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What good mothers do differently


Lakshmi Singh

They take care of themselves before the children, writes Lakshmi Singh.

Nurture yourself ... to nurture your daughter better, experts advise.

Nurture yourself ... to nurture your daughter better, experts advise.

What does it take to raise a resilient daughter? Sound values? A strong work ethic? Love and dedication? Yes, yes and yes. But even more important, perhaps, advises Michelle Obama, is a healthy sense of self-respect. Look after yourself to ensure that your girls learn to care for themselves as much as they do for others.

America's First Lady does exactly that, by prioritising her own health and happiness.

It's not selfish, it's "practical", she told America's ABC network.

"One of the things that I want to model for my girls is investing in themselves as much as they invest in others," she added.

Obama says "self-preservation tools" are vital elements in a productive, happy life. "You can be educated, you can be smart, you can be pretty, you can have fun, you can sweat, you can run - and you have to do all of that to manage in this world."

Conscious self-maintenance is what keeps her sane and able to "perform at maximum capacity" for her family, says the Obama.

She also wants to set a different example for her girls than her mother did for her.

"My mother was the traditional stay-at-home mum. She spent her days at our games and at the PTA, and cooking and doing everything. And the thought of her spending a dime on herself was just like, oh my goodness, why would I want to do that?"

Jo Wise, life coach and trainer from Midst of Motherhood says that she sees this behavior in all of her clients who are mothers.

She explains that by continuing to put themselves last, these mothers are not only letting themselves down, they are letting their children down as well.

"When we are feeling depleted and exhausted and tired, we are actually seeing other people's needs through our filter."

It then becomes "more of an obligation to do the things we know we should do, rather than doing the things out of love," she says.

She urges women to fill "your 'cup' with self-love and nourishment and to share the overflow with others". Lavishing care, respect and love on yourself not only feels good but it shows those around you how you expect to be treated, Wise explains.

Meeting your own needs is especially important in teaching girls self-respect and positive body image, she says. It's also the first step to developing supportive relationships.

Seeing her mother engage positively with friends and family is vital for an impressionable young girl's emotional development, says Sharon Witt, educator and author of the Teen Talk series of books. "They [daughters] can't be what they can't see," so it is necessary to show them what healthy relationships look like.

It is about being mindful and not "gossiping and being unkind to your own friends" as well as proactively managing relationships with a view to ending those that are unhealthy, Witt says.

Learning to communicate effectively and providing reassurance to your daughter are also important habits to develop, says Jodie Benveniste, parenting expert, psychologist and director of Parent Wellbeing. Mothers can foster open lines of communication by engaging in regular activities with their daughters, Benveniste advises. It doesn't necessarily have to be a once-a-week event, "it could be just a casual chat about things in the car on the way home," she explains.

How mothers convey their idea of a successful life to their daughters plays a crucial role in helping girls reach their own potential. Regardless of whether you are a stay-at-home mum or a working mum, Benveniste says, "try and set up a lifestyle that is going to support you to do what you love because that then shows your daughter that she can pursue something that she loves in life."

This theme is echoed by successful businesswomen who consider their mothers to have been instrumental in their career success.

Amy Richards, owner of accessories boutique Sterling & Hyde credits her mum's advice -"Happiness is ultimately something only you can achieve and something you have a responsibility to yourself to search for" - with giving her the courage to switch industries from law to handbag design.

Felicity Grey, a former public service employee, who jumped ship to start her own PR firm, The Theory Crew, paints a similar picture: "My mother instilled in me to be self-aligned and independent and if you want to do something, then you should [pursue it]."

While both women are grateful for their mothers' support and encouragement in terms of their professional achievements, they also attribute their ability to lead satisfying personal lives to the values their mothers passed on to them.

Grey's mother tended to play devil's advocate with her, which helped her learn how to "self-analyse and consider other people's points of view." But it was her mum's emphasis on leading a balanced life, that Grey says helped her understand the concept of "me-time".

"Mum would take herself to the movies on the odd Saturday afternoon," she says. It was this breathing space that her mother allowed in her schedule that made Grey adopt the same mind-set as she entered motherhood.

"I am finding mum's approach is really working for me. I love the time at work, love the time with my family and I love the time I spend on my own and having more balance makes me a well-rounded person," she says.


  • Pass me a bucket! What a lot of self-serving nauseating rubbish. Good mothers look after their children. They don't have to be doormats or never do anything for themselves, but they frequently (and more often than not) put their children first. It's the tough lesson most of us learn in the first 3 months of our children's life - while we might have been able to believe we could have it all before we had kids, the reality proves to be different. Sensible, emotionally functional women take a deep breath and deal with it. The mixed up, insecure and/or narcissistic women believe this kind of rubbish and proceed to consistently put themselves ahead of their small, vulnerable children. The result is sad kids who fail to become competent, independent adults. Just look at how many high flying older women have incongruously low achieving, dysfunctional adult kids.

    Date and time
    May 11, 2012, 4:08PM
    • Sally I get the impression that you didn't actually read the entire article.. the article is clearly written for both stay at home and working mothers.. and it simple "self nurturing" example of one mum taking her self to the odd saturday afternoon movie is far from what I would consider selfish, nor would I judge a mother who did such a thing to be not a "good" mother.. me thinks that prior to writing your clearly emotional response to this article you should have taken your own advice "taken a deep breath and dealt with it".. nevertheless the rest of will enjoy the fact that we are not the only women who understand the being a "good" mother means being a well nurtured person.. even if that nurturing comes in the form of a good bit of eye candy on a saturday arvo at the cinema..

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 4:41PM
    • Clearly the first 3 months of your childs life was quite an eye opener for you.
      Children do get older, they don't remain small and vunerable forever. When they are at an age when your actions are an influence on them, how you interact with others, they way you talk to your partner(s). I think it would be a good idea for you to take that time to look after yourself and refind that joy that seems to missing in your life right now.

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 5:41PM
    • @roni, I did read the article and "Wise urges women to fill their 'cup' with self-love and nourishment and to share the overflow with others. Lavishing care, respect and love on yourself not only feels good but it shows those around you how you expect to be treated" was much more prominent than the mum who went to Sat arvo movies. "share the overflow"? ie me first and they get the leftovers? "Lavish" care and love on yourself? That is not a healthy approach to life for any adult - men or women. Yes, look after yourself, don't be a doormat for others including your family, but a central part of being a functional adult, particularly a parent, is being able to put others before yourself. Sometimes with colleagues, more often with friends and a spouse but frequently with children. Less the older and more independent they get, but when they are little, more often than not they come first.
      and Roni, I am not a stay at home mother. I am a working mother, with money and independence, who frequently goes to movies, dinners and other social events because I condsider it a normal part of life. If you are confident you are doing the best by your kids, you don't need to convince yourself that you can have time out because you're "worth it".

      Date and time
      May 11, 2012, 9:32PM
    • What's 'insecure and narcissistic' about developing your own interests, investing in your own physical and mental health and maintaining economic independence? This sounds like a healthy, sensible and balanced approach to mothering and providing a healthy example to your kids.

      The only problem I have with this article is that it fails to acknowledge that not all mothers have this luxury. For single mothers and low income earners struggling to make ends meet, finding the time and finances for healthy self development can be difficult.

      Date and time
      May 12, 2012, 11:05AM
    • I want to point out that in most cases there is a father of some kind involved in the raising of a child - why is it that when we say mum has time out that the insinuation is that the child is left alone and desperate, when in fact, dad is right there? How is a mother selfish when there is a perfectly capable father looking after his own child?

      Miss Fortune
      Date and time
      May 13, 2012, 11:14AM
    • what's that saying roni - people tend to complain loudest about things they secretly feel guilty of themselves.

      Following that logic - would suggest that Sally has put her kids first, feels bad about having wasted her life, so this article presses her hot button, causing her to gush outrage - as you say, perhaps without fully reading the article ...

      Date and time
      May 13, 2012, 5:11PM
    • And to add to that, there's clearly a slant on having a teenage daughter. if you only have little ones now, you can't even imagine having time to yourself. But as the mother of an 8yo girl, I have plenty of time for both of us and myself (and I work full time). I completely get this article - and don't need a bucket!

      my husband says that every morning I make a little present to myself of time, some days it's a big present, some days it's a small present. I really like that analogy and it's true - try it!

      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 7:35AM
    • Sally, it is not about being selfish. It is more about remembering that you are a person with own needs as well. Kids don't need 100% attention. I would even argue that they do much better if we let them be with their dads and we maybe take some time off to meet our friends or do something else we feel good about. I am a women most of all and not a cooking/cleaning/... machine in track suit pants. I am woman...and a mother

      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 8:34AM
    • Exactly. Or even making sure that you are happy so you can give all of yourself to your children. If you aren't happy with yourself or your life cirucmstances this is certainly going to affect your kids - FOREVER. Their brains are being shaped and their neurons are making paths in their brains normalising your behaviour.

      Date and time
      May 14, 2012, 8:50AM

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