On International Women’s Day of course it is only natural that I have spent much of the day (in between the bouts of laundry and loading/unloading the dishwasher… all the glamour of the SAHM-life right there) reflecting on what it is to be a woman in today’s society, my own identity as a woman, and more than any of that, raising my daughters and thinking about the women they might eventually become.When I started thinking about this blog post, I thought I would write something on what I’d like to teach them, how I might help nurture and shape them into strong, independent women, who could thrive and survive, but above all feel happy and fulfilled and excited by life and all its possibilities. But then I stopped for a moment and realised, that actually, with two strong-minded, fiercley determined daughters under my roof, perhaps it is I that could learn something from them about how to be a female in both today and tomorrow’s world.I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that oftentimes I find parenting two headstrong girls quite a challenge. Many a time (much of the time), I am looking for new ways in which to get them to be more obedient, unquestioning of their parents’ authority, do what their told, fall into line. Now, I do all this with the best of intentions, after all, nobody wants their children – female or male – to be unruly brats that show no respect, consideration, or kindness for both those around them nor common decency! But I need to tread carefully. I need to walk the fine-line between positively correcting them and crushing their spirit, because clearly the latter is something I NEVER want to do, in a bid to get them to comply.My girls are now aged 5 and 7 years old. When they were much younger, they seemed to naturally gravitate towards princesses and all that “some day my prince will come” thing and I remember being actively and genuinely worried about it. I agonised over whether to just casually loose the princess storybooks they’d been given or to sit down with them and un-pick those stories so they learnt from an early age that (a) you don’t need to aspire to be a pretty, long-haired, swishing around in a ballgown type to succeed in life and that (b) you definitely don’t need to find a man to make you happy and that (c) you certainly mustn’t be hanging around for a guy to swoop in and be your hero… I mean I could go on, there was SO much I did NOT want them to learn from all that Disney and yet, no matter now much I tried to point them in another direction, they naturally just sought it out!
Turns out, I needn’t have worried. Fast-forward a mere couple of years and they’ve already started to forge and formulate their own female identities that have next-to-nothing to do with simpering femininity and swooning over princesses and far more to do with being pretty bad-ass. Now there could be a whole host of reasons, cultural influences, people in their lives, impacting upon them and shaping them in this way, of course there are, but you know what? I get the sense that as young girls growing up in today’s world, they genuinely seem to have an innate sense of self that is strong and is fearless, unwavering and relentless, and that makes me more than proud. It also makes me hopeful that maybe, just maybe, while we still have a long way to go, perhaps the world is indeed changing and that they are already starting to benefit from that before they even realise it. Now of course I just have to make sure I continue to nurture it and not knock it out of them (for avoidance of doubt, clearly I don’t mean that in a physical way!).Is it possible, I wonder, that we as girls all started out that way but that somewhere along the path to womanhood maybe some of us did end up skewed towards a greater level of insecurity, of being held back by fear, developing feelings of inferiority etc. that ultimately changed us from perhaps becoming the women we started out to be and the women we ended up becoming? It’s hard to say. It’s hard to know. And I recognise that we’re not all foot-stamping forceful (in an obvious way) females and nor do we need to be to succeed, to be happy, to have our voice heard. A quiet confidence and strong sense of ones-self can manifest just as strongly in those that are happiest left of centre rather than in the spotlight and that’s more than okay.
For me I think the goal – and what I want for my girls – is internal strength and a belief that you can: whatever it is that you might want will of course vary from person to person, but the belief in the very fact that you can, is the critical part I think. And perhaps at the tender ages of 5 and 7, before the world has really had its chance to change that belief or make my girls question that very fact in any way, perhaps that is the acorn inside them that, given the right conditions, has the opportunity to grow. I see that in them and actually, I realise now that I want to learn that from them and apply it more in my own life, when I doubt myself and when I question if I can…. I can.I’ll silently (for now) thank my girls for that and in turn, as I play my part in helping them become the women they want to be, I’ll try to always remind them of these 7 things I believe in and I hope they will hold on to:
Always be true to yourself, don’t try to imitate or be anybody else
Never be afraid to let your voice be heard, don’t let yourself be silenced
Be kind, support others – especially women – don’t ever try to tear people down
Never let anybody tell you what you can not do
Be proud to be a woman, don’t let anyone make you feel inferior or “less”
Being strong doesn’t mean always being right, be comfortable to admit when you don’t know or you need help
Remember always to RESPECT: other women, men, everyone and above all, yourself
Happy International Women’s Day.