Did your mom contribute to your level of self-esteem and or self-confidence? How?
I think my mother did the best she could to contribute to giving me a high level of self-esteem. Unfortunately, it was not enough for me. My mother unfortunately spent more time building me up than she did herself. Even when she complimented me, she tended to do so at her expense. For instance, she would say things like, “You’re so tall and slender. I’m so glad you didn’t take after me and come out short and dumpy.” Watching her and her inability to fully embrace and love herself actually taught me that as a woman, you don’t embrace and love yourself fully.
As a mom, do you foresee parenting challenges when it comes to self-esteem and body image issues for this generation of young girls and young women?
I do foresee parenting challenges when it comes to self-esteem and body image issues for this generation. They are exposed to so much at such an early age and it can be quite difficult for them to navigate through all of it. It’s essentially sensory overload and we live in a world that bombards us all with the message that we are not enough so to get that at such an early age when all you want to do is be accepted, is challenging.
If you could lead a workshop on empowering girls, what ideas or suggestions would you recommend to moms to help empower their daughters?
I would definitely lead a workshop that taught mothers and daughters how to have open and honest dialogue with one another. Oftentimes we avoid talking with one another due to embarrassment, but it’s so essential to the well-being of both.
What’s the hardest thing about being a mom? What’s the best thing?
I’d have to say the hardest thing about being a mom is learning to see your child as an individual (who is separate from you), who came to this earth to learn his/her own lessons and follow their own soul path. It’s so easy to get caught up in your own issues and want to direct their path. You absolutely want the best for them, but it can be so difficult to take that step back and understand that the best for them may not be what you think it is and you have to give them the freedom to choose. There’s such a fine line to walk between leading, nurturing and guiding them while giving them the space to be themselves.
This is also part of what is the best thing about being a mom. You get the privilege and opportunity to have a front row seat to your child’s life and soul evolution. It’s mesmerizing and humbling and thrilling and so much more than any word can ever encompass.
If you could teach moms how to bring about more happiness into their everyday lives. What would you teach them?
I would teach moms about self-care. Self-care is so much more than thinking about yourself only after you’ve martyred yourself, serving everyone else to the point of exhaustion. It includes so much more than a bubble bath, or a massage or a day off. It’s about living each moment in a manner where you are saying “yes” to the things that feed your soul; where you are allowing pleasure in your life because pleasure is not a dirty word or something that only pertains to sex. You can only serve others from a full cup. I would teach moms to fill their cup first so that it overflows so that they are giving from their overflow instead of giving to their depletion.
What words of advice would you give moms of this generation as we try to grow closer to guiding our children?
Love yourself as much as you love your children. While you are nurturing your children, don’t forget to nurture your own inner child. Also, don’t be afraid to learn from your children. They teach us just as much as we teach them.
What are some of the lessons learned with raising your daughter?
There are so many lessons I’ve learned. It’s impossible to list them all as we don’t have the time or space to go through them all. However, here are a few. I’ve learned how to truly love myself while raising my daughter. I was on route to following in my mother’s footsteps where I saw my daughter as being better than I. I wanted so much more for her than what I had in my life and one day it hit me. Yes my daughter is beautiful and sacred and worthy of every good thing that she and I desire for her. And guess what? So am I! While I love her with all of my heart, I recognize that she is no more deserving of goodness than I. I had to ask myself, If you can have such lofty dreams for her, why can’t you have lofty ones for yourself as well? I also recognized that I am her standard of beauty. She was given a Barbie doll when she was 3 years old that everyone said looked like me. One day she was playing and I heard her say, “If you are not ready in 3 minutes we are leaving without you, Je’Niece McCullough.” I looked at her sternly and asked whom did she think she was speaking to like that. She looked at me with such a perplexed look and responded, “I’m not talking to you Mom. I’m talking to Je’Niece McCullough,” and she held up her doll. I was so shocked to see that she named her doll after me! When I asked her why did she choose that name, she responded, “Because she’s beautiful and wears pretty clothes just like you, Mom.” She’s 11 now and she still tells me about how beautiful she thinks I am. I also learned that it’s so important to enjoy this journey with her. Our children are only young for a moment. It goes by so fast and it’s easy to get so caught up in the responsibility that you miss enjoying the moment. I’ve become intentional about enjoying each phase of her life with her so that I’m not sad or missing the past once we transition to the next stage.