If You Teach Your Daughter Nothing Else, Teach Her This

Fear. It will ruin your life. Cause you to live in darkness and never fully experience the beauty and wonder of the world we live in. Fear. The robber of an extraordinary life. The gripping emotion that keeps you stuck in an uncomfortable place simply because budging an inch is terrifying.

There is no room for fear in life. No decisions should be made out of fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of the consequences, or fear of others’ opinions.

Fear is a harmful emotion that keeps you holed up, stuck down, and caged in. That’s no way to live.

Now before you leave comments about the necessity of the fear of walking along a cliff or running across a road of busy traffic, I must qualify my definition of fear. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, fear is a general term for an emotion that occurs when there is an anticipation of danger. It is a noun that implies anxiety and loss of courage. Loss of courage. That’s the part I want to deal with today. Yes, when there’s eminent physical danger, when fight or flight instincts are activated, when a train is barreling toward your car or a bear is chasing you through the woods, fear will take over and help you survive. But that’s not the fear I’m tackling today. I’m tackling the loss of courage – specifically in regards toward women.

My generation (mid ’70 – mid ’80 babies) were raised to achieve, belong, and get involved – regardless of your gender. Girls played on YMCA soccer teams along with boys. Boys took gymnastics along with girls. Girls competed in spelling bees, Quiz Bowls, and art competitions just like the boys. Our generation was raised to be gender-blind. Well, the progressives. I assume there were back then, and always will be, parents who raise their girls to know their place in the world and to stay quiet in the corner.

They can just click away now, because there’s no reasoning with or educating people like that.

Those who were raised in this generation assumed the world understood that gender didn’t matter when it came to achievement. Penis, no penis, boobs, no boobs, two x chromosomes, one x chromosome, none of that mattered. We all were equally capable and deserved to be respected.

Well that kum-ba-yah song and dance was destroyed for many of us somewhere along the way in our 20s when we realized that men don’t have babies. Okay, we knew that men didn’t give birth to babies long before our 20s, but we didn’t understand that men don’t have babies. Men don’t carry them for 9 months, taking sick days due to naseau and OB appointments. They don’t sacrifice the pile of work on their desk for 6 weeks of maternity leave. They don’t struggle with the decision to return to work or stay at home full-time. No. Men don’t have babies. Men are fathers. Some men are great fathers who stay home while their wife returns to the workforce. But make no mistake. It’s not the same. Corporate America doesn’t see this as the same thing.

I have been privy to multiple conversation by male superiors who bemoan the news that a female employee is pregnant. I even witnessed this exchange:

Male Boss #1: Why has Karen been so distant at work? She’s even taken a few sick days lately and is just not as reliable as she used to be.

Male Boss #2: Maybe she’s pregnant. That’s the rumor.

Male Boss #1: Well shit.

Male Boss #2: Glad she’s moved to your team and she’s not my problem anymore.

*****

This attitude is not one we were taught, as young girls, to deal with. We never were told that we might be discriminated against, paid less, discounted, or ignored due to our gender. That was a harsh reality we had to learn on our own.

We also were never prepared to deal with the complex dichotomy that was created by raising a generation of women who were told they are capable of doing it all and still being happy.

No one could foresee the complications created by the feminist movement immediately before we ’70s and ’80s babies were born. These complications that cause young women to lay awake at night tossing and turning.

•Should I have left my job to stay home?

•Will it look bad if I quit my job now to stay home?

•Am I a bad mom if I don’t quit my job and stay home?

•How will I pay off my student debt if I do choose to stay home?

*****

The goal of sending girls out into the world to do, and be, and achieve is an honorable one that I never would advocate ending, but it also is a goal that doesn’t take reality into consideration. Many women have a biological clock that ticks, ticks away in those early-to-mid years of adulthood. That’s not something that went away because women decided to burn their bras and demand change. That deep desire to nurture a baby and be there for it during those crucial developmental years is a biological urge that didn’t disappear with some glass ceiling speeches and a girl-centered science & technology push from the schools.

Not discussing this fact of life has done a disservice to my generation who is struggling to figure this all out.

We aren’t seen as equals in the workforce if we bow to our feminine biological clock.

We aren’t seen as equals if we choose to stay home and raise children full-time.

We may been seen as selfish, neglectful mothers if we choose to stay in the workforce.

We may be seen as lazy and lacking ambition if we choose to be stay-at-home moms.

There’s no win for our generation. We must find the courage within ourselves to do whatever makes us happy.

CEO in a suit, Mom in yoga pants, or a part-time piano teacher with kids in Mothers Day Out. Whatever makes you happy, find the courage to be that woman. Our generation was not set up for success in the motherhood area. Rocket science, yes – as long as you don’t stop halfway through your career to raise babies, which you probably couldn’t afford to do because you’ll need to pay off those student loans. But motherhood – no. There will always be someone on the sidelines questioning your decision, saying you should be in the house more, in the house less, doing more laundry, doing less laundry, doing more late-night work for your boss, doing less late-night work for your boss. It’s a no-win situation for our generation. All we can do is find our courage – discard the fear – and do what makes us feel whole. Model this for your daughters, ladies. Employ them to be brave and courageous women. Then teach them that there will be a time in their lives – in their 20s or 30s – that they will have to listen to that biological clock. Prepare them for this. We cannot act like it won’t happen to our daughters like it happened to us. Encourage them to follow their dreams, be doctors, lawyers, and scientists. But include in those conversations a discussion of how to deal with the issue of starting a family while simultaneously building a law career, going through medical residency, or traveling the world researching marine life in coral reefs. Help them be prepared for the day that decision is upon them and let them know that there’s no right answer. There’s just what makes them happy. That’s the only right answer. But that takes courage. There’s no room for fear in a decision like that. If we fail to teach our daughters anything else while they’re under our roofs, let’s teach them about this – this crossroad that will determine their ultimate happiness for the rest of their life.

7 comments on “If You Teach Your Daughter Nothing Else, Teach Her This

  1. I love that you wrote this! I left the corporate world when my daughter was 1 and haven’t returned to a traditional job since. And we talk about that openly and honestly (she’s a tween now). She needs to follow her dreams whatever they are and still ensure she’s meeting all of her needs. It took me a few years to accept that leaving the corporate world wasn’t the end of my dreams/needs. It’s a complex topic. I’m glad we’re talking about it now and not waiting…

  2. It’s interesting I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot after I started writing about celebrities and noticed a different approach in the way the press covered male and female celebs. Great post, very comprehensive and thought provoking!

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  4. This was a great post! This is something that we so often leave out when talking about the future with our daughters – thinking about it now aside from discussing with my oldest daughter that not having children was a perfectly acceptable option I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed it with either daughter. That is something I need to change, thanks.

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