2018 marked 100 years of suffrage and it got me thinking about the responsibilities that we have when raising girls. Raising girls is a fairly new challenge for us as they are only toddlers, but there are certain things that I want to make sure as women they know and understand. I want to make sure that I am raising strong daughters ready for the world that they live in! Today’s world has many more opportunities for women even than the one I grew up in, but there are also increasingly more challenges and pressures for us all women or men and so I am focusing on equipping my children with skills to cope in today’s world. These are the things I want my girls to know as they grow up.
Being Pretty is OK, but isn’t everything
One of the things I have noticed a trend for is that it is not OK to tell little girls that they are pretty or beautiful. I don’t quite understand this. Why isn’t it OK to be pretty anymore? I for one want my girls to know that they are beautiful inside and out. I tell them they look pretty all the time so hopefully this isn’t the disaster that some seem to suggest on social media these days.
They should know they are beautiful and be confident in themselves so that it doesn’t matter what society or anyone else says is beautiful. These girls don’t have to conform to anyone’s ideals. I also want them to know that this isn’t everything. It isn’t the be all and end all and a life spent just trying to be pretty (unless you are a Hadid or another supermodel) is probably not going to make you entirely happy.
They are strong
I want my little girls to know that they are strong and that it is OK to be strong and determined. As their mother I need to show them that I am those things so that they see a positive example. So note to self ‘must not weep and wail when I don’t get my own way’. I do also want them to know that they don’t have to be a bitch to be strong. Raising strong daughters does mean, to me, raising tough or aggressive people. They can be strong by being independent and working hard to achieve what they want, but not at the expense of others.
They can be anything they want to be
My little ladies need to know that they can be anything that they want to be. This is a message that seems to already be getting through as one of them is quite adamant that she wants to be a Princess Knight or a Doctor. Probably one has more opportunity of regular work than the other… But if a Princess Knight is the ambition we will see what we can do.
I would like them to always be kind to each other, their brothers and anyone around them. I am teaching them that they can be anything they want, but the best thing to be is kind.
Family Comes First
At the risk of sounding like Peggy Mitchell I would like the girls (and their brothers too) to know how important family is. A friend of mine at school always had family night once a week even when were teenagers. I have always loved this idea. One night where the family reconnects and friends or parties don’t come first. I hope that will be to create something like this for our family as they all grow up. I love that they are close with their wider family including aunts, uncles and all my cousins so I want to be sure that this continues as they grow up by making it a priority to visit family and have fun together.
Unfortunately the girls did not get to meet either my nanny or my nana, but I want them to know their stories and understand the world in which they grew up. A world where women were second class citizens and had limited options.
My English nanny was such a dear little lady and was knee high to a grasshopper. Her boys towered over her and yet she ruled over them and they did not mess with her. If only she were here so I could ask her how she did it. I could use a tip or two! Nanny didn’t have lots of money, but would always make sure she had a bottle of pop for us and a pound or two to send us on our way. My nanny played games with us like no other adult. She really played and I knew she wanted to be there with us in that moment. Again I could take a lesson from her on that one. Sometimes I would rather poke out my own eyes than play knight battles or Peppa Pig AGAIN!
My nanny was kind and caring and loved us all very much as we did her. Her life was not all roses especially when she was very young, but that didn’t stop her being optimistic and just plain lovely. I want my girls to know about her to feel kindness like that and to remember me and their nannies playing with them. I need to channel her energy!
My Irish Nana was born in the middle of the Easter Rising in Dublin and lived during a fascinating time in Irish history, but an immensely difficult time. Thanks largely to ‘us’ the English. She faced so much sadness in her life, but she was a get up and get on with type of lady. I am sure she carried her hurt with her, but it didn’t define her. That is inspiring to me and so I will tell my girls about my nana and hope that they develop even just a bit of her resilience.
She was the archetypal matriarch. Sometimes a little scary, but funny, loyal, loving (in her way) and most importantly the person who connects us all and who created an amazingly close family despite us being geographically dispersed.
I want to tell them the stories she told me and some of the hilarious things she used to say. Especially about the time she kept hearing a bleep. She thought that the surgeon had left a bit of machinery inside her after an operation only to discover that her fire alarm batteries needed replacing!
She clearly was skilled at raising strong daughters as all my aunts and my own mother are women who I would consider to be strong. It is a different time now so of course I won’t be raising my girls the way my nana did, but I certainly have learnt a thing or to about being a strong woman from her and it is this that I take forward into raising strong daughters.
I want them to go Ireland often and know this part of themselves too. They have godmothers, aunts and cousins to build a lifetime of memories in Ireland and I want to make sure they remain close to this part of them. If only my nana could have met them. She told me that God only chose special people to have twins. I am not sure why I would be special, but it has comforted me when things got tough. I loved her very dearly.
Oh I am having a right snivel now. It is funny how much you can miss people that you didn’t get to see every day. Best move on quickly and gather myself together.
They are lucky to know both of their grandmothers and to be able to spend lots of time with them. Each time I tell the girls that their nanny or Grandma are coming they get so excited. They are already learning things from them. I am a bit envious that they get to spend so much time with their grandmothers as mine were far away.. They also have been able to get to know one of their great grandmothers who is a legend. So they have lots of great women around them to help shape their outlook. They say it takes a village…
I know they have brothers too and I am not downplaying how good that is, but it isn’t something I actually have experience of. I want my girls to know that no matter how annoying a sister can be (mine will tell you I am a nightmare!) it is awesome having a sister. For a start no one else will tell you when your bum actually does look big in this! An invaluable service that every girls needs and that is just the tip of the iceberg of all the things that are great about having a sister. With the amount my two squabble I reckon I may have to remind them that sisters rock quite a bit so girls expect me to be labouring this point!
One of the responsibilities of raising girls is to ensure that they know how women got to where we are. I want them to understand what the suffragettes and the feminists of the 70s amongst others did for them. I may not agree with every feminist theory and as a SAHM I may be a raving disappointment to some feminists, but it is important for the girls to understand where women came from. Even in my mother’s 20s it was expected that she wouldn’t work after getting married. Still today women are often paid less than men. Whilst we are now often encouraged to return to work the reality is that organisations don’t make it very easy. We are still definitely disadvantaged career wise unless we sacrifice something; family life, sanity – something has to give! My girls need to know that being a woman is not a disadvantage and is pretty bloody awesome actually – no matter how the world might make them feel sometimes.
No means No!
No always means no and I want them to know that. This applies not just to their bodies, but also when I say no! It is a work in progress getting them to understand that point. Seriously though I want the girls to know they always have a choice. If they don’t like something that is happening they should be able to say No!
Men aren’t the enemy
I don’t want to finish this post without saying something about the men in their lives. The girls have two brothers who are devoted to them (when they are not teasing them). They are also blessed to have the best daddy and granddad that they could hope for. I won’t need to tell them this they will know it! I do, however, want them to know that just like women aren’t rubbish just because they are women; men don’t all suck just because they are men!
So these are things I think it is my job to teach whilst I am raising girls. I am sure it will evolve and change over time. Even before I finished the post I watched them at dinner and thought I should add ‘table manners’. The farting and belching is something else…