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For Mothers

For Mothers: Is it wise to show your vulnerability?

Frankness on both sides is a good building block to a relationship with our children. 

Vulnerability

Google defines vulnerability as, “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” 

I seems to me to be more negative than I think of vulnerability… “Being exposed” — emotionally and physically I agree with, but rather than it being the possibility of being harmed or attacked, I’d say it is being exposed emotionally or physically, to such a degree as one could be harmed but one chooses to allow themselves to be transparent in spite of the risk of the consequences of exposure.

All that being said, many social and family psychologists could debate whether parents need to appear confident and assured rather than show any vulnerability, for the sake of the security and peace of mind of their children. 

However, I’m asking: For mothers is it wise to show your vulnerability? I think particularly if there are two parents, it might be okay for one to show her vulnerability to a young child at some point. 

Mostly for the security of the child, we parents need to appear to have it all together, so the child doesn’t worry about his safety or the security of the family unit. But sometimes, maybe, the child needs to see more of our humanity as mums… 

Personal story

I once was so tired of my young child’s antics, I finally let him see my frustration through my tears. Yes, I cried a little in front of him which surprised him — I could see in his face that he saw my reaction to him and it caused him to pause and look. At that moment, he saw me. I think because he saw the human frailty in someone he loved, he stopped the naughty behaviour. 

Was it a bad thing I did? I don’t know. Child psychologists might say it was.

It was a sincere, rather than a manipulative demonstration of emotional vulnerability in response to his behaviour. But did it burden him? I don’t think so…. Rather I think it “woke him up” to the reality that I could be frail. 

I don’t think it would have been good if this were a lifestyle choice for my child-rearing. But I think at that particular moment, (I hope) it was alright for him to see my vulnerability — the real affect his behaviour was having upon me was negative; I think his seeing me sad helped him to see the cause and effect of his negative behaviour.

Confidence

Generally, I think our children need to see us exercising self confidence and self control. That is so they can feel safe even if they lack confidence or control over their situations. They are vulnerable, simply by the fact that they are smaller than adults, less experienced and less powerful than we are.

My son as a teen once said to me while I was driving and I kept repeating, “I’m not sure where I’m going..”

“Mom, you have to be confident no matter what, even if you don’t feel you are….” In the context of our situation, it was shortly after my husband’s/his father’s death. He was saying, ‘I need you to show me absolute confidence right now…’ And his frankness did shut me up and get me better focused on the task at hand.

Frankness on both sides is a good building block to a relationship with our children. 

SO the answer is Yes and No…

Sometimes it is right to expose our children to our weakness. Not usually, but sometimes. They need to know they are safe. But sometimes, they need to discover we are not brick walls but open windows… open to what life brings, courageous to deal with it, but also vulnerable to the circumstances they might inflict upon us. 

It’s important for our children to feel safe. But they also need to know that the world — or they — can cause us grief, from time to time. It is never for us to make them feel ashamed or guilty. But they do need to learn their negative behaviour can effect us, especially if they have not yet discovered their behaviour does impact other people’s lives. 

As human beings we are not responsible for how someone receives our personalities, whether they like us or whether they don’t. But we all do need to learn our behaviour and our choices do impact other people. Once we know that, it’s up to us to decide the value of our freedom verses our responsibility toward others in our day to day lives. It’s a basic aspect to socialisation.

Sometimes allowing our children to see our vulnerability will help them in their social development. At some point, our only recourse might be to let them see our weakness when they are exhausting us or frustrating us with their disagreeable behaviour. One way or another, our children need to learn the cause and effect of their behaviour on others and at some point, that may mean we need to let them see us just as we feel in response to them.

Every blessing as we all learn to navigate parenting better and better!

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