What legacy are you leaving?

redwood treesIt’s a Sunday morning and I’m sipping my coffee in a redwood forest listening to the sound of birds with my little dog curled up in my lap. My daughter and her friend are roasting bagels over a campfire as the sun and smoke filter through the trees. I can’t think of a better way to start my day and I realize I have my Mom to thank.

We went camping occasionally when I was a kid but when I was about 14, my Dad announced he was done. “Too much work for too little reward” he declared and it’s hard to argue with his logic. He bought my Mom a lantern and a hatchet and supported her love of the outdoors. My mom not only continued to take her children camping, but started going by herself and inviting girlfriends to join her.

My Mom did what she wanted to do, even though it wasn’t expected or even socially acceptable. Nearby campers would ask if she was okay all by herself. Her friends expressed concern about joining her for the day but leaving her alone at night. Her grandkids look forward to camping with her at the beach every year but at almost 80, she admits her preference is to go camping by herself.

My husband doesn’t like to camp and I do. I know for sure that it is my Mom’s example that makes me believe I can do what I want. I am here with my daughter, not just showing her how to start a fire, but that doing what you love is important, whether it’s normal or not.

We give our kids lots of legacies, some we are proud of and some we aren’t. Without even realizing it, we are giving our kids their “shoulds”. My Mom gave me my belief that “I should keep my house clean” and “I should cook dinner for my family”, not because she told me to, but because that’s what she did. I believe my husband should do all our yard work because that’s what my Dad did. As we approach the college years, I’m remembering that my Mom forked over her entire annual salary for my brothers tuition, with gratitude and appreciation. I’ll be channeling her positive outlook as it looks like I’ll be following in her footsteps in a few years. Did you realize how easily parents influence our beliefs about gender roles and what we “should” be doing?

Sometimes I worry I might be setting an expectation with my daughter that “Moms are responsible for all the childcare, money management and housework” and she will feel guilty someday if she doesn’t do everything. Occasionally I have imaginary conversations with my son’s future wife apologizing for his lack of domestic skills and his expectations that she should be in charge of running the house. Even if I am leaving a legacy of gender stereotypes, I hope I am also demonstrating the importance of doing what you love. I like managing the kids sports, activities and planning birthday parties. I like cooking for my family and TRYING to maintain a beautiful home. With my messy house and my occasional declarations of “You are on your own for dinner tonight”, I hope I am also modeling imperfection and setting priorities aligned with my values.  I hope my kids will believe in the importance of being themselves.

What is the legacy you are passing on to your kids that you are proud of? Where do you model imperfection that your daughter or daughter-in-law will thank you for someday? Is there anything you would love to do but haven’t because your Mom didn’t set a precedent? Jump over to my Facebook Page and tell me what you think.