How do you manage to raise a daughter well in a world where you still need to raise your voice to make yourself heard?
The secret is to let her be herself, and in so doing discover how much she takes after you.
It was like having an out-of-body experience. My words were coming out of my daughter’s mouth. Having heard a song on the radio while I was driving her to school, she launched into a feminist rant about one particular line: “… cos baby, you’re the boss at home”.
“Oh no,” she said. “I don’t THINK so,” and then continued to rage on for a full five minutes about women and men, partnership, and equal rights.
Unsettling to hear yourself in your children, but gratifying too, in a way
All that middle-of-the-night anguish I’d experienced when she was a newborn had evidently been silly: Wondering how, in today’s society, I would manage to raise a daughter well, how I would avoid passing on to her the myriad body image issues I’d had as a teenager and a young adult, how I could instil in her the beliefs that I hold about equal opportunities for women, and how I could accomplish all this while working full time.
Not only has she picked up my feminist leanings, she’s also provided plenty of evidence that the fact that I’m a working mom has had a positive impact on her. Like the time a few years ago when she held forth about women and careers: “Mommy, I can’t believe that people used to think women only belonged in the kitchen. What about careers and building things and being creative?”
Time to sit back and do the slow clap, mostly for myself at managing to raise this razor-sharp, passionate young woman.
‘Be careful what you wish for’
As great as it is to watch her in action, this is also a good example of the old adage, ‘Be careful what you wish for’. She’s not only a burgeoning feminist – she’s also managed to inherit the strident gene.
My dad told me a few years ago that when I’m intent on getting my point across, I have a tendency to lecture. Although his assessment hurt at the time, I knew he was right. I listen to myself now when I get particularly vociferous about something and I have to mentally rein myself in mid-rant.
My daughter? Lecturer level: Expert. I hear her preaching to her siblings and her peers regularly, whether about her newly found feminist tendencies, or about the latest Taylor Swift song. And as I listen to her building up a head of steam, I silently apologise to the recipient of her tirade, knowing that absolutely nothing is going to stop her now. All you can do is wait it out and hope she gets sick of the sound of her own voice.
Handle with care – and whatever you do, don’t mention the gender pay gap
It’s not the worst thing. She’s the smallest in the family and she has the biggest opinions. I can live with that. I can also live with the fact that my only daughter is growing into a strong young woman with fervently held ideals.
Successfully passing on your strong points and cultivating a feminist should probably come with a warning, though: “Tendency towards fury. Can detonate given the slightest push. Handle with care. And whatever you do, don’t mention the gender pay gap.”
Article by Janine Dunlop for Change Exchange.