Why Self Love Is The Biggest Gift You Can Give Your Kids
When I was growing up, I dreamt that when I left home, I would create a life for myself that was unique. I would pick the parts I liked from others, and combine them to create my ideal life. I would pay attention to someone that I was motivated by, inspired by, or that I respected, and I had the hope that when I grew up, I would replicate these attributes.
Growing up we may dream of being that professional athlete (I wanted to be Steffi Graf), that teacher that we loved in school, or even that auntie that seemed really cool. We would tell ourselves that all of these things are possible, and that when we ‘grow up’ we can be all of them.
Then we reach an age where we have a chance to leave the cocoon that we have been brought up in. We have the chance to spread our wings and become a butterfly. We have a chance to thrive, and to create something of ourselves. We have a chance to make a real difference. Suddenly we feel inspired to start creating that life that we have always dreamt of.
Then, if we are lucky enough, some of us have children, and again our worlds change. If you think back to your life pre and post kids, it really is like chalk and cheese. Suddenly, life seems to take on a whole new meaning. When our first child is born, we lose a part of ourselves, and, in an instant our focus changes. Our focus is now all about this perfect being that we have created. We ask ourselves; how do we look after them? How do we protect them? How do we get them to grow up to be soft, yet strong individuals?
When we get told it’s time to leave the hospital we think, ‘Oh my gosh, what now? How do we carry the baby to the car? How do we keep it all together? How do we give them the best chance of making a difference, and allow them to live their dreams at the same time? How do we give them the best chance of thriving and spreading their wings?’ All of a sudden, the focus moves from us to them.
When we have children, we want to give them all the love we can. We squeeze them tightly day in and day out. We dance with them, sing with them, play with them, and constantly tell them that we love them. We shower them with kisses. We discipline them but then we feel bad to see them so upset. Regardless, we tell ourselves that it is necessary, and in their best interests.
As our kids begin to grow from babies to toddlers, and then from teenagers to adults, we begin to ask ourselves, ‘Am I doing enough? Have I done enough in the past?’ We realise more and more that we want them to grow up, determined yet empathetic, resilient yet vulnerable, strong yet soft. We wonder if we have provided them with the frameworks at home and throughout their lives that will allow them to do this.
We wonder if we have role modelled what a loving marriage is. One where we are authentic. One where we are open and respectful. Far out, being a parent can be hard, and along the way we sometimes lose track of who we are, and, although we are grateful, sometimes we feel our lives may also be lacking something. We feel there is a gap. We forget who we were before, and we get lost in the day-to-day parenting tasks, and, on some days and especially during covid, they are enough to drive anyone insane!
Are we being the parents we want to be? Are we portraying the qualities we want them to have? Are we showing resilience but at the same time being vulnerable, to grow deeper connections with the ones we love? Are we letting them make their own mistakes by giving them space, and then allowing them to come to us to be a shoulder to cry on, rather than to dictate what they should do or should have done better?
We begin to realise that we need to be the example that we want them to follow. We know this, but sometimes it’s hard to do.
In order for our kids to grow up congruently, in order for them to find their centre, we need to focus on what makes us happy, and find our centre. Sometimes, we need to come back and find our purpose, and we need to not feel selfish in doing so.
After the birth of my baby girls (my twins Lara and Ayla) I was lost. I had post-natal depression and it was tough. What I didn’t realise though, was that in hindsight, and looking back on the other side, it has been a blessing. A blessing to grow personally. A blessing to work through pain and hardships. In one way or another most parents feel or have felt like this. The difference is that a lot of us never speak about it.
We don’t want them to be perfect, but we want them to know that they can work out the challenges that are ahead of them, and we want them to know that there is a way that they can do so in a safe and loving environment. I know that as a parent this is at the forefront of all of the decisions my husband and I make. Not to be there with them every minute of the day, but trying to give them their own space, and be there in the background if they need us.
Of course, it’s always a work in progress, but if we start with ourselves, then the journey for our kids to live their most authentic lives is much closer than we realise.
Sometimes in life we get stuck, we become unclear and unmotivated, but if we stay true to ourselves and find our centre, things begin to slowly fall into place.
The best gift that we can give our kids is the gift of self-love, and the only way that they can learn that, is from watching us, their role models lead by example.