Along this parenting journey, I have had moments of doubt about my own value and self worth. Is my contribution to society enough? We are told we can have it all, to which I wholeheartedly agree. But when your ‘all’ looks like being a stay at home, homeschooling parent, the cheer squad kind of disappears. It is not very widely celebrated. It is more “you can have it all, but are you sure that is all you want?” It is less “Wow! That is amazing!” and more “Oh, I could never do that.” Over the last few years, I have worked hard on letting go of my need for external validation and dug deep to understand and honour my own understanding of success. It is a process, and a work in progress.
A couple of years ago, I was chatting to one of my best friends over a glass of wine. She said to me, “you were so incredible at university. You got all of the offers and ‘things’ that people want. I am still waiting for all of the amazing things you are going to do.”
I sat with those words. I am still sitting with them a couple of years later. I didn’t take this as a negative comment at the time, and I don’t now either. I certainly know it wasn’t meant in a negative way. She believed in my ability to do amazing things as mother plus. Plus something else ‘more amazing.’ But what about mother, full stop? It made me think and reflect. Am I enough? Is this enough? As I unpack my need to please others, I am not trying to answer these questions in the context of anyone but myself, or to live up to the expectations of anyone but myself.
It has forced me to ask myself some questions. I have sat with uncomfortable feelings while I untangle how I feel about my role and my impact. It certainly looks different to the life I envisioned for myself as a new adult, thinking about where I would fit in the world. I never thought much about being a parent and it certainly wasn’t a goal that defined the vision I had of myself. To find myself here is as much of a surprise to my younger self as it is to anyone else. But while this path I have carved out might not always make sense to others, it is one that feels so significant and intentional for me.
Over the last couple of years this is what I have come to believe. My circle of influence in undoubtedly smaller than what I anticipated. Three bright eyed children. But my impact is more profound than I could have imagined.
What I am doing is amazing. Right now. How I spend my time is the sum of the incredible things I want to offer. I am striving and reflecting each day on my desire to reach my potential in this role I have chosen. This is the difference I was always meant to make. I haven’t lost myself in this life, but instead I have found a meaningful purpose. There is immense value in my purpose. I value myself and what I am doing.
I believe deeply in the incredible opportunity presented by respectful parenting.
“One generation full of deeply loving parents would change the brain of the next generation, and with that, the world.” Charles Raison
It is a revolution I buy in to and want to be a part of. I believe that healthy development is driven by love and connection, not shame and control. I believe that hurt people, hurt other people, and without conscious change, that cycle will never be broken. I believe that emotional guidance rooted in respect leads to emotionally intelligent and healthy people, and the world needs people like that.
Children who are trusted to choose, grow into adults who are confident to make choices. Children who are given bodily autonomy, grow into adults confident in their ability to set and enforce personal boundaries and respect the boundaries of others. Children who experience empathy and natural consequences rather than arbitrary punishment, are intrinsically motivated to make choices based on a core value system rather than choices driven by fear. Children parented respectfully grow into resilient adults. Children who are trusted grow into adults who trust themselves.
Without really knowing what they were doing, or having a name for what they were doing, my parents lay the foundations for my growth in respectful parenting. It wasn’t perfect by any stretch. It never is. But, I was heard. I was valued. I was supported. I was trusted. I was loved. And from that base, since having children of my own, I have grown. It has not only positively affected the way I am raising my own children, it has positively impacted all of my significant adult relationships. I have learnt that there is no person, anywhere, at any stage or age, who doesn’t benefit from being treated with respect and kindness.
My parents became the top of a pyramid, its base growing larger with each generation. There are no fractured relationships undermining its strength. And I can see, that with intention, I know how to build. Respect trickles from the top of the pyramid, the course of its flow grows stronger and more defined with every moment we choose trust, every moment we choose connection, every moment we choose empathy. As I watch my children forge relationships of their own, I am watching that pyramid grow larger still, respect touching all of those around them. It will continue to grow with my children’s children and their children, too. It is quiet, unsung work. But I see it. I value it.
To those respectful parents struggling with their inherent value. To those who feel invisible. To those struggling to celebrate themselves. To be a respectful parent is radical. You are a grassroots change-maker. You are top of your own pyramid. Your work is discreet, but you are making a profound difference. The legacy of your respect and kindness will be generational. You are so important. You are enough.