It wasn’t until I was talking with my daughter recently that I realised there was a huge difference between the way I’d been raised and the way my husband and I chose to raise her.
My daughter and I have a few things in common. We both are the only girl in our families. I had 4 brothers and she has two. We are both very focused when we know what we want. We both have a huge creative streak shooting through us. We both have big dreams.
The big difference between us is that she’s been raised to be brave but I was raised to be a good girl. She’s taking on life and doing things her own way. That’s exactly how it should be.
For me it was different. When I replay the soundtrack of my childhood, this is what I hear.
“That’s not very ladylike.”
“It’s ok for the boys, but you’re not a boy!”
“You don’t want to upset anyone.”
“What will people think?”
“That’s not a good career choice.”
(I guess that last one was legitimate comment. I had wanted to be a ballet dancing artist who minded animals, became a famous author and wrote songs.)
It was quite clear to me that my acceptable life choices lay between specified points of the spectrum. I guess it was a reflection of times, but these are the things that shape you; that condition your thinking as you grow up.
If I was raised as a boy who was allowed to get his fingernails dirty, fight for his rights and not worry so much about what other people thought, would I be different now? If I could have enjoyed the rough and tumble of judo without being segregated and allowed no physical contact, would I be more ready to stand up for my rights now?
Running my own business has meant challenging the beliefs and limitations I grew up with and that hasn’t been easy. All the things that were taboo are now an essential part of business survival. Everything is tough out there. People who can’t voice their opinions in case they offend someone, or can’t ask for what they want and have a reasonable expectation of getting it, are people whose business will collapse under them. I have to be able to fight for what I want and I have to be prepared to do things my way, no matter who tells me I’m wrong. I have to be strong enough to take risks and live with the consequences.
But there’s the difference between the way my daughter and I were raised. I’ve always told my daughter to follow her passions. Go where her interests lie and see what happens. Be brave. Take a risk. It’s the same message I’ve given my sons.
I’ve also told her that I’ll be there to back her, no matter what happens, no matter who says what about her and whether she’s done it in steel capped boots or stilettos.
I haven’t raised her to be a comfort; I’ve raised her to be a challenge.
Just imagine how a girl like my daughter would run a business. She knows what she wants and she knows what she’s entitled to. She’s strong enough to fight for her rights and gentle enough to care for others while she does it. What a powerful combination.
Bravery was never expected of me as I grew up. Bravery belonged to the blokes.
But that’s where my parent’s generation got it all wrong.
Brave is feminine.
Strong is feminine.
Independent is feminine.
If you have daughters, always let them speak for themselves, think for themselves. Don’t put boundaries on their dreams. That happens all too soon as we grow up. While they are young, embed it into their minds that they have choices, and the only limits on them are the ones they choose to impose.
And while you’re at it, if you haven’t already, start telling yourself the same thing.
Published in ROOOAR Magazine, 2015