Have you ever tried to go to the bathroom with someone leaning on your leg? Because that’s motherhood: it's as if there are never any secrets from your kids.
But actually, there are: they're just carefully concealed, while the rest of who you are easily shines through with very little filter. It's this dynamic that gives us so much power as parents to mess our kids up. They see that time I lost my temper, even if no one above four feet was here to witness it. In reality, kids actually see everything we do, and then take it all in and process it.
Realizing this distinction is huge. Because it lets us then also realize that we have a direct ability to choose what our kids see us do — and what they don’t.
My kids won’t hear me call something “retarded” or “gay” or a number of other derogatory words that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but often are. My kids will, however, see me do the following seven things — and thank goodness.
1. My children will see me exercise.
I never want to be a mom who places a workout above my children. That said, my body really needs to move sometimes, like it did last night. So what did I do? I parked my purple yoga mat and my oldest daughter’s pink one on the floor in front of the television, placed the baby in her swing facing us, and put on a pilates DVD.
Was it easy? No. Still, I soldiered on and, afterward, thanked my girls for helping mommy work out because it made me feel so much better.
2. My children will see me drink wine (in moderation!).
Alcohol is a very private thing. There’s a great amount of shame attached to alcohol, as well as a strong amount of (appropriate) responsibility. Because of this, I’m trying to show my children that drinking alcohol moderately is acceptable.
Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t have my weeks where I give up my nightly glass of wine completely because I need a break from it — because I think part of being a responsible drinker is checking in often with intention.
3. My children may see me and my husband argue — and then make up.
To be fair, I don’t like arguing with my husband in front of my kids. Regardless, I think a healthy display of differing opinions, followed by a solution, is helpful for our kids to see. People who love each other fight from time to time, and we can be their models of healthy conflict resolution.
4. My children will see me lose my shit — and then belly breathe and regain it.
Any mother who stays at home with small children will lose her shit on occasion. Period. She may not admit it like I am right now, but she will. Because it’s downright frustrating to be in this situation all day every day. What’s important, though, is that our kids see us have a mini freak out — and then they see us calm back down.
5. My children will also see me walk away.
When I cannot control my anger or frustration, the best thing for all parties is to walk away and wait out the adrenaline rush. This is part of being a responsible adult, and working to cultivate resilience and emotional strength. Plain and simple.
Our kids might not be fully capable of doing this themselves yet, but they will be someday — and they’ll have a much easier time learning how to walk away instead of blowing up if they see us do it too.
6. My children will see me enjoy food.
I loathe the current “it” phrase “clean eating.” To me, it’s a new way to attach shame and guilt to food. Do I try to eat few processed foods and instead go for ones that make my body feel good after I enjoy them? Yes — but I won’t call my diet “clean,” because it conversely implies that some foods are “dirty.”
I also want my kids to see me indulge. Recently, I took my daughter out for a surprise ice cream date on a Friday afternoon; we usually share a small bowl. But I was feeling extra motivated and geared up to work out that day, so for a brief moment, I contemplated not having any. In that instant of hesitation, however, I saw who I want myself to be: the kind of mom who eats cake at birthday parties and has a bit of ice cream on an ice cream date.
7. My children will see me take "time outs."
My husband comes home from work and it’s been one of those days where I’m biting my tongue off to not lose my temper. So I hand him the kids and go take a “time out.”
Maybe it’s a short yoga practice in another room, a quick spin on my bike downstairs, writing in bed or sitting on the couch with a crappy Netflix show. It doesn’t matter. But what does matter is that my children see me using a period of alone time to self-soothe and regroup.
My kids are watching me. Right now, while they’re still young, is one of the very few times in our lives where my opinions and example matter much more than their peers’ or anyone else’s. So I’m taking advantage of that.
So what behaviors do you make sure to share with your kids? Share in the comments below!