Raising girls is tough! Just when you think you’re getting on top of things, some new emotional issue raises its head, or they get wrong end of the stick about something and it all becomes rather dramatic, rather quickly!!
I’m a mum to three girls and I’m not going to pretend it’s easy, because it’s most definitely not! I won’t pretend to be the perfect parent either, because non of us are! Parenting is bloody hard, being responsible for the lives of little people is huge and I think we all feel that pressure sometimes! I don’t claim to know the ins and outs of raising boys, but I’d like to think that as a fellow female, I have a pretty good understanding of what girls might need. I want to raise my girls to know their own worth, not be vain or conceited, but to know their value and what they bring to the table. I want to empower my girls to be unapologetically themselves, to have integrity and passion, and to do whatever it is that sets their soul on fire!
I know nowadays many marriages are based on love and choice, but that hasn’t always been the case. Marriages used to be strategic, to ensure unity and power between families and this sadly involved the women often losing her rights, her voice and becoming the ‘property’ of her husband. Often the only power a women possessed was to create life, but through marriage, this power was also controlled by men. But this was the norm, it was expected and, after all, women were inferior, feeble minded creatures who needed to be controlled and managed by men for their own good! With that said, it’s not really surprising that women and girls are still feeling the effect of this inequality today, when it has been part of the very fabric of our society for so long , and still is in so many places around the world.
I have been really lucky, through my work, to have had the opportunity to attend training to support women who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse. I experienced this myself also and have always wanted to understand more about the dynamics of this kind of relationship. One of the really interesting things I learnt through some of my training, was the way that society has instilled in women and girls, for generations, that they are inferior to men; even just by the language we use. And instilled in men, that they are, in fact, superior to women. Gender roles that were placed upon women years ago,still play a part in how women & girls are treated today, and although there have been significant changes over the years, in terms of rights and equality, how do we distill this ingrained belief that women are still inferior?
“Thank you for doing the washing up for me”- umm, hang on…we both go out to work, we both used the dishes, why am I thank you for doing them for me?
“Thank you for looking after the children for me” – hello! They’re your kids too, we both played a part in creating them and have have equal responsibility towards their care.
Why do we still use language that sees us confirm to gender roles that were common place years ago? Times have changed considerably, woman don’t stay at home and just cook and clean anymore. Women are realising that they bring a lot more to the table than just a casserole and dessert! Shared care is common now between both parents, and there are many more stay at home dads than ever before.
I want to raise my girls to know that they are able to make their own choices(and mistakes) and are completely in charge of their own destiny. I want them to value themselves; not just in body but in mind. To feel confident enough in their own abilities, that they don’t feel the need to rely on a man, but can choose to have an equal partnership if they want it!
Let’s teach our daughters that sex does not equate to love, that their value is not determined by how short their skirt is or how high their heels are! Let’s teach them to speak up, to have their voices heard, to challenge anything that doesn’t sit with their core beliefs. Lets help our daughters, sisters, nieces and friends to understand that their bodies belong to them, and that they have the power of choice over their bodies. Instead of just telling girls how pretty they are, let’s tell them how smart they are, how kind and compassionate they are, how proud we are of their achievements, how funny they are, how talented they are, how great their determination is, how badass and inspirational they are! Let’s install in our girls, confidence, courage and compassion, so they have no choice but to believe in themselves!
A few years ago I started a new relationship. It was very different to anything i’d experienced in a relationship before, and if I’m honest, to begin with, I didn’t quite know what do or how to react to this. It didn’t start with love bombing and false promises, we didn’t rush in (although I tried!) My view on what determined a healthy relationship was distorted and not having someone almost instantly declare their undying love to me, left me feeling confused and unwanted. He took his time to tell me he loved me, it drove me crazy! I admit I almost ended it a couple of times, but gradually I came to realise that he was being genuine and authentic; he didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear just for the sake of it, he waited until it was right; he told me he just wanted to see me happy, rather than constantly tell me what a great arse or tits I had; he spent time with me because he chose to, not make sure he knew where I was; he never got cross or jealous when I went out, just told me to have a great time. It took me until I was in my 30’s to experience a truly healthy relationship. Yes I learnt a lot from my previous relationships, but had I been educated on what a healthy relationship consists of at a young age, perhaps I would have made better choices?
Let’s teach our children to understand themselves better, to be inclusive of each other, to treat each other with respect and to understand the impact that sexist comments, body shaming and attaching value to the wrong aspects of a person can have.
Not only do we need to empower our daughters, but we need to educate our sons. It starts with us, in our own homes, with our own children and with our own families. We have to build the foundations that will change society, and we can do this by making changes within our own four walls!.