How Raising My Children Is Teaching Me To Love Myself

I’m sure all you moms out there can understand, raising children is the hardest thing we’ll likely ever do. It creates a new level of insecurity, the likes of which we’ve never experienced. I mean let’s face it, as women we’re well accustomed to being critical of ourselves. We’re well accustomed to being critical of other women as well. It’s a disturbing part of the society we’ve grown up in.

But when we become mothers this self-doubt is escalated to a whole new level. Now we are impacting the lives of other human beings. Our amazing and incredible children. The little humans that opened us up to a level of love we never imagined possible has also opened us up to a whole new level of fear we never knew was possible. What if I do it wrong? What if I screw them up? What if I fail as a mother? What if I’m a bad mom?

But becoming a mother also opens us up to a whole new level of both accountability and forgiveness. We all grow up to be shaped by our environment. Whether your childhood was idyllic or traumatic or somewhere in that vast spectrum in between, we are all shaped both positively and negatively by our parents or guardians, by our community, our religion, our friends, by everything around us. It’s what shapes our perceptions, our views of the world, our insecurities and fears, and our prejudices. It shapes our identity or lack thereof. It shapes our confidence and our expression. Good or bad, it helps shape it all.

However we’ve learned and grown to process and express ourselves throughout our lives, we all look back at our pasts to explain away our present situation. And for all of us, to some extent or another, it’s attached to our relationship with our parents/guardians. The love or lack of love received. The attention or lack of attention. The nurturing or lack of it. Words said and unsaid. Actions done or undone. We grow up associating so much of our trauma, conditioning, pain, lack, insecurity, fear, ability to give and receive love, and so much more to how we were raised. I mean how can we not right?

I can’t imagine many people who go through therapy and counseling get very far before diving into their relationship with their mother. Am I right? For so many of us it’s how we determined how worthy we were of love or how “good” we were. As children that hangs in the balance of how we are treated by and responded to by others. And we place the most significance on that response by those closest to us.

So where am I going with this? Well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who has struggled with their self-esteem in life. And as a woman, I don’t think I see that struggle getting any easier for the latest and upcoming generations of girls. Because whether you were or are raised in an environment of abuse, an environment of unending praise and lack of discipline, or what some might consider the epitome of a healthy and balanced upbringing, there will always be scars incurred by the child. There will always be hurt felt. There is no version of a perfect childhood that exists. As souls, we all incarnated in this life to experience all it has to offer. To learn and grow. To feel and experience. To heal and forgive.

We all experience hurt and trauma in different ways. I used to feel guilty about how very broken I felt when there were others who suffered so much greater than I did. What right did I have to feel such pain and lack of worth over a few words spoken or not spoken when there are people out there who experienced horrors in their childhoods? What right did I have to not be OK? And that just made me hate myself more. Feeling like I had no right to the pain I felt just made me feel even more pain.

Children absorb and respond to life in their own way. Something may be forgotten as soon as it happens by one child while another child hangs onto it and the pain it creates for a lifetime. That’s their journey. One they may choose to heal and grow from or one they may allow to break them. I choose to heal my pain, not invalidate it.

Becoming a mother has been an incredibly healing experience for me. It’s reminded me how easy it is to hurt and be hurt. I know there is no such thing as being a perfect mother. I will not break myself striving to fit some perfect mold that doesn’t exist. I know I am a good mother because I love my children and I do my best. EVERYONE makes mistakes. It doesn’t matter how hard you may try not to. You will. And making mistakes doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human.

I know our children are best raised by humans. Imperfect humans. Not robots who never say the wrong thing. Not robots who never show anger or grief or fear or frustration. Our children are best raised by humans who show that it’s OK to make mistakes. It’s OK to share our feelings. It’s OK to be vulnerable. It’s OK to feel and express anger and hurt and sadness. It’s OK to feel and express joy, and happiness, and silliness. It’s OK to open your heart to someone, all of someone, and share, love, and accept their imperfection.

Of course, I wish I could raise my children without ever speaking words or doing or not doing things that hurt them. But I think that is a fantasy. That is an ideal of perfection that doesn’t exist. I’m doing the best I can, my mother was doing the best she could, and her mother before her was doing her best,  and on and on. Their faults, and my own, did not mean I wasn’t loved or worthy of love.

I love my children more than life itself. I can see so much of myself in my daughter. I can see so much of who I was as a little girl in my daughter. And guess what? It’s triggering as hell. I want to save my daughter from the pain I experienced growing up from some of those shared traits. It’s easy to say something out of love that could be hurtful. You want to shield them from the pain they may experience in the “real world”. And you know what, it’s easy to say something out of frustration that’s hurtful as well. It’s this strange dichotomy where I want my daughter to have the confidence to be her authentic self while at the same time struggling with whether to help guide her out of behaviors that may not be deemed socially acceptable and save her pain. But no matter what, my love for my children is never in question. Their worth is never in question.

I know I am a good mom, not a perfect one. My children know without question how loved they are. They know from my words, they know from my actions, they know from my energy and how I show up for them. That doesn’t mean I’ve never made mistakes and that’s OK.

All those things I latched onto from my childhood that hurt me? I now have this ability to start releasing them. I know how easy it can be for a few careless words to slip out. If my kids are doing something as annoying AF, of course, I can get annoyed. Of course, I can tell them they’re being annoying. Them being annoying doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I can love them fully and unconditionally even though they are annoying. Guess what that means? It means it was OK that I may have been annoying as a kid. I was still lovable. I was still worthy of love. I can be annoying now once and a while and hey, that’s OK. I’m still lovable and worthy of love. You can sub out the word annoying for anything.

Basically it doesn’t matter what behavior my children exhibit or what words come out of their mouths I still love them fully and completely. It doesn’t matter what response and emotions they may trigger in me, whether it be annoyance, frustration, and anger or joy, love, and empathy I still love them the same amount. I still think they are undeniably worthy and lovable.

My kids know they can express anger. Depending on how it’s expressed there may be consequences but they know they are safe to express it. They know I’ll help them work through it. They know they can express remorse and apologize later for it. They are growing up learning that it’s OK to not be perfect. They are always loved and worthy of all they desire no matter what. Simply because they are. We all are. And loving my children through their imperfection, and my own is helping me love myself more and more every day. Because our children are born into this world worthy and deserving of love, affection, nurturing and care. No one would argue that point. They don’t have to do anything, be anything, or say anything to be worthy of that. It is inherent. That is not questioned. And because I know this is true for them I must also accept it is true for me.

We came into the world the same way. We are worthy of love. Worthy of joy. Worthy of abundance. Worthy of it all. Just for being. Just for existing. We came into the world not questioning that but we forget. Our children help us remember. I choose to remember.

My children have taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. That lesson has enabled me to be more willing to extend that same capacity for love towards myself and others.

Let’s use this as a reminder to have less judgment and more love and compassion towards ourselves and other women. We need not strive for some fantasy ideal of perfection. All we can ask is that we do our best, share a little more of our light every day, and support our children in embodying the fullest version of themselves and embracing what brings them happiness in life.

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