I spoke to a woman this week who said she feels guilty if she sits down. It’s something that I hear from women a lot, and I’m always interested in where this idea comes from.
She explained that, growing up, her mum was always the first up and the last to sit down and wouldn’t do so until all the work was done, even though the rest of the family had wound down hours before. She learnt that this is what you do. You put yourself last. She said it’s why she doesn’t have any ‘me time’ and why she’s overweight, and exhausted.
The belief that she formed growing up is that ‘mum isn’t worthy’. Her role-model mother valued herself least, and taught her daughters how to do it, too.
We’re not born like this. The picture above is of my friend’s beautiful little girl, relaxing in a ball pit in front of her family and friends. Like any toddler, she’s putting herself first. She’s meeting her own needs. She’s doing what she wants.
If this little girl was your daughter – naturally happy, inquisitive and fun-seeking – what message would you want to convey to her over the next few years about a woman's value in a family unit?
If actions speak louder than words, how would you model this for her, and for any siblings - male or female? Perhaps you'd:
- Divide the housework between everyone
- Teach responsibility and independence
- Encourage awareness and support for each other’s needs
- Communicate about your emotions
- Allow everyone some spontaneity
- Carve time for individual passions
- Relax freely when you feel like it
It’s quite easy to think of ways of giving a little person the strong belief that she or he matters. What's sometimes more challenging is being kind to ourselves in this regard.
How closely does the reality in your family match the list above? Changing things can seem uphill - particularly if you've been teaching your family that they matter more than you for quite some time...
The first person to convince is yourself. Imagine that you can go back in time and have one shot at telling your seven-year-old self what she or he needs to know, so that - no matter what else happens - that child will grow up and know that they matter.
You're valuable. Your passions and desires are as worthy as the passions and desires of those around you. You can sprawl in a ball pit in front of everyone if you want to, and you're free to love it!
Choose a message that would create the highest level of self-worth for your 'inner child' - and compare that with the messages you tell your adult self. Is there a gulf between the two?
Perhaps it's time to change the script...
Emma Grey is the author of Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum (Lothian, 2005). Her training consultancy, www.worklifebliss.com.au, throws a lifeline to women who are struggling to ‘have it all’ and she offers a free eBook on the site, called ‘The 7 Types of Busy: how to untangle yourself from having too much’. Emma has three children and two step-children – two young adults, a teen, a tween and a toddler. She’s two books in, writing a teen-fiction trilogy (no vampires) and loves travel, social networking and ABBA tribute nights and she blogs every so often at www.emmacatherinegrey.blogspot.com.