I think a lot about role models and my children, and whether the life I lead is something that will ever inspire them. My kids may appreciate how hard I work to care for them or the hundreds of hugs and kisses lavished on them daily, but will those kinds of simple daily acts cause them to think of me as the sort of person they want to become?
So when I watched Noelle Pikus-Pace leap into her children’s arms following her silver medal-winning performance in women’s skeleton at Sochi, I was seriously moved. Can you imagine being one of those children watching your mother win an Olympic medal right in front of you? They will go their whole lives having witnessed their mother doing something extraordinary. How many children can say that, and how many mothers can live with the quiet pride of having given their children such a gift?
I may tell myself that wiping my kids behinds, cradling them when they’re sick, and singing “Old MacDonald” until I loathe it (we’re there), all while continuing to practice law and creating this blog, is extraordinary, too, but it’s no Olympic medal. Will what I do ever be special enough for me to qualify as a proper role model?
And if I’m not going to become a role model by athletic greatness, then I better be killing it at the office, or at least that’s how it feels sometimes. Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” offers some compelling advice about how mothers can achieve in the workplace, but she also suggests that staying home instead of working might make you a crappy role model for your daughter. This recent blog post featuring “letters” between stay-at-home and working moms was intended to broach the divide, but all I took away from it was that stay-at-home mothers are saints and working mothers are role models. You can have sainthood; I just want my kids to think I’m awesome.
Perhaps being a role model is less about the what than about the how. Professional athletes and brilliant businesspeople may be conventionally accomplished, but are they de facto role models simply because of their accomplishments? Or is it how these people accomplish great things that is the stuff of inspiration? Maybe the children in this photograph are responding to their mother’s passion for sport and joy in succeeding instead of the fact of her Olympic medal. Could it be that an Olympian and a stay-at-home-mother could occupy equally lofty positions in their children’s hearts?
Maybe. I hope so. I dearly want to be a role model to my children, but I refuse to believe that I have to “lean in” 80 hours a week or perform some publicly-celebrated act of greatness to do so. I’m just going to keep plugging away, having passion for my work and commitment to raising my children joyfully, and hoping that the example I set is a good one. Maybe I’ll snag a book deal someday or maybe I’ll just be a washed-up lawyer with a mommy blog. Either way, I hope my children take equal measures of inspiration from a life well-lived.