Recently while having coffee with one of my very good friends, we were speaking of our mutual parenting challenges. After a bit of a rant about the frustrations I’m experiencing with my son and his attitude towards his college classes, my friend said, ‘Yeah, but you’re a good mom.’
I’ve been blessed to get this compliment from time to time from people and I want to believe that it’s true but it really isn’t. I’m an average mom. I’m not great and I’m not terrible.
As a single parent, I work hard at providing for my kids. They have a nice house, clothes on their back (better clothes than me actually!), and food in the house (though most of the time they claim there’s nothing to eat). We’ve gone on a few vacations like Disney cruises and frequent trips to local attractions and nice restaurants.
If Abraham Maslow were to look at my parenting journey compared to his hierarchy of needs, he’d likely give me a high five for the physiological and safety levels on his pyramid thanks to a good job, somewhat intelligent investing, and zero-percent credit cards. I think I’m going to give myself a grade of A on these two levels.
If we move up the pyramid to the next level of Love/Belonging, it’s likely I’d score well here too. My kids know I love them (too much they sometimes say) and they are blessed to be surrounded by friends and family who feel the same. Despite being divorced from their father, we have maintained a good relationship overall and my kids have seen that despite marital differences, divorced parents can get along for the good of the children.
However, the fact remains that I did divorce their father. I did create a gap in their life for reasons that maybe one day I’ll explain. Having a constant male figure around would’ve been advantageous if only to gain a different perspective on life. Giving myself a grade of B here.
Let’s continue…Esteem. Maslow states there are two forms of esteem – low and high. Low meaning that your esteem/value comes from others; high indicating that it comes from within. Esteem is based on the value and respect we have for ourselves.
Hmm…I’m honestly mixed on this one. There’ve been times when I’ve completely disrespected my kids – talked over them, dismissed their ideas, “my way or the highway” type remarks. However, balancing out this periodic dictator-like behavior, I’ve also repeatedly told them how much I value and love them. I’ve been their biggest cheerleader whether in sports or academics. I’ve complimented them over and over on their accomplishments at the risk of potentially overinflating their egos.
If you were to compare my two wildly different teens in this category however, you’d likely say that my daughter has a boatload of esteem while my son, with the exception of his sports prowess could use a boost in this area. Giving myself a grade of C here.
Last one…self-actualization. This is the whopper – the big kahuna. This is the part of the pyramid that measures your level of what Oprah calls “living your best life” or becoming your authentic self.
I’m not even sure I’ve reached this level let alone shown my kids how to. But here’s what I have done and maybe it’s a start. A good part of this need is knowing yourself, knowing your gifts and talents and being able to use them for the good of others. This is not only a hierarchical need illustrated by Maslow but in my opinion, the purpose of our lives.
Find out what you’re good at and do it to the best of your ability to help improve someone else’s life. Seems simple enough, right?
For my son – this is so clear, it’s scary. He loves sports. He’s got a mind for sports like none I’ve seen. He lights up when he speaks of his sports idols – Kobe Bryant, Stephan Curry, Lebron James, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and countless others. His passion and respect for the athletic ability of these guys is undeniable. While I don’t know if his dream job of being an ESPN sports analyst will come to pass, he will do something involving sports.
My daughter – a bit less clear because she’s good at a lot of things. She’s passionate about shopping and spending her mom’s money on the latest trends marketed by her YouTubers, but I’m not sure you can fashion a long-lasting career in shopping. She’s got an eye for design and is great at organizing – maybe a career in home staging? The good news for my daughter is that she’s barely 15 and I suspect in a few more years, this clarity will come.
So what’s my job during this process? Be the example. Show them that I’m working on finding out what I’m good at and doing something with it. Show them that I’m on a continual journey to share the gifts I’ve been given to help others.
According to my readers and the many emails I’ve received, my writings inspire and move you. According to the Catholic nuns in elementary school, I’m a good talker. (Wondering if the continual punishments of writing out 100 times “I will not talk in class” played a part in my writing abilities!)
Here’s what I do know. When I’m writing or sharing lessons I’ve learned along my parenting journey, my heart is full and I’m happy. This is when I feel aligned with the purpose and plan of my life. Mix in how my faith has helped me learn these lessons and ooo eee – nirvana!
My grade on this last level? How about an A for effort? If nothing else, my kids will have seen that their mom is a work in progress. Far from perfect. I may not have been the most patient or always put a home-cooked meal on the table, but I hope they will see that their mom is working hard to become all she can be and live out God’s plan for her life.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
Mr. Maslow might not agree with my assessment of my parenting journey according to his hierarchy, but that’s ok. His pyramid can’t see into my heart. It can’t measure the depths of the love I have for my kids. It can’t possibly ascertain the deep desires I have to be of service to others and help someone in need.
If I do my parenting job right – maybe my kids can. And that’s worth more to me than any grade.