Letting go of my children has always been difficult for me. As a mother, I often fear the unknown. Each time one of my children encounters a new stage, I am confronted by a sense of inadequacy.

When my children reached the age where others began to influence them, I knew my self-esteem needed to be kept in check. My children's lives suddenly weren't all about what my husband and I wanted them to know or do. They were faced with choices which would shape their future for good or bad.

My role became that of a guide — to teach them the process they needed to make their own decisions and that choices have consequences. This is something I could only do if I maintained a healthy self-esteem, realizing that their choices, good or not-so-good, didn't determine my own sense of worth. Then I could prepare them for life's challenges, trusting God for the results.

As we immerse ourselves in the task of mothering, it's all too easy to tie our identity and our value to our children: we meet their needs and feel needed. We encourage their successes and feel successful. They make wrong choices and we take all the onus upon ourselves.

But in doing this, our self-esteem bobs up and down, rather than being anchored in our souls. And that's not good for us or for our children, when one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is healthy self-confidence.

So how does a mom maintain healthy self-esteem? Part of the answer came to me when I realized that I can either allow feelings of inadequacy to cripple me, or I can face my fears and embrace the changes ahead of me.

I also realized that self-esteem must be nurtured — perhaps all the more so when you are nurturing a family. Here are seven intentional ways I've found to cultivate healthy self-esteem as a mom.

  1. Maintain strong relationships. Healthy relationships with your spouse, children, friends, and family members will develop your self-esteem. Godly influencers in your life can serve as mentors and help you build into your children's lives. Define healthy boundaries as you nurture your relationships.

  2. Personal development. Often the last person a mother makes time for is for herself. You will need to book time for fitness, reading, relaxing, hobbies, and personal growth. As you make time for this, you will have more to give to your children.

  3. Life management. With all the individuals in one household going in many different directions, chaos can erupt! It often seems that the mom becomes the center of this. Establish a system that will create order. It needs to be one that will work for you. Create a method that allows each person to know what is expected and when it needs to be done. A little planning ahead and sharing of responsibilities can create a smooth-running household which will help you feel good about yourself.

  4. Develop significance. Whether you are working or an at-home mom, it is easy to begin to feel as though you have little significance. You may wonder if you are really making a difference. Developing a sense of significance is something that you will need to work on continually. Look for ways that you can be involved in an area you are passionate about. Your involvement may be simple or it may be extensive, but being involved in something that changes lives will influence how you see yourself.

  5. Follow your dreams. Dreams have the power to change the world. As moms we are often so busy looking after the needs of those around us, that we tend to see our dreams as childhood fantasies. Take time to reflect on those things that you used to hope for and begin to pray towards seeing these dreams become reality.

  6. Take time for fun and laughter. Few things will make you feel better about yourself than laughter and fun. Your family will beam as you take time to play and laugh with them (regardless of their ages). Plan events that are completely spontaneous and possibly even out-of-character for you.

  7. Allow God to empower you as a mother. God desires for you to have discernment, sensitivity, and wisdom. As you pray and seek God, he will give you the resources to deal with whatever difficult situations you might find yourself in. He cares deeply about you and your children.

If your relationship with God has not been empowering you in the way that you would desire, he is willing to help renew your joy and confidence today. Trying to measure up to your perfect image of a mother will only make you feel like a failure. Parenting is not about being perfect. You can rest in God's acceptance of you and parent out of that assurance. You will feel better about yourself, more excited about your future, more grateful for those you love, and more enthusiastic about your faith.

Photo Credit: Anders Johansson