I recently drove past a sign that read, “Children are great imitators. So give them something good to imitate.” And it got me thinking…
I’m a mother, maybe just like you, who is navigating.
I often feel that everyone always thinks I have my act together. I may run a mom-blog that writes from 22 countries and has an editing staff but I don’t always know what I’m doing in the driver’s seat of my own mom-mobile.
I think the key is redirecting when I gain new, useful information. I’m always actively reading, thinking, trying, asking and watching, like so many of us are.
The questions that I’ve recently been repetitively savoring in my head are:
Why am I saving my own passions for later? When is later? Will I still have the spark for them later?
Initially, putting things on hold for myself made sense and felt like the path to becoming a good mom. No doubt our kids come first! But, I’ve witnessed some and heard stories of mothers who have done that, and when their children have grown older, the mothers have had great emotional difficulty re-entering their own worlds, as they’ve been living in their child’s world for so long.
They are no longer brave. They are no longer able to identify their passions. They lack self-confidence.
I know that keeping a piece of “me” during motherhood is, well, important for me. And, along with many mothers, that piece of me doesn’t get star billing because I naturally feel it would be selfish. There are things I could—and I feel I should—be doing for my kids instead.
We’ve all read it and have been told, even here on World Moms Blog, that it is important to keep a piece of ourselves. But, I’ve found myself actually valuing that piece of myself a little more recently because I’m finding that growing and developing myself in tandem to mothering is just as important to my children as it is to me.
If kids are really good imitators, as we moms know from experience they are, do I really want to teach my daughters through my own actions that they need to give up who they are and their passions at any time of their life? No way!
What I want for them is to follow their dreams, to focus on what truly inspires them because our time on this planet is too short. We should live with some degree of urgency to carry out our passions and find what it is that we are meant to be doing while we are here, before it’s too late.
YES, my children are and always will be, by my choice, the biggest part of my life’s work. I love them so much. And I’m also beginning to get comfortable with the fact that keeping a piece of myself isn’t selfish nor is it making me a less than stellar mom. It’s necessary.
If I can’t show my children how important it is to do what I feel that I’m meant to be doing, then how can they learn to do the same?
One of my passions is foreign language. Interview by interview goes by about our new writers on World Moms Blog, and I think, “Wow, she speaks that language!” or, “That’s amazing that she knows 4 languages!” And, I soooo admire that because it’s a deep interest of mine that I haven’t conquered.
I even wrote a letter to myself when I turned 30, to open on my 40th birthday, which mentioned that I expected to speak another language well by 40. I’m more than halfway to 40 now! Time is ticking!
I took some French lessons two-years-ago, but stopped because I thought I couldn’t make time for it, so I didn’t make time for it.
Well, here I am, with less than five years until I turn 40, now with two playful children, and I’m going to sign back up for those French lessons, start watching the French news online daily and giving up my English radio stations for French ones. It’s time for me to get immersed!
Packing up and living in another country is also something that I want to do before I die. Perhaps that will be the next step one day on my life’s journey. In the meantime, I can enjoy living vicariously through the adventures of the World Moms Blog writers!
So, who’s out there reading this and joining me? Let’s do it! Let’s take a baby step together towards one of our passions!
Tell me, what behavior do you want your children to imitate? Is there something you feel passionate about but aren’t doing anything about? I’d love to know that I’m not in this alone, and I’d love to encourage you, too! Let’s make a new start together, today on International Women’s Day!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog. Jennifer Burden is the founder and an editor of World Moms Blog. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @WorldMomsBlog and @JenniferBurden.
The photograph used in this post is credited to Robert Whitehead. It carries a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
I disagree Jen. I think we find ourselves in a world where we are so isolated and the demands on us to be great-everythings are huge – that as a society we make excuses for not giving our kids 100%. I don’t for a minute mean forever. I do mean for the first 18 months of their lives and then in gradually decreasing amounts. And maybe we do have to be conscious of weaning ourselves, but…
We can rationalise. We are conscious of the big picture. We can delay our gratification. Children can’t. What they are experiencing here and now feels like forever to them. Your girls won’t remember if you met your goal to learn a new language by 40 – they’ll remember if you were there for them or not. They’re not going to be conscious of that adult view of life until they are nine or ten. It *is* harder for us than previous generations because we don’t live in small tribes or villages. Some days it’s incredibly hard. But our kids biology is the same as it has always been. Immitation is strong, but kids don’t often learn what we think we’re teaching them…
I like that we’re getting to know each other so well on the blog that we can start having REAL conversations!
You bring up an important part that I didn’t touch on — being there for our children when they are young. I agree with you there — we would most likely both champion the case for longer world wide maternity leaves for mothers who work and want to stay home an extended time with their children. As a stay-at-home mom, like yourself, the choice to stay home was right for me and my children, but mothers who have made the choice to return to work also are raising emotionally healthy children.
So, here I am. I’ve been home for almost 5 years now with my two children, 4 and 1. Is following my dream of learning a new language for one hour a week going to be detrimental to them? I can’t see how. And, I’ll be able to talk to them in French more, which I’m looking forward to. Having that mother’s 6th sense in getting a feel for what my children can handle, I can’t see the bad in this. I still think this is behavior that I want them to see me doing. Keep discussing!!
Hehe, yes REAL convesations are good and I think we’re probably on a similar page, however…discussing…My issue is with your timing. Children don’t know we exist when we’re out of sight until some time between the ages of 18-24 months. Like walking and talking these vary from child to child. I suspect babies don’t know we exist when out of arms until around 6 months of age, but that’s another whole conversation. In societies where children are generally more content than many western kids – *they* leave their parents – whether to crawl out of sight or to explore in the range with which they feel comfortable. I can understand your rationale completely, but I wonder how your youngest daughter is experiencing those separation times – seeming is fundamentally a totally emotional being with no ability to rationalise…
…seeming she is…(missed a word there!) 🙂
What a great post, Jen! It is so important to “follow your bliss”, as J. Campbell would have said.
The example I want my kids to follow is to do what they love even if it means going against the stream.
As for me, I am sort of in an opposite moment now – I am re-evaluating what I really want to do, and also feeling tired of having so much going on. I am actually wishing I could “just” be a mom for a little while 🙂
So interesting that you’re having an opposite moment! I’d love to hear more about what you’re life is like in Brazil.
You make a great point — the scale can tilt both ways. I hope you figure it all out! (And when you do, definitely report back!) 🙂
You go Jen! I salute people who are interested and willing to learn another language.
I wish for me son to be resilient in life no matter what life throws at him that he will move on, to try again even if he fails at some things but most importantly to be able to say to himself “I did tried but maybe this is not my path.” and move on to try other things.
Personally, as I’ve mentioned on my Facebook page, I’ve been questioning a lot about where I’m heading in my life. Do I drop my over a decade career path to pursue something that I truly am passionate about which is writing or suck it up and try to compete in a field where sadly looks are more important (this is another topic all together) or become a ‘starving-writer’ to start doing what I love.
Thank you so much for this post, Jen!
PS: Happy International Women’s Day, ladies! You all rock 😀
Thank you for this post Jen! I had a conversation with my four year old daughter a couple months ago that turned into an important learning moment for both of us. She was asking me questions about when she will be a mommy. I told her that when she is a mom then I will be a grandma and daddy will be a grandpa. After a very long pause she said with confusion and sadness in her voice “But if I’m a mommy and you’re a grandma then who will be Sofia (that’s her name)?”. I quickly told her that she will still be Sofia even when she is a mother just like I am a mommy and still Jenny. I have thought a great deal about this conversation since then. I love being a mother, but I don’t want to feel like I am losing my individuality and personal identity and I don’t want my children to think that becoming a mother means giving up themselves and becoming someone else. Yes motherhood requires great sacrifices in behalf of our children, sacrafices that I willingly and loving do, and there will be days when I feel that “mom” is all I can be, but that doesn’t mean I should give up on my dreams and passions. My college education got put on hold when I became a mother four years ago, but I want to finish and I want to teach my children, especially my daughter, the importance of education!
It’s true that many of us, myself included, lose a lot of who we were before becoming Moms. I find myself living vicariously through my friend Nancy and her husband, who have decided that they are not meant to be parents but instead enjoy their very blessed life, each other and travel extensively. That’s not to say that I regret becoming a Mom, just the opposite in fact. My two boys, whom are quickly approaching ten and eight as the Spring blooms, are my pride and joy, my loves, my life, the carriers-on of the Family Name and beautiful human beings. My oldest is, I swear, an “old soul”. He is extraordinarily empathetic and compassionate, especially when you consider that is he only 9! He is troubled by other people’s pain and hurt, tries to comfort friends and family and truly puts himself in the other person’s shoes. He loves to help people. He’s a talented basketball player, like my friend and WMB founder, Jen Burden, is skilled at Math and loves learning how things work. He loves to camp and hike, but would rather be a “catcherman” than a “fisherman”. But despite all his wonderful achievements and qualities, he suffers from low self-esteem. He thinks he’s not very smart and not that good at basketball when he misses shots. And like a “normal boy”, he still battles his younger brother daily; be it Beyblades or a certain television show, it will happen!
My youngest, the “baby”, who in just two weeks will be 8 (impossible! LOL) is strong-willed (parenting books call this “spirited”), determined and passionate. While I often have to remind myself that these traits are prized in adults, they do cause me some stress NOW. I tell myself that he will stand his ground, fight for what he believes in and live a passionate existence. He’s an advanced reader, talented football player and avid outdoorsman. He will cast a rod adn reel all day long without caring if there’s a fish to reel in to the shore. He loves hiking and camping and eating s’mores (don’t we all?). That stubborness can lead to issues, however, between our young Padawan and us parents! We find ourselves arguing the merits of using words, sticking with karate lessons and taking a shower. 🙂
I want my boys to be their own person, not who I want them to be. I DO want them to take the lessons that my husband and I teach them, but I do NOT want them to conform to “typical”, “normal” or “average”. I know I’m biased, but these are extraordinary boys.
They know how passionate I am about volunteering and helping others. They were at my side during my tenure as their school’s PTO President, watched as I planned fundraisers, hosted Spirit Nights and donated canned goods, books and cash. They attended Family Bingos at their school knowing (because I told them) that we are DEFINITELY out for a good time, but we are also doing this to raise money for school items like Smart Boards, new library books and gym equipment. They are active in Scouts because I believe that the core program has merit and great lessons and can help them be great men. I cut out pictures of local boys who have achieved their Eagle Scout rank, showing my boys all the badges on their sash and it energizes them to continue when they’d rather be playing Wii or hanging out with friends on Scout Nights. We are CRAZY about helping with Scouting for Food, donate regularly to the local Goodwill because they help people with mental disability find and keep jobs and donate lots of $1 bills to the Salvation Army kettles each Christmas season.
We bought a camper several years ago, starting with a standard pop-up canvas and metal job and upgrading a few years ago to a hard-sided pop-up that’s more secure in our opinion. My husband and I wanted the boys to have memories that they would cherish well into their adult lives and hopefully carry on with any children they may have. We visit the Virginia State Parks, where for $25-32 per night you get your own site, water and electric and some of the best views money can buy. We hike trails, hills and small mountains, fish in rivers, reservoirs and the Chesapeake Bay. We cook our meals outdoors over fire (or propane), roast s’mores, make Jiffy Pop and play with glow sticks. We wear our eco-friendly bug bands so we don’t poison ourselves or the environment and ALWAYS leave the place cleaner than we found it. The memories we have made are irreplaceable, immeasurable and PRICELESS. Teaching a child that you can just enjoy NATURE and your family without electronic distractions or technology is AMAZING. Some people argue that since we use electricity that we are “cheating” and I simply ask “do you camp?”. When they say no (as the majority has), I simply smile and tell them that a little electricity isn’t going to detract from our family time. It gives our kids a night light in the camper, powers the fridge with the adult snack of choice: wine and cheese, and is just plain convenient. Beside, I am NOT.A.TENT.PERSON! I’ll try it, but I’m not keen on bugs, so unless you want your fellow camper to wake you in the middle of the night screaming over a spider, zip it and leave me to my camper!
I’m an environmentalist. Not a crazy I’m-sitting-in-this-tree-even-though-the-bulldozers-are-coming-at-me-environmentalist, but a better than average tree hugger. I’m a member of the Sierra Club, Arbor Day Foundation and the Smithsonian Instiution. I am a fundraiser for The Komen Foundation, March of Dimes, American Heart Association and other organizations that are close to my heart. We believe in helping those who need help, those less fortunate and our fellow man and woman. We recycle NEARLY EVERYTHING! Newspapers, cans, bottles, plastics, foil wrap, clothing, etc. We drive hybrids, not just because we got a special license plate to drive HOV alone or got a tax break (the other cars were purchased after these cutoffs), but because my husband and I believe that we are not sacrificing power or luxury and we want to be greener. Plastic condiment and food containers are brought to school weekly by our boys and donated to the Art Dept. where the teacher uses them for paint cups, mixing containers and storing scraps of art material. We give our gently used childrens books to our school library because we know that one of the first places funding is cut is in the school library. We unplug things not in use, turn off lights when we’re not in the room (this is tougher for the boys to remember!) and try to conserve wherever possible.
I am passionate about being a Mom, admittedly some days more than others, but that only makes me human, not a bad Mom. I have less time to devote to the things that I enjoy. This is because I am pursuing a career change. I’m back in school to pursue a career as Nutritional Counselor. My years as a Mom, a substitute teacher and a Classroom and School Volunteer have exposed me to a lot of children. While this means an above-abverage resistance to the childhood germs (yay!), it also means I have seen children pf many different shapes and sizes. The size is what concerns me most. More than 30% of today’s children, those under age 18, can be classified as obese. Not overweight, but OBESE. I see elementary-age children that weight almost as much as their teachers. I see them struggle to keep pace in Physical Education classes, at recess and in the classroom. Today’s children are more sedentary, despite the wider offerings of sports and camps, than my generation. I’m not that old, 35 in fact, and can remember playing outside the MAJORITY of my childhood. I was ALWAYS outside shooting hoops in my driveway, playing “Freeze Tag”, “Manhunt”, kickball and even the now-banned “Dodgeball”. At recess my friends and I RAN AROUND… playing soccer, swinging on swings, playing Four Square or jumping rope. We even had a “jump rope” that was basically a glorified rubber band that you would twist around the ankles of two friends and jump in and out of without tripping on your face! We were SO active. Yeah, a few of us had a computer, an Atari or Pong, but nothing beat being outside running amok with your friends. Children today are pale, sedentary kids with glazed over eyes from watching too much TV or playing too much Wii. Instead of Wii baseball, play REAL baseball in your backyard or local playground. I am PASSIONATE about helping today’s kids and their parents learn that it is not the amount of money you spend, but the amount of TIME you spend on your family that matters. Getting kids moving, off the couch, out of the house is where it’s at! Keeping a bowl of fruit on the table and low-fat cheese stick in the fridge are not that difficult. Chips should be treat, not a regular after-school snack. Kids needs to drink WATER, not sugary juice boxes and sports drinks. I want to be a catalyst for change, to help kids realize that they are better people when they are healthy people. It disturbs me to know that today’s generation is the first one in decades that is not expected to llve longer than the previous generation. How wrong is that? With all of our access to health information, the abundance of sports and nature programs, how are we becoming so complacent about this? So my schooling is taking away from my volunteering, and boy do I miss being a presence in my boys’ school, but I know that down the road, this decision will not have been for naught. My boys know how important education is to me and to see me doing my homework alongside them cements this principle.
We’re trying to teach our boys not only to be good people, but good human beings. By being kind, wasting less and caring about the bigger picture, I think we’re on our way.
Holy cow! You have a lot to say, Johnsfamily. Maybe you should consider writing for us…have you talked to Jen about it?
I had exactly the same thought about Johnsfamily 🙂
That’s so kind of you; I’d love to! No I haven’t talked to Jen about it. I’m open to the idea for sure! 🙂
Thank you too! I love writing, as long as I’m not being told what to write (like in my current Lit class). Then again, I used to write and edit in my “former life” (pre-Mommy days) and I MISS it! I used to get assignments and just run with them! 🙂 Have a terrific day! 🙂
I think you broke the record for world’s longest comment! lol I’d be happy to discuss positions we are looking to fill at World Moms Blog!
Jen, agree wholeheartedly with you – we still need to be individuals and follow our own dreams. We can still be there for our children when they’re young without losing our own identities and putting our dreams aside.
I’m learning how quickly our children grow up and that you have to have something for you – it also teaches them to value themselves and believe in their own dreams.
On the subject of languages – have you tried this website http://www.livemocha.com/ – it’s free, it’s interacting with other people (basically assisting another to speak your own language, while they teach you there’s) – my dad introduced me to the site and it’s great.
Jen, at any given time, you are doing so many marvelous things (working with the GAVI Alliance, the UN Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign, World Moms Blog, mothering) that I often feel inadequate. I think you’re “a mom worth imitating” It’s just that I also recognize my own shortcomings and what I do and do not have passion for. I agree with Karyn, that much of the huge strives you are making on the global front and with Social Good may not phase your children at their current young ages but when J looks back in ten or 15 years at pictures of her wrapped against you at the UN Foundation summit in NYC, she’ll realize how long you’ve been her role model.
For me, pursuing a career in writing is my passion and I’m trying to make it my priority too while also trying not to miss out on or compromise my children’s early years. This is especially hard with #2 because I went on so many adventures and did so man activities with our first that I got a lot of it out of my system. Now I want to turn my attention to what comes next yet the “next” is still a few years (from kindergarten) away.
I grappled, at length, with whether to send our son to just two days of preschool next year or four (since I couldn’t find anywhere that would take him for the three I wanted). Ultimately, though I feel ready to have more time for myself and to focus on personal pursuits, I fear I would regret loosing this precious time with him. So I went with two days. I don’t think I’ll ever regret spending more time with my son while he’s in his uber-mommy phase of wanting to be held, kissed and loved all the time. Because surely THAT won’t last forever, right?
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. 🙂 I’m doing my best! lol
I was in a similar predicament with my four-year old daughter. Next year she is entering half day kindergarten. Currently, at her preschool she begs to stay after in extended care to play with her friends. It has taken the place of “hanging out with the neighborhood kids.” I was looking into the full day program that the kindergarten has. What’s different than her situation now is that it is a much longer day. She will have that longer day automatically when she goes into first grade in our public school system, but I have one more year to have her home longer.
Her little sister, who is 1 year old now, is now getting old enough where they are playing more together. I want to take the opportunity for them to have this time together!
She has become really independent, so I think she would be fine if she was in the extended kindergarten program, and kids in other local towns and other countries go to school a full day at 5 years old. But, I’m looking at her half day in our town as bonus exploring time for us together!
I agree with “growing” wholeheartedly! Even if you occasionally have those days where you forget about an Art class, a birthday party or Share Day at school (we ALL do!), you are able to look back and realize that you are not only impacting your family, but the WORLD! Your girls will SURELY hear stories from your friends and their family about how J was in a snuggly at the UN (WOW!) adn how S was perhaps the inspiration behind your logo or beginning this journey in the first place. You are making AMAZING STRIDES, Jen and your fellow Moms are benefitting! This fellow Mom, and fellow Jen, is PROUD to be sharing in this journey with you! Keep up the great work! 🙂
Hugs from Virginia,
Thank you, Jen!! 🙂 I’m so glad we reconnecting and you are enjoying World Moms Blog! 🙂
Way to start a great conversation, Jen! As for me, I want to reconnect in person with people I love and cherish more in the coming years. I love being a stay at home mom. I find devoting that time at home, here and now, is my passion. So there isn’t this other big goal looming out there that I am neglecting. BUT I live on the opposite coast as my family and most of my childhood friends. With most people married and settled in to family life now, I just don’t connect with cherished loved ones in person. Sure, we use email, Facebook and texting to keep in touch, but it’s just not the same as sitting around a table together. With my toddler, travel is hard. But that will shift as he gets older. A big part of me has always been my relationships with others…feeling connected. So I do not want to let that slide. Your post just help me put that into words for the first time. Thanks 😉
That’s is great that responding helped your realize something about yourself! I think if you make a commitment to something, you will find yourself satisfying your wish to spend time in person with the people you love! Great idea.
Great post!! A friend directed me to read this, because I started my own blog fueled by my need for this very thing.. it is possible to find a balance between giving our children all that the need (maybe not everything they want – but I happen to believe that is good, though I truly believe that each mom knows what works best for her own family.. and it isn’t always the same from house to house) while still maintaining a sense of self. Our kids need to believe that they are the center of our lives when they are little, but in order to successfully make it out on their own as adults, they will need to know that they aren’t. If that makes sense. – And we’ll need to have something of ourselves left. — I want my daughters to see me teach by example that their world does not have to be mandated by the fact that they have to give themselves totally to wife and mother status. I am working on having “mores” in my life – you know, the More than “just Mom” stuff. And even though they’re things that are for me, I include my kids in them. At the end of the day we talk and they tell me what they did at school or at their friend’s house and I tell them what I did with my friends or what I accomplished.
I want my kids to be kind and try their best to give people the benefit of the doubt and to help others.
I think everyone needs some me time. We are stressed and anxious when our own needs are not being met and sadly we then often take that out unknowingly on the ones we love.
I have been going through a really rough week as the seventeen year old son of a friend of mine was killed less than a week after his sister’s wedding. It made me remember that it is the little every day things not just the big things we do in life that make life what it is.
Jen, I always enjoy reading your posts! After I read this I put on a Pimsleur Spanish CD for my girls and me. We do Rosetta Stone together five days a week and have our Spanish tutor come to our house twice a month. I still fill like we aren’t immersed enough. Thank you for your post because it gave me the idea to listen to PImsleur Spanish with my girls for 20 minutes each night. After the lesson I talked with them about what we learned. I would not have done it if I had not read your post!!
I too would love to go to some place like Spain with my children for even a month. My tutor told me the only way we will become fluent is if we do immerse ourselves in the language.
You inspired me and I hope that you keep sharing your thoughts and experiences!!
Jen, I totally agree, we need to keep our own flames lit, so to speak, as mothers. I have often stopped to feel guilty about things I’ve done for myself, but I’ve also reflected on my mom as a “mom worth imitating”, and realized that it is, as you say necessary! Thanks for reminding me 🙂