Being a girl today is a lot different than it was when I was making my awkward way through middle and high school. Teens are cutting themselves, or worse, at an alarming rate. Our children are getting bullied day in and day out and school systems provide parents with a lackluster, “We don’t tolerate that behavior,” but nothing is being done to put a stop to it. In the age of the #metoo movement, as strong mothers, we must raise strong daughters.
And while it seems the slogan “Smash the Patriarchy” is everywhere, instead, I’ve created a list of ways that we, as women, can “Restore the Matriarchy.” Let’s redefine what it means to be a “lady,” etiquette be damned.
1. You don’t need a man, or a woman, to complete you. When I was in high school, my ultimate goal in life was to get married in my early 20’s and start a family as soon as possible. While I don’t regret my family for a second, I do regret not spending more time planning for the future. Now that our family is complete and our youngest has started school, I find myself struggling to find my way in this new chapter of my life. Spend your time after graduation learning about yourself, building a tribe of girlfriends, and becoming comfortable in your own shoes. The last thing a partnership needs is for one or both members to discover themselves five years in and realize they made a big mistake.
2. Experiment with your style. Cut your hair, dye it, buy combat boots, wear purple eyeliner, or don’t. Wear that Hogwarts t-shirt until the hem is frayed and it’s so faded you can barely make out the graphic. If people tell you they have a problem with your clothes or the way you do your hair, then these people don’t matter! Your job is not to impress, but to succeed, whatever that means to you. As long as you are happy, how you look doesn’t matter.
3. Not everyone is out to get you. When my daughter received her class schedule for school this year, she immediately started complaining about two of her teachers simply because she heard a rumor that they were awful. Fast forward to the end of her first day, turns out, those teachers aren’t so bad after all. She wasted so much energy focusing on the negative, energy that could have been focused on goal setting for the new year or reading a book. Some people are jerks and they will try their best to knock you down. Your job is to not let them. There are good people in this world, people who will compliment you and bring out your best. Find those people and cling to them.
4. Turn up your favorite music and dance and sing to it at least once a day. It doesn’t matter if you are as tone-deaf as boiled cabbage, blast Bohemian Rhapsody and belt it like you’re Freddie Mercury incarnate. Guaranteed to make you forget whatever nonsense you’re dealing with that day, it’s my favorite way to unwind and move on.
5. Enjoy the steak or that piece of cheesecake. Far too many women punish themselves with ridiculous workouts and long sessions of cardio because they had a bite of chocolate cake or ordered their coffee with half and half. My mother was constantly trying fad diets and shaming me for what I ate. The result? Binge eating Oreos and pizza, yo-yo dieting, and misery well into my 30’s. Be healthy, however that looks for you, but enjoy your body and what you put in it.
6. Take a self-defense course or learn how to use a firearm. I know we need to hold men more accountable and I will teach my girls that it’s never okay for a person to touch them without permission, that no means no, etc., I will also teach them how to protect themselves. My older daughter is a black belt in taekwondo and every semester, they teach different self-defense techniques. She knows how to use a firearm safely and will be armed with pepper spray prior to entering high school. I’d like to think that she’s also being raised by a strong mother with a take-no-bull mentality, and hope that she’s picking up just a little of what I’m throwing down.
7. Take charge of your sexual health and enjoyment. My parents were very prudish about sex and what happens to the body during puberty. Thank God for sex education class and good girlfriends, or I would have been like the main character in Carrie when I got my first period. We are very open about sex and nudity in our house. We’ve always been very honest with our children when they have questions about sex and do our best to make them feel comfortable when there’s something they’d like to know. My girls will also know that a woman’s pleasure is important, too, and not just some magical unicorn that’s impossible to achieve. I spent the beginning of my sexual life believing that sex was something that just happened to women and orgasms were few and far between. It took me a long time to realize that my satisfaction should be expected every time sex is in the forecast. Our needs are important, too. Sexual pleasure and masturbation are an important part of any woman’s life, whether she’s with a partner or not. Know what’s going on with your body, track your menstrual cycles, and steer clear of any partner who thinks their sexuality is more important than yours.
Raising girls is hard and the hardest thing I’ve ever done, by far. But I’m doing my best to instill these strong values in my girls so they will feel empowered for the rest of their lives and know their strength and happiness comes from within them.