Many mothers who are stay-at-home parents lose their sense of self in the process of caretaking for their children. A woman's natural instinct to "protect her flock" may come into direct conflict with developing a strong self-identity.
Often, mother's "lose themselves" by giving their power away in relationships, particularly with their children. They may develop a connection with their children, but it may be established in an unhealthy manner.
One of my parental slogans is, "Never do for a child what she can do for herself." Mothers may overfunction on behalf on their children, giving away their sense of self while inhibiting their kids' opportunity to become self directed.
In order to create a positive self-image, stay-at home mothers need to learn to set personal boundaries. Sometimes, parents unknowingly become an extension of their children. They may vicariously live through their children and meet their needs in this manner.
An example is the parent who becomes overly enmeshed in their child's activities. They may inadvertently put pressure on a child to perform admirably to compensate for their own perceived shortcomings.
A confident stay-at-home mother needs to be able to distinguish herself from her children. Personal boundaries should not be blurred. A mother must be able to step back and evaluate her behavior.
Are my feelings separate from those of my children, or do I get swallowed up in the burden of how they experience life? Are most of my needs tied up in the caretaking process for my children? Do I have separate wants, desires and needs apart from those of my children?
I think an empowered mother must learn what I call "detached identification." Mothers are responsible to their children, not for them.
Understanding this distinction determines whether a stay-at-home mother will cultivate a vital sense of self. Often parents are unable to distinguish their thoughts, feelings, and behavior from the pattern of their children. They may worry endlessly about their children instead of demonstrating appropriate concern.
Worrying erodes confidence. Appropriate concern empowers a mother to problem-solve new ways of assisting their children in managing problems.
Some mother's groups advocate what I call "extreme parenting." The parental bonding process does not take into consideration the mother's well-being and personal identity.
There are groups that advocate that the stay-at-home co-sleep with her children on a regular nightly basis as a connecting experience. In my opinion, this practice is unhealthy for the child as well as the mother.
At times, a mother will pursue her children when it would be better to fight that urge. Recently, my daughter visited me along with her toddler. We were walking down the street during a shopping trip and my granddaughter fell down at one point. I reached over to pick her up and my daughter intervened.
"Dad, leave her alone. Let her handle this by herself." My daughter was right. Malia was not hurt and was capable of getting up on her own. Step back, fight the urge to pursue and let children handle their journey to learn new skills.
Part 2 - Tips for Stay-at-home-Moms
to create and maintain a strong self-image.
Author James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is the author of Stepping Out of the Bubble: Reflections on the Pilgrimage of Counseling Therapy
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