I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can instill confidence in Madelyn. She’s only 20 months old, but she’s already so impressionable.
Growing up, I struggled with anorexia and disordered eating for more than a decade and had no confidence. It took me awhile to regain it, and it’s stronger in some areas of my life than others.
These days, I’m most confident in my role as a mother.
As a mom, I want to show Madelyn that there’s beauty in imperfections, that her self worth isn’t determined by the numbers on a scale, that success is measured not just by our wins but by how we handle inevitable losses. It’s hard teaching this to a 20-month-old, so I try to hint at it in other ways — by the way I interact with her and the books I read to her.
Lately, her favorite book has been “She Persisted,” which profiles 13 American women who found the confidence and courage they needed to fight for what was right and pursue professions traditionally dominated by men. I recently bought the book for Madelyn, assuming she wouldn’t be interested in it yet because it’s geared toward older children.
But she discovered it in her book basket and now hands it to me multiple times a day, shouting “Reeeed!” She listens to me read vignettes about Ruby Bridges, Virginia Apgar, Nelly Bly, and Sonia Sotomayor with a look of wonder and possibility in her eyes.
She gets excited seeing illustrations of the women and shouts “guurl!” and “mommy!” when she sees them (because at her age, every storybook girl is a mommy). Even though she doesn’t understand most of the words I’m reading, I like to think she understands there’s something special about these girls/mommies/women and that, like them, she’s capable of achieving greatness.
As Sally Ride says in the book: “Young girls need to see role models in whatever careers they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday. You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Kids see role models not just in real life, but in books, on TV, and in their imaginations. If they’re lucky, they see them at home. As a child, my mom was my role model. Mom wasn’t college educated and didn’t have a fancy job, but she worked hard at being a good mother. Most of all, I was in awe of her courage.
Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 36 years old. As the disease spread to her bone marrow, liver and brain, she grew too weak to even stand or smile. But even at her weakest, she was my greatest source of strength.
It’s been 20 years since Mom passed away, and I still seek inspiration from her perseverance and persistence. She showed me that courage isn’t always grandiose; it takes shape in both small steps and strides.
As a mom, I’m shaped by my own mom and the story of my past. I try to be a role model by taking care of myself, by not critiquing my body out loud, and by pursuing my career while giving my kids all the attention and love they need at home. Some days, it’s all about small steps. Other days, strides.
I like to think that all of this will make a difference in my kids’ lives — and that my husband Troy and I can provide Madelyn and Tucker with the ability to confidently and courageously see all that they can be.