In our more youthful, dreamy-eyed days, we look up to the superstars as models of how we’d like to be seen by the world.

Then we become parents ourselves, and we learn that the greater reward lies in being looked up to by your own little stars…

When I was young – six, or maybe eight years old – I wanted to be Roger Moore, Sylvester Stallone, or Al Pacino. It was the ’70s, so I was allowed to watch anything my parents watched. Parenting looked a little different back then.

Overlooking the details that the main reason I would never grow up to be these people was because I was a girl, and that they were assuming acting roles, six-year-old old me looked up to them because they took my breath away in shows like The Persuaders, and movies like Rocky and Dog Day Afternoon.

I endlessly replayed scenes in my head in which they threw a punch, or delivered a devastating monologue, imagining what it would be like to become one of them. To me, they were strong, powerful men, cool and good looking. They commanded your attention. In my mind, they could do anything. They were everything I wanted to be when I grew up.

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

I suppose you could say that they were my role models.

“Who are your role models,” I ask my children, as I drive them to school

I’m curious to find out whether my kids are as odd as I was. “Who are your role models,” I ask my children, as I drive them to school.

“No-one,” declares my youngest, resolutely but unhelpfully.

“Depends what you mean by ‘role model’,” says Ms Pedantic – I mean, my middle child. “A role model in terms of career, or life in general?”

“Either,” I reply.

“Ellen Pompeo. She’s the highest paid TV actress, and only because she actually asked to be paid more. She’s a great role model for that reason.”

I make a mental note. She admires Pompeo because she modelled assertive behaviour. That’s a good one.

Who are my role models now that I’m past my star-struck phase? After thinking long and hard about it, I’m stumped. I’m not six anymore, so I know no one is flawless. I can, however, think of a few people I admire because of particular qualities.

There’s a friend, who, having achieved an MBA a few years ago while working full time, recently completed her PhD while pregnant and then breastfeeding. Grit and determination is what I see in her and I often think of her when I feel overwhelmed. If she could do it, so can I.

There’s another friend who left a successful post this year to take up an even more successful one. She’s scary-smart and enviably self-assured. When she took the job, I joked that one day when I grew up, I’d also be like her.

And there’s that friend who can make me laugh through anything life throws at me, because he’s relentlessly positive – a quality I could really do with sometimes.

Like Pompeo – all great role models of particular traits. My second child is still mulling over my question. “… and you,” she continues.


“… because of your beliefs and how you’ve taught me to think. I don’t think I’d take notice of feminists like Ellen if it weren’t for you. I hope I’m like you when I become a mom.”

I continue driving, but suddenly, it’s a bit dusty in here and I seem to have something in my eye…

It’s an odd thing, thinking of yourself as a role model

In my head, I’m still my daughter’s age, wondering what I’ll be when I grow up and winging it on a daily basis. The responsibility that comes with the title is enough to send me screaming into the hills.

“Don’t look to me, kid. I have no idea what I’m doing!” Does she have any idea what a klutz I really am?

And that’s when the penny drops. She might have said her role models were – shudder – those paragons of pointlessness, PewDiePie, or Jake Paul, so I must be doing something right. She’s fully aware of klutz-me.

She’s been around me at my worst and she’s seen me drop the ball a million times in her short 15 years. And still, she sees something in me that she wants to emulate. Not the whole of me, because “flawed” is my middle name, but aspects of me.

Fact is, she’s my kid, and she’s looking to me to model behaviour. I’m one of her role models.

I love a challenge, so I’m owning this epithet. I’ll be joining Roger, Sylvester, and Al, Ellen, and all my role model friends. Just don’t ask me to be your role model. One adoring fan watching my every move is about all I’m willing to take on right now.

Article by Janine Dunlop