They Must Think I Am A Bad Mother, Lessons On Leadership

“They must think I am a bad mother” were the thoughts that ran through my mind when I reprimanded my daughter for interrupting me when I was trying to get the un-cooperative money machine to work. All eyes were on me as there was a long Q forming behind me.

This was the dream I had last night.

I woke up thinking, God, am I still bothered by what other people think of me!?

I am the kind of person who rarely cares about what other people think of me or my work. I am so used to being criticized for being different and for doing what I think is best for me, and my path that other people’s opinions seldom rattle me. I do what I do because I believe in it and I am happy doing it.

But this dream highlighted my vulnerability. I feel vulnerable as a mother because the truth is, the opinion of my daughter of me is important to me. Yes it is easy not to care about the opinions of other people that do not matter, but what about the opinions of people we love?

Growing up I heard words like, ‘what will other people think’, ‘behave yourself or other people will think that you do not have a good upbringing’, ‘do not say this to anyone in public, it is so shameful’. I am sure many of you reading this probably heard the same words as I did and could relate to them.

I rebelled against those words as I was growing up. I gave my parents something that THEY COULD TRULY be embarrassed about, I made the experience real for them. So I misbehaved as a teen, I did things I shouldn’t have. One day I even left our home wearing my jeans inside out, just to vex my father!

So this was the pattern I set myself for — parading myself in jeans that were inside out and looking like a mad person in the street party with a cigarette in one hand and some sort of alcohol in the other. Being different liberated me to do things that no one else dared.

It also allowed me to be real and authentic to myself. Of course, the silly things did not do anything good for my reputation. But it was a path of learning that taught me real things in life that formal education did not succeed in. I am today happy to say that my relationship with my parents greatly improved when we learned to respect each other.

Now being a mother, I am consciously reverse engineering the entire parenting model passed down from my parents and their parents before them. I encourage my daughter to be who she is, even if it meant being different from her peers. I am teaching her that other people’s opinions do not matter, the most important thing is to do what makes her happy in a responsible way.

I am teaching her and hopefully she is learning that the most important opinions are those of people we love. And that means being on our best behaviour when we are with people we love, this way, we will never ever take them for granted.

As you know, people are always on their best behaviour when they are dating, but when they start to relax and slacken, they stop looking their best and they stop doing things for each other, and they stop being nice to each other.

All too often we take people we love for granted and their opinions do not matter after a while.

One of the biggest challenges in life is to be better behaved with our family members than in the presence of strangers. Mindblowing words eh? I first heard these words uttered a few years ago by John C. Maxwell in one of his leadership seminars. John Maxwell also said something like if we can achieve that, then we have made ourselves real leaders.

His words really up-leveled my inspiration quotient!

My vulnerability is my strength. How I play the game of life with my daughter is my strength in making me a true leader.

In our quest to make ourselves real leaders in our field, to change the world, to live our purposeful lives, we must not forget to be on our best behaviour always with our family. Only then can we be truly qualified leaders, visionaries and evolutionaries.

© 2011, 2016 Shamala Tan