Writer Margot Starbuck dreams of having her own HBO comedy special and also of writing a hit comedic screenplay. She's a working writer, avidly pursuing those dreams — and she knows her daughter Zoe is watching her and observing what she does.
Starbuck wants her daughter to learn important lessons about going after what you want by watching her.
"When Zoe looks at my life — the energy and vision with which I create, the way I love my neighbors, the opportunities I grab — I want her to recognize, in my example, that anything is possible," says Starbuck. "I suspect I'm at life's halfway point — though, really, who knows? — and I'm keenly aware that there are screenplays to be written, comedy monologues to perform and bestsellers to pen. I want to seize every opportunity to do those things I sense I've been created to do."
Starbuck's observations about her daughter watching her are spot-on. As a mother, you are your child's first role model. "By going after your dreams as the mom [and] as the role model for the daughter, you encourage her to go after her dreams," says Shari Young Kuchenbecker, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology at Chapman University.
Like Starbuck, your kids are watching and learning from your example. That's critically important as you decide what opportunities to pursue — and when to back down. And furthermore, as you celebrate wins and bounce back from setbacks, you are modeling how to handle these successes and failures.
Kuchenbecker says that as kids watch their moms go after their dreams, they pass along many lessons such as perseverance and the importance of hard work. "When a mom goes back to grad [school] or goes to finish her bachelors, her daughter sees her mother tackling challenges," says Kuchenbecker.
In her own life, Kuchenbecker says that she involved her kids in her pursuits — having them help whenever possible. Whatever your pursuit, you can too. For writers, that might mean letting kids read what you are writing and make suggestions, she says.
Research has shown that more often than not, girls will achieve more than their mothers — so if you are leading with an example of success and hard work, your daughter will likely do the same. On the converse, putting yourself last can have negative impacts on your children as well. "If you don’t go after whatever you [want to] do, that’s what your child will learn," says Kuchenbecker.
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