What were we thinking! promote confidence and reduce distress in parents with a first baby

Why we need to stop saying, "I'm just a mum"

By Dr. Justin Coulson

Why we need to stop saying,

“I’m just a mum.”

I cringe every time I hear that statement. It’s often said apologetically, as though being a mum is less worthy than other occupations.

Using “just” to describe what you do implies that, of all the things you might have chosen to do, you’ve chosen the least worthy occupation. Or that you’re a little bit ashamed of it. Or that, unlike those other important paid roles outside the home, you’re not really making that much of a contribution.

Saying you’re just a mum makes it sound as though you’re merely, only, just a mum. It’s really no big deal.

Being a mum is a big deal.

I wish that every mum who has ever thought or said that she is just a mum knew how wrong she is.

I want to shout, “Just a mum?” That means that you’re just the greatest influence your children will ever have.

You’re just the most crucial example of how your children’s relationships will work, potentially for the rest of their lives.

You’re merely one of the most significant predictors of the psychological wellbeing your children will experience for the next several decades.

You’re only the key determinant in the physical wellbeing of your children from birth until death.

So if that means that being ‘just’ a mum is no big deal, then keep saying it. But you’re wrong. The influence that you have as a mother is reflected in your children’s IQ, academic achievement, relationships, discipline, self-control, personality, confidence and even business success. And that’s because the quality of the relationships we have with our kids is one of the most important keys to their happiness and success known to mankind.

In 1938 one of the world’s most famous studies commenced with 268 male undergraduate students from Harvard University. These men were followed for the rest of their lives. Those still living are now in their 90s.

Among other things, the research points out that:

  • Money really doesn’t matter. Measures of family socioeconomic status in childhood had no significant correlation at all with later success in life. In other words, you don’t need to own the house in the trendiest suburb, have the fancy car and possess all the gizmos and doodads to have a happy family and successful children. It makes no difference. Nada!
  • IQ isn’t important – at least in terms of monetary success in life. There was no significant difference between the maximum earned incomes of the men with average IQs and the incomes of the men with IQs of 150-plus.
  • Relationships with mum matter more than money or IQ. Men who had poor childhood relationships with their mothers were much more likely to develop dementia when old. And men who had warm relationships with their mothers took home $87,000 more a year than those men whose mothers were uncaring. The 58 men with the best scores for warm relationships made an average of $243,000 a year; in contrast, the 31 men with the worst scores for relationships earned an average maximum salary of $102,000 a year.

In every way measured by this study, the best outcomes for children – who then become adults and who marry, have children of their own and have careers … and then retire – are achieved by those who have loving relationships when they are young – most often with their mum.

As the study’s principal director from the 1970’s until 2004, George Vaillant, states:

“Love early in life facilitates not only love later on, but also the other trappings of success, such as high income and prestige. It also encourages the development of coping styles that facilitate intimacy, as opposed to the ones that discourage it … [and] the data suggests that [love] was why they flourished.”

To any and every mum, you are not ‘just’ a mum. You are the most important person in the world to at least one little person. And that little person has the capacity to flourish if you can take pride in what you do, and give it your all.

What you do matters. Know it. Live it. Love it.

Dr Justin Coulson is one of Australia’s leading parenting experts. A highly sought-after international speaker and author, he writes a weekly parenting advice column for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, appears regularly on prime time television and is the parenting expert at kidspot.com.au. He and his wife Kylie are the parents of six daughters. For more on parenting, written by Coulson, visit Kidspot.

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