When I see a pregnant woman in public, sometimes I have to suppress the desire to forcefully yank her aside by the strings on the back of her ruffled maternity top to get her attention. I have a dire warning to issue. In my head, I imagine I have the crazed bloodshot eyes and bed-head hairdo of a zombie, dragging two hysterical werewolf kids behind me and I’m yelling, “I have a message for you!”…right before I burst into flames.
It’s those first-time moms you can spot right away (God love ‘em): They walk leisurely through the grocery store, blissfully unaware they have the precious time to read every label. In passing, I usually hear one side of a cell phone conversation that sounds something like, “I know, but I totally think a low-VOC robin’s egg blue on the walls accented with fair-trade, organic cotton, mocha toile crib bedding will be less cliche than Winnie-the-Pooh, don’t you?” They spend hours – literally HOURS – doing online research for the best kid crap from sippy cups to strollers.
I know these things because I was her.
Post-childbirth, she’ll realize that a solo trip to the grocery store is a luxury just like brushing your teeth and shaving your legs will be. She’ll laugh when the poop-stained mocha toile crib bedding becomes a drop-cloth in the dining room for that art project where the kids paint every square inch of their bodies and then roll around the floor like someone put Red Bull in their juice boxes. And the stroller – who cares? She’ll end up buying one of every type at some point anyway. These aren’t even the golden nuggets of motherly wisdom I would share with a blissfully unaware, first-time mother-to-be. Sorry doll, you gotta learn that stuff the hard way like the rest of us.
Here’s what I’m so desperate to make sure the mother-to-be in the cute maternity top knows: All that stuff you *think* is important is actually meaningless compared to what should really keep you up at night, which is this: Does your child know what she likes about herself? And since we’re on the subject – Do YOU know what you like about yourself?
I asked my five-year old daughter, Genevieve, for the first time last week, “What do you like about yourself?” as she munched on her after-school snack. Thankfully, she hasn’t developed that sad, self-censoring response that affects so many kids, especially girls; the one that is fueled by doubt and insecurity – “I don’t know.” Without hesitation she replied, “I’m smart. And I’m kind. And I can snap. Oh, and I’m really flexible in gymnastics.” She knew. She didn’t have to think about it. And she’ll be a woman before I’m ready for her to be.
When my business coach last year asked me a similar question (what are my strengths), I struggled to give her three. I’m a big talker about raising my daughters to be confident, problem-solving, smart women and yet I couldn’t easily name three of my own strengths. Although embarrassing, it was a watershed moment for me.
I have zero background in psychology (mostly because I skipped those classes in college to play Frisbee Golf and watch Days of Our Lives), so I don’t claim to be an authority on child development. It doesn’t take a person with a lot of letters behind her name to tell you that if you can’t articulate what you like about yourself, how can you expect your kids to do the same? They learn it from you.
It’s not conceited to talk about what you like about yourself. It’s leading by example, so give it a whirl:
1. Write down at least 10 things you like about yourself; skills, personality traits, talents, quirks, even physical characteristics.
2. Pick three of those qualities and for each one, write down one small and realistic action you can take to move something forward in your business or personal life. Then do it. For example, let’s say you’re really talented at networking with people. Start a group on Facebook to facilitate idea sharing and networking in your field of work. Fill the group with people you have handpicked because of their talent, ideas, or expertise.
3. If you’re a parent, ask your kid(s) this question, “What do you like about yourself?” Share your answer with them too. You know your kid best – pick a moment when you know they’ll be open to sharing. I often get more conversation out of my kids when a Barbie doll is asking all the questions (Go with someone like Rocket Scientist Barbie though because I’m not convinced Glitter Nails Barbie knows her own name).
4. Rinse and repeat.
Taking stock, out loud, of your own awesomeness isn’t jerky. Here’s what’s jerky: Bragging about how much money you make, how much useless stuff you own or how much influence you possess. Oh, and road rage.
This week, ask your kids, “What do you like about yourself?”. You’ll be surprised. Then go out and tackle a pregnant woman. This is stuff she needs to know.