Archive for May, 2011

Love and Responsibility for Our Kids

Contributed by Dr. Sarah Warren

Usually on Mother’s Day we talk about what we love and admire about our mothers, and how grateful we are, right? I AM grateful to my mom– incredibly so, since I’m a divorced mom, and she’s my co-parent. We’ll get back to that in a bit…

But now I want to talk about loving our kids, and what our responsibility to them means for us as mothers.

First, I have to say that what got me here– to this blog, to social media, to writing– is not just parenthood, but my decision to use my psychological expertise to ensure my kids– the 6 year old DudeSter and the 8 year-old HamSter– a bright future. So, I’m always a psychologist.

So these are my reflections as a psychologist and mother on what it means for us to assume responsibility for the future of the children we love so much.

Here’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Fierce Love: How One Mother Reinvented Herself by Saving the Planet… and you can too. (Read more from my book here:  )

Let’s talk about guilt. Guilt and shame are often used interchangeably, but in fact they’re not the same. And because they are used in a way that confuses the terms, guilt has in recent decades gotten an unfairly bad rap. Shame includes a painful sense of embarrassment or humiliation. There’s not much to recommend the experience. And it tends not to be very motivating; in fact, it can be pretty paralyzing. Guilt, however, derives from our conscience, from our sense of what’s right and wrong. And we would not want to live in a society where people lacked a sense of right and wrong. Guilt has a very real purpose that helps us refrain from doing harmful things to other people, and leads us to make amends when we’ve wronged others. Our legal system gives people “credit” for acknowledging their transgressions. Guilt helps us act responsibly. And it helps us raise children with a strong sense of conscience.

So, a sense of responsibility to our children—our nieces and nephews, grandchildren and future children– can lead us commit to doing what we need to do to ensure them the best possible future by protecting the planet. We already do that on other fronts—we save for college; we get up in the middle of the night to run to the ER. Protecting the planet for those we love is just a natural extension of our love and responsibility.

My younger son, 4 years old at the time, told a bedtime story that I found both heartbreaking and heartwarming. He said, “Someone left the light on in bathroom all night. The next day all the polar bears died. Then the next day all the penguins died, all because someone left that one light on. So, I’m going to put up signs all over the world with a “no energy” symbol, because that’s the way it works, right?” What his story shows, among other things, is that when we raise our children to see their part in protecting nature, it becomes part of their conscience.

Preschoolers are just at that stage of development. And that’s a wonderful thing. He may rebel in a few years and need to act like he doesn’t care, but this will always be a part of him, and it will infuse his life. On another important level, I love that he feels that he can make a difference. I am quite certain this sense of capacity to solve problems will not be limited to the environment—he’ll go into the world knowing that he can tackle all kinds of problems. Teaching children to feel effective in solving problems is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.”

Read more from my book here:

Back to my mom. I wouldn’t be sitting her today writing this blog, I wouldn’t have written my book, I wouldn’t have become one of the top Twitter users in Chicago, if it weren’t for my mom’s day-to-day support. When I was getting a divorce, she moved from 1000 miles away, uprooting her life, to help me raise the boys. She bakes, she does many, many dishes as I sit at the computer, she picks the dudes up at school. She reads drafts. And she provides emotional support. I’ve reinvented myself in the aftermath of my divorce and grown into a bigger version of myself. I couldn’t have done it without her.

What are your thoughts? I’d love your comments!

May 7, 2011 at 10:21 pm

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