reading, and in some points I was thinking like it was about my own experience as a first time mother. I'm very grateful of my Life, my ups &downs, but especially for my beautiful daughter which is my best Teacher and Light!
    I wish you the best in this simply misterious proccess of raising a child. Thanks!!!

  3. Jennifer White says:

    Yay! I love this! You made my day, and I'm inspired by your connection with your value and what you have to offer. Another thing to consider, in my estimation at least, is that because you've spent time examining your flaws and have a sincere desire to parent at such a high level, that you are already one step ahead in this game. Good luck on your journey and thanks again for your feedback.

  4. Jennifer White says:

    I'm sending these blessings right back to you. Being a first-time mom, especially with my daughter, has been such a profound feminine experience for me. I feel so empowered and determined to share with her the many, many positives of being a girl and a woman—and I love to write about this and share it with you all too. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your responses to my writing. And thank you!!

  5. dejah says:

    Thank you for this. I love what you've written. You've expressed EXACTLY what I've lately realized. I don't have a daughter, but a son, and I think for children of either gender it's so important that we mothers realize we are more than the sum of our parts. I've been a stay at home mom for the past nine years, and I wouldn't trade it for the world, but I'm finally allowing myself permission to dream, to express my desires, and to show confidence and be graceful, and I hope that by doing so my son will grow up realizing he has the freedom to do the same.

  6. Jennifer White says:

    Good for you. No matter what your son chooses to do with his life, you're teaching him the value of self-worth, and that's a priceless thing to learn from a parent. Since I've written this, I feel even more strongly about it, because I've paid even more attention to the dynamic of how women treat themselves and how this creates either a healthy cycle of love or a potentially damaging one for everyone involved. Thank you for your feedback, and, as stay-at-home mom who's only a little less than three years in, it's great to hear that it only gets better.