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April 20, 2013

Raising Healthy Women for the Future Means Dropping the Guilt.

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

 

 

 

 

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Jennifer S. White  |  Contribution: 45,780