HOW YOUR CHOICES AFFECT YOUR CHILDREN
Last week I wrote a post about the Quandry of Motherhood and Creativity – principally about how to juggle the two when time and momentum are in short supply when attempting to work and raise a family.
A number of people commented about how they could relate to the fact that our children have a not so subtle way of mirroring back our behaviour – both good and bad. In my case, my three year old daughter has started to play acting about going to work, being busy and getting her dolls organised for daycare.
As I sit here and type this post, she is sitting in the chair next to me, pen poised against her lip, head slightly tilted to the side as she sighs, turns to me and says:
“I’m busy working mumma. I’ve got lots of work to do”.
I don’t know whether to be proud or horrified.
The more she does this, the more I wonder whether what I am doing, how I am being in the world, is setting the best example for her and her brother.
In a world that is constantly “busy”, where we are often defined by what we do, how much of it we do and how well we do it, I worry that I’m not setting the best example – that I’m potentially portraying the wrong message, that they are picking up the wrong message and that it was forever shape the contours of their lives.
The reality is sobering – no matter what I do, I am and will always be a role model for my kids whether I like it or not. It is the inescapable truth that comes with the responsibility of motherhood.
I am not alone in carrying the guilt that comes with leaving them to go to work or not leaving them to go to work – whatever the situation is that we mothers find ourselves in. As mothers we are very good at cloaking ourselves in guilt’s heavy drapes on our already burdened shoulders.
I am constantly plagued by questions about whether my working is a good thing for them and whether I should be at home more. When I was at home with them in the early years, I wondered whether not working was setting the best example for them later in life. It was a tug of war that I was never going to win and so I decided that it didn’t matter what I chose as long as I was happy and they were happy and taken care of. No particular way is the right way. One particular path is no better than the other. I firmly believe that each and every one of us has to choose what is right for ourselves and our families irrespective of the expectations of society and others opinions.
So I was somewhat miffed by a recent study done by Harvard Business School which essentially found that working mums have more successful daughters and more caring sons.
In an article by Gabriel Fisher published on the Quartz website entitled “Working Moms Have More Successful Daughters and More Caring Sons”, Fisher writes that according to the study daughters of working mothers are more likely to be employed, hold supervisory positions and earn more money than the daughters of women who don’t work outside the home. The researchers also found a statistically significant effect on the sons of working women, who are likely to spend more time caring for family members and doing household chores than are the sons of stay-at-home mothers.
I’m not a fan of studies that tout one choice as being preferable to another choice particularly when it comes to such a sensitive issue as this. Often mothers (and fathers for that matter) don’t have a choice about working. It’s not helpful when another study is published which is aimed at making them feel bad about the choice (or lack of choice) they have made and how it might be impacting their children.
I do accept that the researchers are just reporting the statistical results of a very narrow pool of subjects but what studies such as these fail to do is factor in all the circumstances present in a family and their particular situation.
Surely it’s preferable to be the best role model for your kids regardless of job title or employment status.
I know stay-at-home mothers who choose to stay at home and be an integral part of their children’s lives. One friend in particular does a wide array of craft, activities, educational outings all the while involving the kids in her hobby of baking and cake decorating.
She is a prime example of how being present, content, involved, passionate and having her own interests is setting the best example for her kids.
Likewise I have friends who choose to work full time whilst juggling raising a family. One friend’s kids will never want for much in life and will learn an array of lessons from seeing her head off to work each day in pursuit of her career and her dreams.
As I said, no one path is better than the other.
I was raised by a mother who predominantly stayed at home – albeit helping my father in the running of his business. She gave up her career as a nurse to raise my brothers and I. I don’t believe it had a huge impact on how successful I am or was destined to be.
What I saw was a mother who was there whenever we needed her but who also valued herself enough to pursue her hobbies outside the home, who indulged her curious nature and her insatiable thirst for knowledge by reading everything she could get her hands on.
I didn’t not want a career because she didn’t work. I didn’t think I couldn’t be successful just because she stayed at home to look after us.
And I didn’t believe that I couldn’t take on a supervisory role just because she didn’t leave the house each day to head off to paid employment. In fact, my mother instilled a strong sense of confidence and capability in both myself and my siblings which had nothing to do with her choices.
How people parent – and how mother’s mother – should have little to do with their employment status.
What is important are the values instilled, the lessons to be learnt, the experiences to be had and the wisdom to be imparted. What is important is the role model you are – irrespective of whether you work inside or outside the home. What is important is that whatever your choice or situation that you are ultimately happy, passionate, content and inspired each and every day.
What is important is that your children know without any shadow of a doubt that they are loved, they are capable, they can do, have, be, achieve anything they desire and that success – however they define it – is entirely in their own hands.