While individual journeys to motherhood may be unique, there’s something deeply transformative about becoming a mom. The physical and emotional changes, challenges and joys we experience along the way can really shift our perspectives and priorities in meaningful ways, allowing for personal growth and encouraging confidence and self-esteem.
In partnership with Dove, we asked four Canadian women to share their experiences and reflect on what they’ve learned since becoming a mom. The Dove Self Esteem Project aims to empower girls by strengthening their body confidence and self-esteem, and here these women share their hard-won advice for growing up with confidence and self worth.
Nicole Nu, 31
Nicole, an Intensive Housing Case Manager in Binbrook, Ontario, has a two-year-old daughter. Since becoming a mom, she’s experienced a shift in perspective when it comes to body image and her overall confidence.
Her biggest lesson:
“The biggest lesson that I have learned, and will be teaching my daughter, is that her body is an instrument, not an ornament; a person’s worth isn’t solely derived from their appearance. Growing up, and throughout my entire 20s, I struggled with body image and was constantly dieting and working out—it was never enough and it never made me happy. I don’t want my daughter to have to go through the same process. I want to instill in her self-love and confidence from a very young age. In front of her, I try not to say out loud any negative things about my body or about other people’s bodies. And I'm trying to focus more on the things she does than what she looks like. At bedtime, we regularly read a body-positive book called Her Body Can by Katie Crenshaw and Ady Meschke.”
The advice she wished she had gotten:
“I wish someone had told me [when I was younger] that you can’t hate yourself happy and that it’s okay to be at peace with what you see reflected in the mirror, in the here and now. I put so much of my self-worth and confidence into my appearance and not into what actually mattered: what I was capable of as a person and my accomplishments.”
Issabelle Farquharson, 30
A paralegal in Ajax, Ontario, Issabelle has a 16-month old toddler. As a mom, she has learned to lead by example, and discovered the joy of cooking.
The lesson she’s learned:
“I’ve learned to lead by example. My daughter watches everything I do—and I mean everything! Whatever I do, whether it is good or bad, she imitates me. When I roll my eyes, she rolls her eyes. When I put on makeup, she sneaks into my makeup bag and puts some on. I have to remember someone is watching my every move; I have to lead by example. I have to be the person I want her to be in the next 15 to 20 years. Not only am I her mother, I am her role model, I am her teacher and I am her provider. It all starts with me.”
Her advice to her younger self:
“I would want my younger self to know that life is short, and we should not take it for granted. Start checking off items on your bucket list while you‘re young and free, and be sure to make everyday count.”
A surprising discovery:
“Before I had my daughter, I wasn't so big on cooking. But now that I have her, I'm actually excited to wake up and make breakfast and cook lunch and feed her. Even my mom, who used to make my lunches for work until a few years ago, has noticed the change!”
Nisha Byfield, 29
Nisha is mom to a 2.5-year-old in Toronto, Ontario, and works in real estate. She’s raising her son to be confident, and to speak up when things are bothering him.
What she’s learned through motherhood:
“Motherhood has been a learning experience from the very beginning, but I’ve somehow been able to find my footing and navigate my way through it. I have learned that no matter how much we think we know, there are still so many lessons. I have learned you must trust yourself and your gut because you know more than you think.”
What she would tell her younger self:
“I was worried that I wouldn’t know what I was doing, that I would mess up, that I could possibly fail. I was scared that I wouldn’t make my family or myself proud. I would want my younger self to know that she will be stronger than she ever thought possible. I would say to her: ‘All the worries you have about being an adult, about being a parent, they all sort themselves out. Be sure to enjoy your youth, listen to your mom and learn as much as possible because it takes a village to raise a child—so all the help and knowledge you retain will be beneficial.’”
How she overcame her fears:
“I used to always second guess myself, and overthink everything that I do. But now, knowing that I’m responsible for someone else, I’ve found the confidence to take the lead and just get things done. Either I’m going to learn from a mistake, and that’s a lesson, or I’ll master the task right away and feel great. As well, in friendships and family relationships, I speak up a lot more when it comes to things that are bothering me. I'm trying to model what I want my son to be like—I don't want him to be timid.”
Lauren McEachern, 34
A farmer in Orillia, Ontario, Lauren has a six-year-old son. Since having him, she’s started and completed an MBA, completed a Tough Mudder run, and started her own business.
How motherhood has helped her embrace risk:
“I am an anxious person by nature; before, I worried a lot about taking risks and facing potential failure. As a mom, I worry less about those things. I realized how much I want my son to be willing to take risks, and it’s inspired me to face my own fears. The drive to take on more complex challenges, or to challenge my own notions of what I can and can't do, has been empowering. Since having him, I've undertaken and completed an MBA, run a Tough Mudder, and started my own business. These are all things I’ve always wanted to do, but I hadn’t made a lot of time or room for them in life—I was focused on doing the day-to-day and just getting by. But now, I want to have good stories to tell my son, and that makes my fear of failing seem pretty weak in comparison.”
Her advice to her adolescent self:
“I would encourage myself to not be held back by imaginary constraints, and just go ahead and pursue the things I was interested in, like team sports and competitive swimming. I really limited myself from getting involved in activities I would have enjoyed, and that I enjoy as an adult, because I was just afraid of not being good at it.”
How she’s helping her child develop a growth mindset:
“When we’re looking at his schoolwork, we’re not just grading papers or saying, ‘ok, you did really well on this but poorly on this.’ We also focus on his attitude—was he willing to do the work, did he approach his assignments with inquisitiveness, or were there issues with frustration and temper and those kinds of things? We’re encouraging him to develop a positive attitude, a growth mindset, and to go for things even if they are challenging.”