The Seventh Step to Balance: Passing Balance to Our Daughters
(Based on the book: Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms – 7 Steps to a Balanced Life)
Once you feel the beauty and peace of a life in balance, you just might begin to wonder how you ever lived any other way. Perhaps our daughters will not have to go through the same struggle to find their balance, if we, as their mothers, can model it for them. Can we pass down our hard-won legacy of balance to the next generation? I believe we can. I believe we must.
Before I found my balance, I came home from work frazzled and off-kilter. No matter how hard I tried to fake it, to play calm mommy, my two young daughters sensed my stress and lack of balance. They would mirror it by whining, crying, and becoming easily agitated. Why would I expect them to be any other way, since I was the main role model they were learning about life from?
I knew I wasn’t being fair to my girls because whatever life, whatever attitude, whatever frame of mind I modeled for them, they would emulate. Good or bad.
When I was writing Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms, I enlisted the help of several experts: an elementary school teacher, a principal, a psychologist, and an influential leader of a teen organization.
I spoke to elementary school teacher Caitlin Hotton. She described well-balanced kids as those who are caring, show empathy, seem anxiety-free, are easy-going, can adapt easily, are confident, and stay engaged. Ms. Hotton told me, “A mother who takes care of herself and values herself will raise a daughter who does the same.”
Elementary school principal Patricia Hansen offered her own perspective on the traits well-balanced kids have in common. “They usually come from a strong family unit and have a number of significant adults in their lives besides their parents, such as grandparents, coaches, or good teachers,” she said. “Well-balanced kids are optimistic, positive people who usually enjoy school, their friends, and life in general.
Hansen advises moms to put their children first, as they are only with you for a short amount of time. Be open and honest with your kids and help them understand that they are—and always will be—the most important people in their mom’s life.
How do we encourage our daughters to follow their dreams? How do we create that close bond we long for, without being overbearing? That’s a matter of balance too, isn’t it?
I asked school psychologist Jill Forschler to help me sort this all out.
“With mothers and daughters, there can be a fine line between what a daughter perceives as advice and when she is feeling controlled,” said Forschler. “I suggest becoming a role model for her, instead of offering continuous unsolicited advice. Whether mom is a Fortune 500 CEO, a homemaker, an administrator, or a cake decorator, her ability to share her journey to success should influence her daughter to follow her dreams as well.”
I asked how moms might help their daughters develop a healthy self-image. “If our daughters hear us complain daily about the size of our thighs and our yearning for the newest or best cars, houses, or clothes, we are unwittingly teaching them to compare themselves to others and be unsatisfied with what they have.” She went on to say many of us don’t even realize we are doing it, but the children are listening. “We need to focus on the good in ourselves, highlight our strengths, and point out how our daughters are both alike and different from us in so many wonderful ways.
“Don’t pigeonhole your daughter. Help her find and explore her interests and at the same time, encourage them. Our daughters need to be aware of what they do well and become confident in their abilities.”
One of the most eye-opening discussions I had was with Linda Turnbull, executive director of Teen Esteem. This non-profit organization visits northern California schools, encouraging kids to carefully consider the consequences of their choices, especially pertaining to risky adolescent behavior.
“Young girls are being sexualized at a younger and younger age,” said Turnbull. “They develop images of who they should be, what they should look like, and how they should act, taking their cues from prime time TV, magazines, popular teen web sites, etc. All of this continues to strip away their ability to respect themselves, since they constantly measure themselves against what they consider ideal role models in pop culture.”
Turnbull related a disturbing story. A northern California girl went to a party, got drunk, passed out, and was sexually assaulted by three football players. “Photos were taken, and although nothing was shared on Facebook, the photos were passed around at school . . . not even the highest socioeconomic level is exempt from this scenario.”
Similar tragedies happened in Canada and in Ohio within a month of the California incident. “Two of the female victims committed suicide. Another attempted it and later was taken off life support and died,” Turnbull told me. “So during our program, we’ll ask girls the question, ‘How many of you know a stand-up kind of guy who would go into that back bedroom, chase out the guys who are sexually assaulting a young girl, and help remove her from that environment?’ Sadly, most of the time no hands go up.”
The sheer injustice of all this made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
So what about the boys? Our sons. Sure, girls can be thoughtless and place themselves in harm’s way, but how about the boys who perpetrate these kinds of horrors?
In today’s violence and pornography filled culture, your sons desperately need your help. Regardless of your husband’s input, you can still model, indeed you must model a woman who respects herself, respects her children, and will not stand for any kind of abuse. Your sons will take note. If they respect you, the chances are much higher that they will respect all women.
As parents, our children are the most important loved ones in our lives. We want them to be healthy and happy with a balanced life. As the experts confirm, our children need to witness healthy, balanced behavior from us. Once you have refined your balancing skills, pass them down to your amazing children as quickly as you can. Here are some suggestions:
(1) Make dinner or bedtime special. Ask your children about their day, their struggles and successes. Look at them while they talk. Keep the lines of communication open.
(2) Balance the amount of technology in your child’s life. Monitor their phones and computers. Discuss what behaving appropriately, with regard to technology, is and is not.
(3) Talk about balance with your child. Make sure they understand the feeling of balance so they can communicate to you when they are stressed, overworked, or need down time.
Most important, be your kids’ role model, for both boys and girls. Show them the power of balance by doing whatever is necessary to achieve it yourself! It will sink in, trust me. You’ll be giving your children a gift of unimaginable value, one that will last them their entire lives.
Michelle Perry Higgins is the author of the Amazon best-seller, Stocks, Bonds & Soccer Moms and The Everything Binder. As a financial planner and principal of California Financial Advisors in San Ramon, California, Ms. Higgins specializes in wealth management. Since 1996 she has built a successful practice advising executive professionals into retirement, and her passion for finance has helped hundreds of individuals better understand the process of investing and fiscal planning.
Ms. Higgins was featured as a 2012 and 2013 Five Star Wealth Manager Award, Diablo Magazine, and was also ranked in the Top 50 Women- Owned RIAs in 2013, Top 25 Women RIAs in 2012 and 2014, and Top 40 Under 40 by WealthManagement. com. She has been quoted in Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money and The Los Angeles Times, is a Wall Street Journal Expert Panelist.
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