Your “net worth” is not your worth
When we have children we have to assess what’s important, there are strong cultural messages that our value is measured in financial terms. Even the phrase “net worth” implies a judgement of someone’s personal value. It can take courage to break away from cultural norms around experiencing our worth as intrinsically linked to numbers in our bank account.
Human connection, especially the relationships which you have with your child and those closest to you are ultimately what make life worth living. I would love you to find a lifestyle in which you are financially well supported and creatively, emotionally and spiritually nourished. To get there, you may need to let go of somethings at least on a temporary basis.
My son’s grandmother had a magnet on her fridge which said “dull women have immaculate houses”. I think of this sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I would rather be an interesting woman. Today the floor needs to be hoovered however I am choosing to spend my child free time writing as this contributes more to my overall sense of well being than having a clean floor.
What you do is so important
In her book “What Mothers Do especially when it looks like nothing”, Naomi Stadlen talks about the fact that “The essentials of mothering are invisible”, that there may be little social acknowledgement or words to describe how we have spent our time. She gives the example of visiting a new mother, “When we arrive, she is holding her baby against her shoulder and looking distraught… Suppose we ask, ‘what were you doing before we came?’ our mother would most likely say in reply ‘nothing’…Even now as we look at her, you and I can clearly see that she is being present for her baby. She has given up her shower and her lunch…We are looking at a baby who is being generously mothered.”. In her In her TED talk, psychologist Dianne Eidelman said “When you are at home with your baby you are working harder than you have ever worked in your life, it as 24/7 job without breaks”.
It can be discouraging to pour your heart and soul into an activity which has little social acknowledgement. It is important to remember that, as we explored in the last chapter, being available for your child and responsive to their needs literally shapes their brain and equips them to become calm, empathic, confident adults and better learners. The work you will do is so important, therefore finding ways of navigating this period of intense parenting with your self esteem intact. Consciously acknowledge the work that you are doing and find people who will notice and celebrate it with you.
Validating the work we do as parents
I believe it is vital that we take time to acknowledge and celebrate the number and range of skills and competencies we acquire as parents. You can do this for your friends and partners: when you are watching a friend tirelessly running after her toddler letting her know how you’ve noticed how hard she is working and that she is doing an amazing job can make a huge difference. You may be surprised how frequently the job of parenting can feel unseen and undervalued.
We serve an essential role in building the foundations of the society in which we live and we need to recognise this so that we can begin designing lifestyles and systems of support to allow us to do it well.
Good parenting or good enough parenting can make the difference between children, and later adults, who are emotionally resilient and have a sense of choice and freedom within their own lives and children who are prone to anxiety, depression and a sense of powerlessness. If we speak up for this publicly then perhaps we can begin to change our culture so that parents are more highly valued and recognised. Ultimately by valuing parenting we have the opportunity to create adults with better mental health leading to stronger communities and ultimately a better world.