I came across a picture of a little girl in her mom's wedding dress on Pinterest recently. It shows the adorable toddler in an adult-sized dress with a caption that reads, "Photograph your little girl in your wedding dress to display at her wedding."
My first thought was, wow, what a great idea; I should get my mom to ship my dress from Nebraska and schedule a portrait sitting STAT. But that was followed quickly by a screeching What the hell are you thinking?! Because there I was once again -- like so many of us do regularly -- planning my daughter's life with some fairytale wedding at the center of it, when what I mean to be doing is raising a daughter who is strong, independent, and may or may not choose to get married someday.
But how easy it is to lose sight of that.
It's not I don't want her to get married someday. I love being married, and if she finds someone she loves and wants to build a life with, then I'll support her all the way. I just don't want to raise her with an expectation that marriage is what will make her life complete, that nothing she does will matter as much as if she can land the right man.
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Too many of us go through the steps of college, advanced degrees, and climbing our way up the corporate ladder with determination in one eye, and the other scoping out just how we can snag some man to take us away from it all. Even if we don't, everyone else does, and feels sorry for us if we haven't found "the one."
I never want my daughter to feel like she won't live up to my expectations if she doesn't get married. And that's what I fear a picture like this hanging on a wall or tucked away in some sort of hope chest says. If a doctor dressed up his toddler son in a white coat with a stethoscope for one day when he graduates from medical school, my guess is people would balk that he's trying to determine his son's future from the get go. And tell me how many people do you think would dress their son up in daddy's tuxedo to display at his wedding one day?
Fashion PR Guru and reality television star Kelly Cutrone recently posted on Facebook about this very topic, and it too made me stop and think about how we raise our girls:
So many mothers say they want their daughters to be independent, but what they really hope is that they'll find a well-compensated banker or lawyer and settle down between the ages of 25 and 28 in Greenwich, Darien, or That Town, USA, to ra...ise babies, do the grocery shopping, and work out in relative comfort for the rest of their lives.
I know this, because I employ their daughters. They raise us to think they want us to have careers, and they send us to college, but even they don't really believe women can be autonomous.
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I think many of us believe we're raising independent daughters and would argue with anyone who says we're not. We put them in lacrosse and soccer; we make sure they do well in math; we are skeptical of princesses and Legos made of pink. We try so hard to show them that they can be anything and can do everything men can do, but at the same time, we're just waiting for them to walk down that aisle. And whether subconsciously or blatantly, with a portrait like this, we send them messages that the right man is the key to happiness, that it's what they're living for when instead we should be teaching them that their happiness -- no matter where it comes from -- is what's most important. Sometimes that means marriage, but sometimes it doesn't.
Would you pose your young daughter in a wedding dress for her someday wedding?
Image via SashaW/Flickr