Staying Home Instead
Boosting Your Self-Esteem
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 3, May-June 2000, pp. 93-95
We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time.
"Staying Home Instead" is a regular feature of the magazine NEW BEGINNINGS, published bimonthly by La Leche League International. In this column, suggestions are offered by readers of NEW BEGINNINGS to help parents who choose to stay at home with their children. Various points of view are presented. Not all of the information may be pertinent to your family's life-style. This information is general in nature, and not intended to be advice, medical or otherwise.
When I was working, I got many boosts to my self-esteem. I got raises and I was praised for work well done. Now that I'm home with my children all the time, the best I can hope for is a stranger commenting on how cute my two-year-old twins are, or my husband complimenting my cooking. On days when my children are behaving, or doing adorable, brilliant things, I find myself taking the credit and feeling good about myself. On the more frequent days when their moods are up and down and their adorable traits get overwhelmed by their tantrums, I feel like a failure. What do other mothers do to feel good about themselves without outside reinforcement?
I am also an at-home mother, and I am also struggling with self-image and self-esteem! In my particular case, what also triggered feelings of shaky self-image and consequent insecurity is the fact that I moved to the US from Italy six years ago when I married my husband. I left a well-paid job with all the rewards that it entailed and had to forge a new life for myself. I would not have made it without the unconditional support my husband has been offering me all the way through! Let me share a few ideas I use to boost my self-esteem.
I take care of and pride in my own inner self by reminding myself that I am a lovable and loving unique human being. I am a valuable person. My self-value comes from more than what I do. I seek opportunities for personal growth in accordance with my goals in life: reading books on self-help and spirituality, attending workshops if possible, keeping a learning attitude when getting to know people, and choosing uplifting and supportive friends. I remind myself that I do not need others' acceptance and approval to accept and find value in my self.
I seek opportunities to assess my skills by volunteering, learning new hobbies, or mastering new skills.
When I am in the company of people who show a demeaning attitude when they hear I am an at-home mother (the conversation usually stops as if there is nothing more to say) I remind myself that my life does not depend upon their approval. Others can dislike and disapprove of my choices, but they cannot diminish my being, nor can they undermine my choices.
I remember to celebrate myself from time to time with an inexpensive gift, an outing, or simply taking some extra time for myself. I consider that a self-given raise! Take care!
Capron IL USA
I also left a career with a very promising future to stay home and care for my family. It wasn't until after the birth of our second baby, two years later, that I became aware of my need for approval. The answer came one day when I was out for my daily walk. I decided to start running. I quickly set goals for myself, and as an incentive, I entered my first competitive long distance race (five kilometers) after a few months of training. My intention was just to complete the race. You can imagine my surprise when not only did I finish the race but also received the third place medal for my age group. This medal has done more for my confidence than any praise or raise.
My husband and girls have been very supportive of my running. Some days just getting my shoes on and getting out the door is a major accomplishment for me.
Running can be done anytime or anywhere. Some days I run first thing in the morning as a way to fuel up for my long day ahead. Other days, I run at night, this helps relieve stress after a day of mothering. Then there are days when the weather is nice and I put my girls, now two and four years of age, in a pushcart, and make it a family event.
Each time I set out to run I'm competing with myself, pushing myself just a little further. This is my first winter running and a friend who is also a runner inspires me. In the cold of the morning, I know that she is also out there running her miles and that keeps me going. Running helps me feel better about myself and when I feel better about myself, I have more to offer to my family. I hope you find this as helpful as I have.
Lexington MI USA
Staying home with your children can be very difficult, especially when you think you aren't getting enough done even though you are home all day. It is very easy to feel you are failing when no one is telling you that you are not. Between the tantrums and all three of my children wanting me at once, I sometimes feel very frustrated and unappreciated. The trick for me is to find my own praise. It's not direct and easy to find, but it's there. Every time my baby smiles that big, sweet grin at me, he is telling me I am doing a good job. Every time one of my children says "please" or "thank you" or voluntarily shares a toy, I take that as praise. After all, I was the one who taught them that's what you should do. I often see other children who have no respect or generosity or even simple manners. I become very thankful that I am here every day to be an example and a teacher for my children.
We live in a selfish society. I am happy to see that I have generous and caring children, even though the oldest is only four. They are very well mannered and considerate of others' feelings. They get excited to be able to give a gift or to do something nice for someone. Each time I see these qualities in my children, I feel so blessed to have such sweethearts with me every day. And I know that I am the example they are modeling their little lives after. That's all the praise I need.
When things get tough, think of it as a long-term project. There are definitely ups and downs but hang in there! It's well worth it. LLL Series Meetings are a great place to talk to other mothers who are going through the same things. Have confidence in yourself. You are doing a great job just by choosing to be a big part of your children's lives and treating them like the important people they are.
Jeffersonville IN USA
I think how we feel about ourselves is directly affected by how we feel about our work. Unfortunately, our society and culture isn't sure what it thinks of women who stay home with their children. We stay-at-home mothers are challenged every day to remember that our daily presence at home and our availability to our families is precisely what makes them grow in good health and love. In the year and a half that I've been home with my daughter, I have at times felt unappreciated, bored, frustrated, and isolated. I am able to still feel good about myself because I truly believe I am doing the most important work a woman can do.
Motherhood is very different from other kinds of work because it takes many years before our hard work seems to pay off. Try to remember the looks on the faces of your parents at your high school or college graduation. My mother cried tears of joy and pride at mine. Although it was my accomplishment, she and my father could share in the glory because they did their best to provide an environment at home where their children could learn and grow.
It's not that I wish my little girl would hurry up and grow. In fact, I'm trying to savor these fleeting baby days. I'm just hopeful that every home cooked meal she eats, every nuzzle at my breast, and every game of ring-around-the-rosy we play will help her grow into a confident and kind adult who values people more than things.
Our work as stay-at-home mothers is unique. To be realistic, we can't compare it to work outside the home, nor can we expect from it the same benefits. It is always a labor of love and rarely thankless, if we're patient. Most of all it is of urgent importance. This is vital for us to remember if we want to maintain a healthy outlook.
East Atlantic Beach NY USA
In the last 30 years I have become more of the person I was supposed to become because of the support of special groups of women and opportunities to share my life with wonderful people. I encourage you to enrich a happy new life at home with a new baby as I did - with a regular association with La Leche League. For me, my long-term membership in my local LLL Group and eventual participation as a librarian, a hostess, and then a Leader enabled me to develop more of a sense of myself as a useful and competent person. I attended conferences and led workshop sessions. I was inspired to write some verse, a few anecdotal stories, and a well-documented and published paper about "Total Breast-feeding to Age One." Tandem nursing and adoptive nursing experiences also were shared in print. I never thought I would ever do or write about any of those life experiences.
Being involved with LLL women enhanced my education and my teaching skills. Insights from my work experiences helped me to be a new learner again, especially in the field of interpersonal relations with adults. I also wanted to better understand the significant emotional development of women as mothers and co-parents. These new opportunities helped me feel satisfied with myself and also gave me a chance to help others. A nursing mother-child couple is a resource for the world. Enjoy your learning time and your future contribution efforts!
Joanne R. Polner
Franklin Lakes NJ USA
First of all, you should take the credit when your children are "behaving well or doing adorable brilliant things." After all, you are their primary caregiver and children learn by example. Allow yourself to feel good every time your children give you that special smile (you know - the one that is reserved just for you) or a hug. Other times to feel good about yourself come when your little ones reach out to you for affection, playing, and comfort. These small gestures are the "raises" of motherhood that are sometimes overlooked.
Springville PA USA