Raising Our Girls

I read an article a while back that I still can’t seem to get out of my head because of the importance of its message.   It’s called “Are We Teaching Our Daughters To Be Vain Doormats” and it touches on the things that we do as parents (and society as a whole of course) that subtly hinder and place limits on our daughters' capabilities in relation to boys starting at a very young age.

The question the article poses is whether girls are groomed to face the glass ceiling, that real or imagined obstacle to making it to the top of the corporate ladder, before they even get to grade school? And what types of things do we say or do to our daughters that actually work against them or set them up to continuously view themselves as less capable than their male counterparts? Click here to read the article.

This topic didn’t hit me fully until I found out that I was expecting a baby of my own. With the possibility that it could be a girl, everything became that much more relevant. After bringing up the article with my husband, I found it interesting that our feelings on raising our potential daughter in such a way where we would follow the suggestions of the article differed slightly. I seemed to be a little bit more passionate about the topic. I insisted that if ever we had a girl we would raise her in such a way that we would not intentionally expose her to princess stuff, I emphasized that we would compliment her on her intelligence first and foremost and that we would only have toys that promoted intellectual stimulation available to her. He seemed a bit more relaxed and assured me that boys face similar challenges throughout their childhoods, as well. I wondered: how much is the way we raise our kids (regardless of their gender) based upon our own experiences as kids and adults?

During our conversation, we went back and forth on how the world is not the same for girls as it is for boys. On some points we agreed, others we didn’t. Our differing opinions were clearly due to the fact that we see the world from differing viewpoints based upon unique female/male life experiences. I understand that boys face their challenges, but I personally (again based on my experience) think that the issue is much more prevalent when it comes to girls. Amidst our discussion, he paused and said something that really made me think: “I want our girl to be a girl. I want to tell her that she is pretty all the time. I want to dress her up and treat her like a princess.”   And that’s when I saw the light: BALANCE. Like anything else, balance is key. As much as I believe that we need to focus our attention on how not to “short-change our daughter,'" my husband appreciates the beauty of women and the importance of “letting girls be girls."

We could go back and forth for days on this topic, I’m sure. Whether the experiences of boys and girls are the same is a never-ending conversation that is largely informed by our own perspectives. At the same time, if my daughter is a girly girl princess who loves all the stereotypical things, is there something totally wrong with that? I guess not. We have, however agreed that we will do our best as parents to present her with balance by integrating a wide variety of activities into her world- sports, puzzles, music, games and art.

After all, isn’t access to all activities regardless of whether they are “meant” for boys or girls, use of neutral language, equality and balance something that every child deserves no matter their gender?