A child benefits from seeing his/her mother…
1). Praying (or sending positive vibes) for those she loves… and those she doesn’t.
…because it’s important (and rewarding) to show compassion and empathy for others, regardless how she feels about them or how they may treat her.
A child can find comfort and reassurance by hearing his mother say aloud that she wishes the best for him, thinks about him often, worries about him, and cares enough to ask the universe to look out for him when she cannot.
By hearing her hope the best for negative and toxic people, her child can also learn that they’re usually the kind of people who need help and healing the most.
2). Openly crying, with no apologies.
Learning how to recognize and manage emotions is the ultimate kind of cleansing. Crying is simply a physical expression of various emotions — maybe happiness, sadness, fear, or something similarly overwhelming — not a sign of weakness.
Ideally, children should grow up knowing we shouldn’t fear emotions, which provide insight and knowledge, a great source of personal power.
In most situations, this mother won’t hide her tears by blotting them away, holding them in, retreating to another room to save herself from shame or others from embarrassment.
Just as she won’t apologize for smiling, laughing, or yelping in pain, she won’t say sorry for the tears that prove her humanity, and neither will she expect her child to ever do so.
3). Accepting compliments, and giving them without strings attached.
Most women need a little encouragement with this one. These might all feel like normal, appropriately humble albeit self-effacing responses to a compliment:
“Thanks, but I don’t know about that…” … “You’re too kind, you flatter me” … “No, no” … “Oh stop” …
But by accepting the compliment (a simple “Thank you!” to someone she knows or “Thanks, I appreciate that!” to a stranger who went out of their way to praise something about her), she can acknowledge its truth without undermining herself or finding herself in awkward false agreement if she really can’t see their view.
To compliment isn’t a generous action; one who compliments isn’t “too kind.” If she (as the complimenter) flatters others for selfish purposes, she ends up taking personal power away from them. So what happens if she gives compliments without expecting modest resistance?
Complimenting both freely and genuinely will teach her children that such words do hold meaning, so there’s no need to brush them off in a panic like ants on a picnic blanket.
4). Adorning herself…
…with whatever makes her feel downright fabulous! By celebrating her beauty in totality — those vibrations from her heart and soul on the inside that illuminate the outside — she says “I am divine!”
By slipping on a fancy headdress, getting a new tattoo, decorating her arms in shiny bangles, splashing on a fragrant oil, painting her eyelids blue like an Egyptian goddess, whatever makes her feel this divine, she shows that she allows herself to be treated well — by herself.
There’s nothing vain about that, so let the kids watch you embellish yourself.
5). Spending time with women who aren’t her sister, mother, partner or daughter.
She’s not scared of society’s limitations forced upon female friendships — the ones that insist women are inherently competitive, disingenuous, and insecure.
She knows the value in female bonds beyond those in her given family — that is, the gift of understanding, loyalty, and support.
Her daughters will learn to be open to friendships with their own gender because it’s not some great threat. And her sons will learn about the power and positivity generated from female relationships.
6). Spending time with men who aren’t her brother, father, partner or son.
She’s not scared of society’s limitations forced upon these friendships — the ones that insist opposite-gender heterosexuals are automatically attracted to each other, can’t be trusted, and must have ulterior motives.
She knows the value in male bonds beyond those in her given family — that is, the gift of refreshing perspective, learning, and mutual assistance in problem-solving or mystery-busting.
Her daughters will learn to be open to friendships with the opposite gender because they know they don’t have to presuppose romantic intention. And her sons will learn that men and women can securely connect with each other in many more ways than just sexually intimate ones.
7). Letting loose.
She’s a mother now.
She’s all the archetypes of the serious matriarch, the sexless mother, the proper-and-buttoned good lady of the house. Or so they say…
There’s this idea that she can’t be comedic because then she’s irreverent like mothers shouldn’t be. She can’t be sexy because then there’s a label for her — MILF. She can’t let her hair down or tattoos out or dare let anyone see those photos from the night she turned 21.
Because then, more than anyone, she risks embarrassing her family by revealing parts of herself that are no longer deemed acceptable by this mark of maternity as something more than ‘a woman’ — or perhaps something less than?
Dads don’t have a ‘dad mode’ in that becoming a father doesn’t cause them to question the continued existence of their core self-identity. But according to, well, almost anyone who sees a woman with her child, she now functions completely and inescapably in ‘mom mode.’ This is all based on unfair societal brainwashing, of course (kind of my go-to explanation for all things).
The truth is…
She had a whole ‘before kids’ life that shepherded her to this position of child watchdog/loving guardian of young souls, memory by memory. Someone on this planet has (at least) once found her to be irresistably sexy (the proof is in the offspring), a fact that doesn’t change just because her uterus started getting really crafty. And though her kids’ literally childish ways don’t hold much of a torch to her inner juvenile goofiness, that inner crazy girl will still be there until she’s gray.
She’s a mother now, so she’s an expert at letting things go. Her challenge is to learn about staying true to herself — all parts of herself — and know it is not the integral parts of her livelihood that need to be let go. A lesson learned perfectly by a mother’s children through her own example.
Some mothers are employed by a career. Mothers who don’t have a job still have responsibilities within the home, just as any career woman does. And she can still work on things, too. Work gives her a sense of purpose, of contribution to something beyond herself.
Is she putting her skills and talents toward professional projects? Volunteering? Crafting ornaments for all the neighbors for the holidays? Writing a memoir?
Whatever kind of work draws her, it’s important to follow that instinct and serve it well. Herein her child will learn that the work he chooses can be fulfilling rather than fated as a thankless burden, even if it’s not always fun.
9). Doing something she loves… by herself.
This is a bit different from a mother’s work. Now we’re talking about her hobbies: that which give her personal joy, a sense of her inner child rediscovered, like she suddenly remembers how she used to play.
Not everyone will understand or be able to add to the experience of indulging her hobbies, and that’s okay. As she gets older she might prefer to savor these special fulfillments by herself. Without having to share, or feel guilty, or having to explain just what is so thrilling about knitting sweaters, painting pet portraits, aiming a telescope at the starry night sky, hiking quietly in the forest, or test-driving vintage cars… with a kind of unreasonable passion.
Seeing this, a child can understand the wondrous cure for loneliness and boredom that is enjoying one’s own company.
10). Admitting she’s wrong.
Not everything (actually, almost nothing) is about ‘being right or wrong.’
There is value both in making mistakes and in their resultant lessons, which a willingly apologetic mother lets her child know by saying “I didn’t mean to do that” or “I meant to do that, but it was wrong.”
She also models how understanding a personal misstep and making a measurable change is more important than simply saying “I’m sorry.”
11). Teaching the value of decision-making based on gut instinct.
Mothers are generally good at this. Fathers, on the other hand, are usually good at teaching about making decisions based on acquired rationale.
It’s the difference between “Listen to your heart/gut/spirit, see with your mind’s eye, get in touch with how you feel” and “Think with your head, build a solution with your hands, see what’s in front of you and get in touch with your sense of logic.”
Some children will grow up to find a well-understood gut instinct useful when birthing their own children, choosing a mate, mulling over a career change, and a myriad of other situations in which dad’s ‘get your head in the game’ approach may prove lacking.
12). Smiling and having fun when (and if) she puts on makeup and high heels.
In our world today, men are judged by what they do and women are judged by how they look. But never mind that nonsense! Imagine a child witnessing the excitement of his mother rifling through her cosmetics drawer to splash on a new set of 60s-glamour inspired eyes. Clearly, she does this because she enjoys it.
The whim to dress up or powder her face is based on her own tastes instead of trends, job expectations, or her lover’s idea of style. It is neither part of a competition, nor is it a chore she endures to satisfy others’ requirements of femininity.
Her child knows this to be true because she smiles just as brightly when someone asks to take her photo while she sports a natural, untouched face and week-old camping gear as she does while accentuating a different side of herself thanks to colored contacts and the sort of fancy outfit one must dry-clean only.
13). Sharing the meal with the rest of the family.
A mom is often busy preparing the meal for her family, but refuses to partake after all the work has been done.
This goes both literally (cooking, plating, hostessing, serving, cleaning up dinner with not a minute for herself to decompress and enjoy the meal, too) and symbolically (‘cooking a family meal’ can mean planning the annual vacation or kids’ birthday parties, making appointments and getting everyone’s schedule balanced on the calendar, etc).
She shouldn’t feel like she should wait out the action on the sidelines just to keep up the perfect super-mother image. And her family shouldn’t so easily accept her sudden absence as everyone assembles for the stated event. Mom isn’t a puppet master running the family — she ‘s an equal member of the family like anyone else.
Children must be taught to insist upon her involvement in the fun parts too. So Mom shares the meal. Mom has fun on vacation. Mom gets her own space on the calendar. Mom stays in the picture. Mom was here.
14). Exercising, which she does “to be strong and healthy.”
She’s not one for loaded words because she knows despite that sticks and stones crap that they can hurt — especially kids.
So she’s not “on a diet.” She’s not “working off that dessert” or “toning trouble spots” to be skinnier or curvier or whatever she thinks needs altering to look a certain way.
All of her hard work, her dedication to this routine, this desire to stay connected with her body in its most cared-for state, is to feel a certain way.
Strong. Healthy. Accomplished. Capable. Full of life.
She wants her daughters and sons to say “Women love physical activity because it’s energizing,” not “Women love physical activity because muffin top is unacceptable.”
15). Being naked without attempting to hide.
We all began as naked bodies. This is our natural state. We are not, in unclothed state, with a qualifier as “naked Sally.” In this way it should make more sense to think of clothed Sally as “Sally in a vest and pants” as opposed to simply “Sally.”
A perfectly naked body is just a perfectly naked body… that is, only until meaningful clothing, various sorts of branding, and cultured associations are projected upon it.
Many parents want so badly to hide their children from any image of sexuality, but really the only situations in which the naked body becomes sexual are those in which it’s engaged in sexual activity.
A mother can teach her children healthy associations from the start: While bathing, a body is cleaned and cared for. While dressing, a body is protected and made more comfortable. While sunbathing, a body enjoys the warmth of nature.
Bonus things, should they apply:
16). Breastfeeding without a cover, whether it’s at home or in public.
My reasoning is best summed up in these two posts: “If You Never See Breastfeeding…” and “My Dear Toddler, I Want To Tell You Something You Already Know About Breastfeeding.”
17). Giving birth to a younger sibling.
Both anecdotal evidence and scientific studies have observed the effects of older siblings witnessing the birth of their baby brothers and sisters. The results are in and… surprise! It’s a … largely positive experience?
Perhaps not feasible or suitable for all families, but certainly something to consider, especially if a mother is worried about jealousy/rivalry or transitioning/acceptance issues.
Studies like this one found:
“[C]hildren were neutral to positive about their experiences at the births. Themes of enjoyment, anticipation, and pride emerged from the data. In addition, the children were impressed by and sensitive to their mothers’ efforts to give birth. They regarded birth as a time which warrants special behavior and were happy that their families were together…
They used words such as ‘wonderful,’ ‘exciting,’ ‘good,’ ‘interesting,’ ‘pretty neat,’ ‘fun,’ and ‘important’ to describe their experiences…
The hard work of giving birth made an impression on the children. While the boys seemed proud of their moms and impressed with their strength and endurance, the girls seemed to want to alleviate their mothers’ pain…
One of the most interesting findings of the study was in the area of children’s knowledge of the birth process.”
A lesson each in anatomy and biology, spirituality, strength, family bonding, trust, helping those in need… all packed into one outrageous kinda field trip to birthland!
18). Kissing her partner.*
*(A bonus because, single moms).
A mom smooches her kids when she wants to show how much she loves being near them, how safe she feels within range of their touch, how scrumptious she finds every cell of their little faces. Moms give a little peck to their pets for the same reasons… And to their partners, too!
We’re usually taught and told that certain things are icky and intolerable, perhaps things like digging for worms with bare hands or wearing a fannypack in 2015 or breastfeeding in public. Rarely do we manifest such clear disgust on our own accord.
Kissing, nuzzling, holding hands, all of these sweet physical endearments witnessed by a child between his parents can him feel confident that all of his family members remain connected on a more warmly intimate level than that of, say, family friends.
Mom and Dad are not just unrelated people who abruptly and coldly signed off on some contract of “let’s be partners in the business of child-rearing” (I hope!). They intermingle closely enough for their special bond to be honored and admired, too.
So no holding back on kisses from the misses just because “the kids are watching!”