Kids need to see parents living their passions

Posted by
Like a Boss cross stitch by Etsy seller Stitchitrealgood
Like a Boss cross stitch by Etsy seller Stitchitrealgood

I recently read an otherwise forgettable corporate profile of a business owner that had some really great thoughts about mothers modeling behavior they want to encourage in their children:

As a mom, I came up against this fear that if I decided to pursue [running my own] company, I would ruin my kids. But in the 10 years since diving in, I’ve realized that the opposite is true — kids need to see their mom living her passions. That’s a gift to her children. With that realization, my mission became much more… now it is about encouraging moms to follow their dreams because it’s good for their kids, too.

It isn’t the glory of a successful company that my kids have witnessed. They’ve seen me crying, scared, frustrated, trying to figure something out, taking risks, practicing a speech in my room 20 times because I’m out of my comfort zone. My daughter is so much more fearless than I was at her age. She knows how to lean into her fears, because she’s watched me do it. I think that’s the ultimate story of me starting a company: my daughter is more fearless because she’s seen her mom lean into the hard stuff of pursuing her passion. I want to see that be true for more moms and kids.

I had a woman tell me recently that she loves walking dogs. I told her that her kids needed to see that. Your dreams don’t have to be starting a company. It is a gift to those kids to see their mom doing something that doesn’t revolve around them! So my advice is, pursue your passions and come alive doing things you love.

This resonated with me big-time as someone who balanced small business ownership with parenting. It also reminded me of some of the stuff buried in the Offbeat Families archives, like Being a mom isn’t my most interesting feature, and Becoming a mom motivated me to learn to ride a bike. I so deeply appreciate that some of us love fully immersing ourselves in raising our children (so awesome! go you!), and others love to stay immersed in other things too, and it can be really gratifying to find ways to model that for our children.

For those of y’all spending time with kiddos (yes, that includes YOU, Offbeat Aunties, Uncles, and Godparents!)… what things are you modeling that you hope they’ll emulate?

Comments on Kids need to see parents living their passions

  1. Everything! Not just work (although I think it’s super important for kids to know how their parents and siblings are all contributing to the family’s wellbeing and living out their passions, however that works in your family), but everyday things.

    You hear so often from parents that their house is a mess or they eat junk or don’t take care of themselves once they have kids, but I’ve found the opposite to be true. The hypocrite guilt is terrible if I think about chowing down on junk food in front of him when I expect him to eat real, healthy things, or if I leave out my “toys” (work stuff, craft things, dinner prep mess) while insisting that his toys will be put in time out if he doesn’t put them away. I brush and floss my teeth more. I’m kinder in how I express frustration at bad drivers or my dog.

    Raising a child is even more about setting an example than it is about direct teaching, and if I’m going to lead and inspire my kids to be the kind of people I want to interact with in the world, then I need to model that behavior.

    • THIS times about a million! I became more conscious about it when I became an auntie, but now that I have my own child, I really try to set a good example, not just say “you need to do X,” but actually doing it myself.

      Avoiding “fat talk” or in any way speaking critically about my body–or the bodies of others is one example of my efforts to be a better role model for my child. A sidenote: there have been some great discussions here on OBH (and Offbeat Families) about body image.

  2. My mom never misses a chance to remind me how she had a hell of a lot more free time when she was childfree, and how she dropped everything she liked when she got me *cue plaintive tone*.
    Well, that’s an excellent example for me not wanting to have kids. Your children probably won’t feel happy because you gave up your life. If anything, they’ll feel sorry, or guilty, or angry. That’s way too much for a little (or big) one to bear.

    • I 100% agree. I have had heated arguments with people because they have made offhand comments about me pursuing a higher degree after I had my children. I absolutely love my children and will do anything I can for them, but that does not include giving up my Self. I have always maintained that I learned more about parenting without projecting guilt onto my children from “King Lear” and “The Breast Giver” than from my mother.

      I have never wanted to burden my children by telling them that I had “done everything” for them, or that I had somehow sacrificed myself. My son is now in his 20s and my daughter is on her early teens, and they have actually commented about hearing other mothers (of friends and in the media) saying things along those lines. They have both said that it is a little crazy that it has always been mothers saying it. I told them that is because society by and large expect mothers to be self sacrificing. In fact, the expectation is that good mothers happily self sacrifice.

    • Such a great comment! I remember being a young teen and my mother admonishing me for painting my nails because, “You’re so wrapped up in yourself. When you have kids of your own, you’ll never have time for things like that.” Even then, I can recall how ludicrous it was and how badly it made me feel. My mom definitely had her own joys and hobbies, but she made very certain to let us know how much of her life she she sacrificed for my sibling and I. When it comes time for my husband and I to have a child, I hope that I can instill the sense that as a family, we can support each others’ hobbies, hopes, goals – whatever – without using them as ammo against each other.

      • Yeah I have mom friends who make the letting themself go jokes, and while I try to understand their priorities and relational structure, I feel like some of it is mommy martyrdom. I had severe postpartum anxiety/ocd and while not that girly, I’ve showered and worn mascara everyday since my son was born, because that makes me feel like me.

  3. It wasn’t until I had my own kids, and became a working mom, that I actually had a conversation with my own mom about choices she made when we were kids. My experience of her staying at home with us, was one of her being stuck in a Christian ideal of women stay home with kids, and it turns out that she was intentional in wanting to stay home because SHE HAD BEEN ABUSED IN DAYCARE as a kid. Whoa, lightbulb moment.

    Because I am trying to live my life intentionally, but the lesson from that experience was that I want to tell my son about the intentional choices. My husband and I just had this discussion about the sibling talk. We want to have another child, which will be our son’s sibling, but we are not trying to get pregnant to give our son a sibling. Does that make sense? We want to experience parenting another person, and the sibling part is a side benefit. And if we don’t have another kid, we want to explain and be open in telling our son the reason that we don’t have another baby, because it’s about choosing intentionally to try or not try at times that feel right/authentic to our family.

    I go to yoga 2-3 times a week. I write articles. I work. I have found a job that allows time home with the kid, and time to work and pursue other passions. And I hope that I will continue to explicitly state WHY I’m doing these, so my kid doesn’t just think ‘mommy is gone all the time,’ or ‘mommy doesn’t love me because she works,’ etc.

    And as a mom of a son, I’m especially conscious of wanting to raise him to know that women are strong and sensitive. Able to work or stay home or make many other choices, just like his dad stayed home with him when he was an infant.

  4. This article couldn’t be better timed. Today was my first day back from my short maternity leave. I work in a research lab and am pursuing a PhD. It involved my first day pumping at work, a frantic baby handoff so dad could get to his job, and having my (too young for daycare) nerdlet in a class with me. Since we’ve gotten home I’ve prepped lectures for next week in between doing the “get the farts out” jiggle dance for my fussbucket. In staring down the endless tunnel of many many more days just like this one I started questioning not staying home. But you know what, I wouldn’t be fulfilled if I quit school to be a “full time” mom, and that wouldn’t make me the best mom I could be. Hopefully my theory of happy moms make happy babies is true.

  5. I struggled with the selfish part of this a lot. I was raised by a single professional mama, and I saw how she stuggled with the balance. I saw her resentment towards the stay at home moms who could volunteer in my classroom while she was busy teaching other people’s children in her own. She was passionate in her career and her ability to bring that passion home everyday (even if it meant we ate out most nights and enjoyed chatting together instead of cooking together) is what I want to show my little ones, even though I’m a stay at home mom right now. My “self” that isn’t being a wife and mother is ready to jump start a career THIS instant, but I’ve finally realized it’s all about balance. I’m about to have a second child, but that doesn’t mean I can’t work towards my career goals in other ways. In this way my kids will always see me working towards my future, some are big ways, and some are small but fundamental. And some are just fun things (like hobbies) that I get to partake in because I’m not working right now. All these things help me grow and become a better person. I think this mentality helps me not to feel stagnant when motherhood takes up 90% of the day, because I know I can always find moments to grow.

    Also, thanks, Ariel, for mentioning my bike article that I wrote many, many years ago. I’m not a novelist yet, like I had planned, but the small things I write and carve time out for are just as good and important. It made me squeal to see it! 🙂

Join the Conversation