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Friday, March 16, 2007

Life Strength

A mother was asked: "Do you do any literary work?"
"Yes," she replied, "I am writing two books."
"What are their titles?"
" 'John' and 'Mary,' " she answered. "My business is to write upon the minds and hearts of my children the lessons they will never forget."

My mother did it all. She ran a successful textile business in England, and she brought up a large family. I never felt like a "latchkey kid" - a child with a working mother - because somehow my mother always managed to be at home when I returned from school, and dinner was always on the table. I don't remember her being grumpy or angry - except when I was being naughty.

She was able to cope because her life strength was strong; strong enough to handle the responsibilities of her life emotionally, mentally and physically.

Watching my mother handle her life chores showed me that strength means more than just how many pounds we can lift in the weights room at our local gym. It takes more than muscle alone to get us through a busy day, and to cope with the demands of daily life it's essential that we stay strong in mind, body and spirit. To put it another way, we have to care about our cognitive and emotional strength just as much as our physical strength.

Life strength can be defined in many ways – balancing a stressful job and busy home life, keeping fit, managing personal finances – they all require some form of strength. But I've discovered we can take simple steps towards becoming stronger overall by improving our levels of physical, emotional and cognitive strength.

And this isn't gender driven anymore, for men today want to play a larger role in the emotional upbringing of their children and help in the home.

Secrets to Being a Superman or woman

  • Emotional Strength: Taking care of our emotional strength means acknowledging that we need to recharge our batteries from time to time. Juggling a stressful job with relationships, family and domestic demands is eventually going to take its toll if we don't give ourselves some space away from routine duties. This also includes knowing the limits of our strength and just how much we can handle.

    My mother knew when to do for others and when to put her own needs ahead of others; she always knew when to say "no". She also shopped at the soul supermarket often, treating herself to those times she had designated for herself with a range of beauty products and her favourite music.

  • Cognitive Strength: Looking after our cognitive strength is about keeping us from becoming forgetful or disorganised. Being creative helps our brains to stay sharp and focused.

    My reading and writing is my cognitive strength, my mother's creative hobby was her cookery and her sewing. Her pastimes showed me that variety is important, too, as she was always trying be creative in different ways.

  • Physical Strength: It's obvious we need good physical strength to carry out our responsibilities, but maintaining physical strength doesn't have to mean hours at the gym or drastic diets. Not only did my mother instil in me a passion to eat well, but she also made me rely on my own two feet as my first mode of transport. Even though we had family cars, I always walked to and from school.

Ultimately my upbringing emphasised to me that good parenting is more than just giving our children the skills necessary in life, it's about making them strong, too. We should all aim to give this gift of "life strength" to ourselves and our loved ones.

My Life Handbook: Introduction: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4| 5 | 6

Read more: My parents | About my life >>

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