Twenty years ago I was a young mother with two small children and a new home business that we depended on to make ends meet. As a result, I was under a lot of stress. At times my two-year-old daughter could be quite the handful. Not only was she competing for my attention with a baby brother, but also my fledgling business that was taking 40-50 hours per week of my time.
This child, who had once received the undivided attention of her non-working mother, didn’t know what to do. So, she acted out to get my attention. Who could blame her? The flowing water faucet of attention she once received was now reduced to a trickle. This “bad behavior” was something new to me, so I turned to my own mother for advice.
My mother, a kind yet authoritative presence recommended stern punishment for this misbehavior. It wasn’t what I was used to doing, but I didn’t know what else to do. After all, my mother was the ultimate in motherhood. Shouldn’t I follow her advice? I began disciplining my daughter the way I thought my mother would have disciplined us if we’d acted that way.
Frankly, for me it didn’t work like it did for my mom. This only exacerbated my frustration. Yet, I kept on trying to be my mother — except my mother never resorted to yelling, screaming or losing control. She didn’t have to. She was the ultimate in self-control. She could give us a look and we’d behave. Why couldn’t I be like her? Why didn’t my children obey when I tried to be authoritative?
I look back on those years and sincerely regret my actions toward my eldest daughter. I was way too hard on her. All she really needed was some of my love and attention.
Back in those overwhelming days I often lamented, “I used to be a good person until I had children.” I realize now that trying to be someone I wasn’t only amplified an already stressful situation.
I have six children – girl, boy, boy, a 5-year break and another girl, boy, boy. I believe God gave me a do-over with these younger ones. He’s given me a second chance to learn to be me.
While my mother was very successful with her authoritative style, I’m not believable as an authoritative personality. It’s not me. I’m laid-back, inconsistent and affectionate by nature. For me to morph myself into an authoritative style added more stress and frustration to my already overloaded plate. The anger, yelling, and inevitable guilt that resulted in those early years all occurred because I wasn’t being true to myself. I was trying to be someone I’m not.
Somewhere along the way, I learned to be me. My younger children have quite the different mother than my older ones did. I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I don’t ever “lose it,” but the stress of trying to be someone I’m not isn’t there anymore. I’m free to be me and as a result, my children are much more well-behaved, adjusted and loved.
Most of us grow up trying to model someone else – a parent, a teacher, or a mentor. We think because the way they do things works for them, that they should work for us. What we don’t see is that at a core level we can be very different personalities. What works for me might not work for you. Not only that, but in trying to make ourselves fit someone else’s mold, we can become our worst selves.
I no longer look at myself and think having children made me my worst self. It may have for a time, but in the end, being a mom has made me my best self.
My friend Lisa Rae Preston has developed an enlightening system for living as your true self. It’s called STEP Into Destiny. The first step is to understand yourself – what your core passion is – what makes you the happiest by God’s design. The next step is to start operating more from your core. The result will be less stress, more joy, and more success in life.
Take the STEP into Destiny Passion Test today. You may find that some of the stress and challenges you face in life are because you’re trying to operate from someone else’s core and not your own. Don’t make my mistake and live with years of regret. Don’t let those around you suffer the ramifications of you trying to be someone you aren’t. You owe it to those you love to be the “you” God created you to be!