It’s International Women’s Day!
And for the first time in my life, I am actually seeing people mark this occasion. I’m not saying it’s never been done before, I’m merely pointing out that I have never actually seen it acknowledged in a widespread fashion before today.
It’s kind of cool, cus Hey! I’m a woman! Go me!
I figured I’d join in on the fun
I’m raising two daughters. One of which likes to drop random items in the toilet for fun, the other of which burns with the fire of the sun sometimes, and at others simmers like a gentle rainfall on a tin roof.
“Sometimes, my daughters drive me nuts,” said every mother. Ever.
As someone raising daughters, sometimes I feel like I am raising Faberge eggs. Do you feel that way, too? Like you’re one step away from messing everything up? Or maybe you’ve read so many things about the way you’re supposed to do it, and you don’t entirely remember what it feels like to trust your own gut anymore.
A few years ago, in early October, we took our children to the store to pick out Halloween costumes. We casually strolled down an aisle of costumes together, the children marveling at the variety of choices, my husband and I bemoaning the price tag that comes hand in hand with Halloween fun.
Our little boy went first. We let our son make his selection entirely on his own. There was no second guessing him. He went straight for the action and superheroes without giving it another thought.
But when it came to my daughter, who was barely two and choosing her costume herself for the first time, I completely floundered.
While she gravitated towards the princess costumes, I, the mother-who-wanted-to-get-it-all-right-by-her-daughter, flailed about, and made sure to point out all of the other costumes to my tiny, curly-haired daughter.
The Batgirl. The Superwoman. The scary costumes. The witch. The cat or mouse. EVERYTHING.
I wanted her to know there was a bevy of options laid out before here. I wanted her to know that she didn’t need to feel pressured to choose anything with tulle or pink on it. Her costume didn’t need to shimmer or sparkle. She could be anything she wanted to be for Halloween and for the rest of forever, so long as it meant that I didn’t screw it up as a mom.
Still, she chose the princess costume, and she was blissfully content while I’m sure I managed to grow a few more gray hairs by the end of the entire process.
I was so torn over the matter.
I understand the widespread disdain for the superficial princess packaging. I get wanting our children, our daughters, to see past the false veneers of hollow feminism and masculinity that are around every corner. We know that young ladies are especially susceptible to their surroundings, sensitive to the images and ideologies that we thrust on them carelessly, and sometimes subconsciously.
All children are sponges, and they pick up on all of the nuances that lurk in the shadows on every screen, every billboard image, every page of a book.
We are actively paying attention to what sorts of things we present to our girls as true pictures of womanhood, of what it means to be feminine. This is a good thing.
But at the same time…I felt horribly guilty for all of my posturing towards my daughter and her choice.
I wanted her to know all of her options, which is never in and of itself a bad thing.
I wanted her to feel like she was in control of her own agency, that there were more choices available to her besides the stereotypical options girls are sometimes offered. Again, all well and good. But I did all of this instead of just listening to what she wanted in the first place and and consigning myself to being okay with her decision. In my efforts to get it right, I sort of missed the mark.
In the process of wanting every woman to know that she has a menagerie of choices, we sometimes demean the choices that they actually make. We are the collective peanut gallery, second guessing everything about her life.
We make the assumption that she couldn’t get on without us, the peanut gallery on standby, while pointing out everything that she could do differently. We make the assumption that a person who doesn’t choose more “modern ways” of doing things is making a huge mistake. We are aiming to check off boxes on a list, instead of searching for what truly gratifies and fulfills us on a spiritual level.
I’ll be honest: I used to take umbrage with feminism. Because there I was, a new mother, craving to be home with her babies. And yet I felt like the shoes of feminism didn’t quite fit me. I felt like, in the eyes of some, I was a woman who was moving backwards in her life, instead of forward. I didn’t sense the emphasis on being a great mother, on being a great parent.
It felt like it was all about empowerment in the workplace, in the public sphere. Where was the empowerment for those of us at home? We must it be only A, B and C that work for everyone, and nothing else?
I eventually learned to become comfortable and in control of my choice to stay home. I knew that my day to day life, with my husband or with my children, our routine, could be what I chose to make of it. I knew that my relationship with myself, as complicated as it is at times, was mine and mine alone, my responsibility. I learned, I mean really learned, that my faith breathed new life into the way I valued myself, as I have slowly learned to shed the skin of being perpetually self-concious or feeling like I don’t measure up.
I am learning a new way to be myself with each passing year. I am reconciling myself to something greater with each day that passes. And I hope for the same things for each of my daughters, whether they are eight, seventeen or thirty-eight.
Sometimes, we get over zealous with wanting to offer so many suggestions that we trounce on what makes the people around us truly happy. Sometimes, we don’t realize that in our zealous efforts to treat a girl the same as her male counterparts, we are instead singling out her choices to be examined even more extensively than her male counterparts.
My daughter can be a princess if she so chooses. She can be a superhero. She can be a doctor. She can be whatever her heart desires, so long as she pursues it with all her might. So long as she understands that the greatest things we can accomplish in this world is loving others. So long as she knows that she is a valued, wonderful person, no matter what.
So, Happy International Women’s Day, ladies. Whether you are at home with your babies, working hard to shatter glass ceilings, working from home, winding your way through this world with your best friends and a glass of wine in your hand. Whether you are a mother or not, married or not. I hope you know that you are mighty, you are strong, you are loved and you are brave.