Role modelling for parents: who do your children look up to?
By JEAN SELVAM
We often hear about the importance of parents being good role models for their children. However, being a parent brings with it challenges and hurdles. At times, mums and dads can feel like they’re not doing a good enough job.
Some parents wonder whether their children are actually aware of their presence in the home and in their lives instead of looking at them as just financial providers and housemates. But then again, don’t most parents feel this stress and experience guilt-driven feelings at some point in their lives?
My guess is that most of them do, but many feel alone in their parenting struggles. Therefore, wouldn’t it be great if parents have role models to look up to for inspiration and for support? I think, ultimately, many parents do not want to feel alone in doing one of the hardest jobs on earth.
So, who are these role models?
This is certainly a tough question to answer mainly because there is no perfect parent. Even as adults, our role models are either our own parents, close friends or sometimes even celebrities! But let’s forget all of these celebrities and fictional characters for a moment; get back to basics, and look at our own parents for inspiration.
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a great relationship with their parents. Regardless of a positive or negative relationship, there is always something to take from their teachings or their outlook on life. You may not realise this until you see them playing with your children or offering advice on how to look after them.
Remember the things that your parents have inspired you to do, think or believe. How many of those values have you held onto till your adult years as parents?
Another significant group of people in our lives are our friends. Many of us have friends who have become our most trusted confidants over the years. These could be friends whom we’ve known since we were in school, in college or even from work. Who better to learn from than people we trust and who are a big part of our lives? So why not look to them for support and maybe even share our struggles of maintaining a “sane” work-life balance.
I have often encouraged parents to meet up with their friends and have conversations or discussions regarding their struggles. It can be a good outlet for anyone to have a safe space to vent, feel reassured and most importantly, know that you are not being judged.
Now what about famous parents?
Is it a good idea to look to celebrity parents as role models? As we often tell our youth, there is good and bad to having celebrities as role models. We always have to be cautious of the culture, lifestyle, traditions, and many other aspects of their lives that will be different from our lives.
However, it could be comforting to know that regardless of their fame and fortune, they are still just parents struggling to maintain a good work-life balance.
Many celebrity parents have often discussed about their struggles as parents. For example, Gwen Stefani, a singer and mum of three boys has said that, “Finding that balance between work and family is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by far. I’ve always worked really hard, and the hardest thing I’ve ever done is have kids! All of it—everything from getting up in the morning to trying to be consistent to trying to have the right feelings. But, of course, the rewards are so great.”
Actor Will Smith, a father of three children, discussed the strain of maintaining a good work-life balance by saying that, “It is really something that will happen in time. And you’ll realise that you’re either really committed to having a relationship, or you’re really committed to coming up (in your career). At some point one or the other is going to have to suffer.”
Even the president of the United States Barack Obama, who is a father of two girls has expressed that, “Too often, these issues (caring for the family) are thought of as women’s issues, which I guess means you can kind of scoot them aside a little bit. But anything that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families, and makes life harder for children. This is about you too, men.”
These famous parents and many others can certainly be good role models because they are open in sharing about their thoughts and difficulties in raising a family.
Nonetheless, I believe that the most important role model to look up to is yourself! You work hard, you care for them, you make them laugh and you might even have an interesting hobby. All of these traits make you an inspirational figure in your children’s eyes as you can do so much that they can’t—and teaching them these things only makes them admire you more.
Keep this in mind the next time you start doubting yourself as a mum or dad. Remember that your children look up to you and think you’re brilliant (most of the time!).
If you’re a working parent, you know all too well the struggle to balance your never-ending personal to-do-list with your never-ending work emails. While you might really love your job (or just really need two incomes), finding a way to make it to every meeting and every game, dance recital, and parent-teacher conference is enough to send your parent-guilt into overdrive.
Therefore, to give you a boost of confidence and faith, remember to be a top role model yourself. Always remind yourself that you can be pretty great too!
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Jean enjoys working with children and youth because they inspire her to be a joyous and courageous person. She has a background in family therapy and was previously a part of the Leaderonomics Youth team.