Did you see the study awhile back that claimed the happiest moms are those that have two daughters? It's a bunch of malarkey. Oh, don't get me wrong. I love my daughter, was so happy she came out with 10 fingers, 10 toes, and nothing dangling between the legs.
But there are times -- not often, but yes, it happens -- when I have wondered: wouldn't it just have been easier to have a boy? Easier because I wouldn't have to balance raising a righteous female with allowing her the freedom to indulge in princesses and sparkles. Easier because I wouldn't have my own neurotic "am I making the right choices for femalekind" questions lingering in the back of my mind.
Raising a girl, even just one, is by turns, rainbows and unicorns and its own special kind of feminist hell. And just when you think you're getting it right, Wham-O, another expert on girl empowerment comes out to announce, "Hey, Lady, you're doing it wrong."
The latest naysayers are Barbara and Shannon Kelley, mother and daughter authors of Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career - and Life - That's Right for You. Out this spring from Seal Press, the book build the case that pressuring our daughters to "be all that you can be" and reach their highest heights is its own special kind of disaster for the females of the species.
Says the press release for the Kelleys' book:
It's okay to be undecided: we're all in this together, trying to figure it out. The most important work, in terms of getting 'decided,' finding satisfaction and happiness, is getting to know ourselves.
I won't say I disagree with them completely. I recall the stress of trying to reach a pinnacle of my own mother's making and always falling short. But that isn't merely a mom/girl issue. It's a matter of parenting. Our goals for our kids need to be balanced with their own likes/dislikes, talents and tastes. It's fine to want your child to go to medical school. It's quite another to pressure your daughter who faints at the sight of blood to "buck up" and hit the books because Johns Hopkins is awaiting.
What marks the Kelleys warning as hollow is that they suggest "indecision" might be regarded by parents as a failure to reach that top shelf, that "better than my mom got" goal. But indecision isn't the endgame of life. It's a step, a normal, encouraging step on the path to womanhood.
Simply put, there's a marked difference between choosing your daughter's path and telling her that whatever she chooses, she can kick ass at it. Raising an empowered woman, at its heart, is about teaching our girls that THEY hold the reins, that THEY make the choices, not us. It's this reasoning that's allowed me to let go of the pink and the sparkles, that's allowed me to compromise on my dreams in favor of hers.
She can be who she wants to be. But gosh darnit, I still want her to be the very best at it. Does that really make me a bad mom?
Image by Jeanne Sager