Little Women: 5 Myths About Raising Strong Girls
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
Today is International Women's Day! As a mother of three girls, it's important to me to acknowledge days like today, taking a time out to pass on some gratitude for strong women who have forged the path ahead of us and helped paved the way for a more equal future for my daughters.
A lot of my friends, family and readers tend to cringe at the word "Feminism" thinking it is reserved for those with picket signs, narrow agendas, or just those conspiring to rid the world of bras. As a Jesus follower and a Feminist, I'm not interested in any of those things. I'm a strong-willed woman with a passion for knowing and loving Jesus and striving to raise my girls to seek their identity in Christ and know their value full well - equally, uniquely, beautifully. Celebrating women is a great way to encourage this!
There are a lot of moms out there who struggle with this concept, and I invite you to continue struggling! Wrestling with questions and doubts is what makes us seek change and it motivates us to keep learning and praying. I hope that we can encourage one another as mothers to raise our children up in a world that respects differences and welcomes the opportunity to involve the strengths of others.
Here are 5 common myths that many mamas deal with when it comes to raising strong girls, I hope my words offer you a good hug and a high five if you are in the midst of it just like I am!
1. She needs to be good at things "boys do".
False. The world wants us to believe that particular strengths are gender-based. So maybe your daughter is good at sports, and maybe she's not. Maybe your girl is great at baking cookies, and maybe she hates to help in the kitchen. Not everything is a competition, and your daughter is simply going to have preferences all her own as an individual. While we have hurdles to conquer in getting more girls involved in things like science, engineering, and math, the voice of a strong woman should make a mark in all facets of society. So, help her grow wherever she plants her feet! Simply ASKING what she likes and why she likes it is a beautiful way to encourage your girl towards discovering her unique gifts and allowing her to use them wherever the road leads.
2. She can't see me as a role model if I'm a stay-at-home mom.
False. If you are home in this season, congratulations. You've chosen an admirable profession for the time being, and it's most likely not forever. Thrive where you are, and use your time and presence with wisdom and gratitude. You are wearing MANY hats right now and have the opportunity to showcase what feminism truly is: freedom to choose what is best for you. If, on the other hand, you are working outside the home in any capacity - you also bear this responsibility. You are no less a mother just as you are no less a woman because of what you do. Share with your daughters why it is important to you to be doing whatever you are doing! Teach her that each person has something worthwhile to contribute and work for.
3. She'll believe she can really be anything she wants.
False. Some parents have this fear that raising a strong girl will give her a skewed view that she's fantastic at everything or deserving of more than the world can actually offer. This belief falls somewhere between believing all women are naive and all women are spoiled - neither of which are accurate. More girls struggle with knowing their true value than from being too vain. If you think you shouldn't nurture your daughter's worth because you're worried about her being too full of herself - stop worrying. For most, the world will take us all down a notch or two when we least expect it. As her parent, limiting your daughter ahead of time only hinders natural progress. Faulting on the side of support, on the other hand, will show her you are there for her whether she succeeds or not.
4. She'll become a bitch.
False. Sorry for the language, but of course you worry about this. Yes, someone in her life will call her that, guaranteed. But, if it's because she is speaking truth, choosing love, or showing kindness, she will be the kind of woman who can withstand the taunt. If you are worried that helping her stand up for equality will turn her into a harsh, snarky, pantsuit-wearing, she-devil then you have probably just watched too many movies from the nineties and you have bought into a stereotype. "Career-minded" is actually not a social death sentence for many successful women, and the world only benefits when women make strides in leadership. A strong girl needs to see equal examples of integrity, respect, and humility from men and women in leading positions. When that's done well she will know that kindness can truly drive action.
5. She'll believe she won't need a man and not get married.
False. Is your goal for your daughter to simply marry her off? I doubt it. If raising a girl with a smart head, a kind heart, and a loving spirit is too intimidating for a particular gent, then by all means let him keep walking. While I pray for the potential sons-in-law I may embrace someday, I know that a husband is not a requirement for what's best for my girls. Every characteristic I possess as a wife I hold on my own as a person first. The fact that I'm married simply allows me to express those same qualities in a way that's unique to my spouse. Marriage is not a safety net to co-parent your daughter in her later years. Remember this when you are playing dress-up or dolls and watching Disney movies. Relationships of all kinds benefit and grow us in extraordinary ways. Your daughter will not be "lesser than" if she doesn't find a spouse and let you plan the wedding of her dreams (which she probably won't let you do anyway, so just let that go!) Help equip her for success regardless of what's in store - teach your daughter about finances, safety, vehicle basics, and household repair tasks, allowing her to thrive beyond gender role constraints. As she develops her worldview, she'll be able to look beyond the complements of a partner, seeking out traits like honesty, integrity, trust, and respect that matter in all relationships.
We don't live in an easy world, but women from every walk of life bring beauty and strength to the diversity around us. A woman's voice benefits everyone - so don't be afraid to use yours! When we speak the truth in love, we break down barriers far greater than gender inequality.
Happy International Women's Day - and many blessings to you and the strong girls in your life!