7 Reasons I’m SO Glad I Had A Daughter and Why Being a Girly-Girl Doesn’t Mean You Aren’t a FeministMonica Bielanko
It’s nearly three o’clock in the afternoon and I’m still in bed.
Ten years ago the reason for this state of affairs could only be blamed on alcohol consumption. But now here I am at 35 still in my pajamas in the afternoon not because of a hangover but because I’m with a very sick little girl.
My daughter has been running a fever on and off for the past three days and now she’s coughing so hard she’s retching. Each tiny cough and subsequent whimper is, to me, worse than the grinding agony of a thousand hangovers. Her coughs make me grimace in pain.
All I can do is cuddle her, rub her back, smooth her hair back from her forehead and whisper in soothing tones. And put on Sesame Street for the millionty-fifth time.
This girl, this sweetheart, she’s my life. We are tethered together for eternity. I feel every emotion she feels. If she’s sad, I’m sad. If she’s happy, I’m happy. Is it unhealthy that my emotional state is so completely knotted up with the feelings of another human being?
But I’ll tell you a little secret. I was afraid to have a girl. I didn’t grow up having the greatest relationship with my own mom. I know first-hand how horrible teen girls can be because I was one.
So I can kind of understand this apparent trend of women saying they don’t want daughters that Erin over at Jezebel is talking about. When I first discovered I was pregnant I might have mentioned that I was hoping for a boy first. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a daughter, just that, from my limited vantagepoint of parenting at the time, boys seemed like they might be easier to raise and if a nice, mellow boy could ease me into the murky waters of parenting then that would be okay by me.
But, man, was I wrong. Girls are the best. Do you hear me? The best! That’s not to discount how great little boys are because I have one of those too. But my daughter is something special and I had it all wrong, looked at it all the wrong way. Having a Daughter is the greatest thing that ever happened to this princess-hating Mama
Below are seven reasons I’m so glad I had a daughter and the major life lessons I’ve learned as a result.
Girls Are Too Girly? 1 of 7I actually said that before I had my daughter. The bit about girls being too girly. I'm ashamed to say that this may have been me bolstering my own feminist notions and not really based in reality. All girls aren't girly and all boys aren't into trucks and cars. And yeah, I hate Barbies and Princess-y crap but guess what? There is nothing cuter than my daughter clomping around in a Cinderella dress or asking if I'll paint her nails pink while she sits on the potty because that's what she likes. I was wrong to try and eliminate the princess-y aspects from my daughter's childhood as some sort of nod to feminism and gender identity boundaries. Do I want to force pink, princess-y crap on her because she's a girl? No. But, if my daughter turns out to be a girly-girl I am hopping onboard that train and riding it all the way to Cinderella's ball same as I would if my son tells me he's into princesses.
Elaborating On My Mistaken Notion of Feminism 2 of 7By being reluctant to introduce my girl to pink and poofy things, I took my notion of raising a strong woman too far. I was behaving in much the same way many religious parents do when they learn their child is gay — I was rejecting something I thought would be detrimental to my girl. I thought buying her a doll would create some sort of mall shopping, lip-gloss obsessed girly-girl. I thought I was doing her a favor, maybe keeping her from turning into a Kardashian or something, but I wasn't. I was imposing my own likes and dislikes on a sweet 3-year-old. Though I still hate Barbie and don't think a naked doll with an unreal body including knockers so big she'd fall over in real life is appropriate for a little girl to see while growing up, dolls and pink and poofy are just as cool as race cars and action figures. It's all about imagination and creativity, right?
Girls Are Harder To Raise Than Boys? 3 of 7"Girls are manipulative and dangerous" or "Girls are easy when they're young, but watch out when they're teenagers!" Erin from Jezebel reports hearing from her women friends on a regular basis. And boys aren't difficult? It saddens me that women who are victims of these types of stereotypes are choosing to perpetuate them when pregnant and hoping for a boy instead of a girl.
Girls Are Moody and Dramatic? 4 of 7That's one of the reasons Erin over at Jezebel says she hears a lot of women using when expressing their hopes for a boy: "Girls are so moody and dramatic." Really? Isn't that just the most sweeping generalization ever? As Erin says, women who don't want girls "assign qualities of Disney villainess proportions — jealousy, anger, cunning, ability to talk to mirrors — to all female children. Because children, little id blobs that they are, only grow to the complexity that the genitals between their legs allow, and no amount of guidance or learning will alter that inexorable course from the moment you know it's pink or blue. Right?" For every mean girl there is a sweet girl, and it's our job as parents to guide our girls in the right direction. In understanding my own emotional patterns, I am empowered to be constantly loving with my sweetheart so that she, in turn, can spread the love with the world.
The World Is Harder For Girls? 5 of 7The world is hard for everyone. And if you choose not to have a girl because you're afraid of sexism and rapists and who knows what then maybe you've had it rough yourself? But doesn't the idea of raising an independent, confident woman excite you? A woman who, in all likelihood, will be able to burst through barriers that you and I have thus far been unable to break? Seeing a society that universally accepts women of all sizes, attaining equal pay, becoming president of the United States to name just a few. One of my greatest joys is instilling ideas within my daughter that took me years to metabolize. By not wanting to have a girl because you think the odds are stacked against her then you are effectively giving up. You are saying you don't want to have a victim and don't want to change the structure that produces victims. And hey, who's to say your son isn't going to be the rapist or the serial killer?
Independent Woman 6 of 7Now, thanks to my beautiful Violet and her own willful spirit, my mind is wide open to all possibilities and personalities that await her. If she likes the color pink and princesses, I'm not going to push in the other direction. I will rock the pink princess fad too until something else catches her eye. But I will never again try to impose my opinion on her likes or dislikes in some mistaken notion that I'm raising her to be a strong woman and that includes whatever she chooses to do with her life. No matter whether it jives with my thoughts and feelings, I want her to live out her passions. Basically what I'm telling you is if Violet thinks princesses are cool then, dammit, so do I.
Learning To Let Go Of Preconceived Notions 7 of 7My daughter is a girl, yes. But I barely see it that way anymore, especially after having my son. My daughter is a person. A human being. I rarely frame her in the context of girl or boy anymore. That was a really big deal BEFORE she was born and now? Now, she's just Violet. Right now she's really into dinosaurs. Occasionally she puts on her Cinderella dress and clomps around the house. Maybe when she's a teen she'll scream that she hates me. Maybe we'll be super close. I have a feeling that whichever of those scenarios occurs is up to me and the way I raise her as opposed to whether she's a boy or a girl.
You can also find Monica Bielanko on her personal blog, The Girl Who.