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View as: GRID LIST

RAISING A GIRL

1
When I was pregnant, I thought I was going to have a boy. It was a hunch really. And the sonographer kept referring to the baby as ‘he’. I assumed that she’d just let it slip by accident. But whatever. I was happy. Happy to be having a baby. The gender wasn’t important.

Then at the end of the kind of birth that would possibly kill a horse, the first thing I heard was the exclamation – ‘IT’S A GIRL!’ and I was shocked. Shocked firstly that I was still alive and able to hear words. But also shocked that we had a girl. I had a momentary

SelfishMother.com
2
shift in perspective. My life flashed past in a blur.

This child would be a girl: just like me, but also different. She’d have to go through some of the self-same stuff and struggle with similar challenges. But she’d hopefully be more confident and better prepared. That was my job. An intimidating one.

My Mum was a feminist. She told me it was okay not to shave my legs (I thought this was disgusting and shaved them anyway). She encouraged me to wear dungarees because they were comfy. She taught me how to re-wire a plug. But she couldn’t

SelfishMother.com
3
shield me from the societal pressures that kicked in once I got to primary school – these only got more intense once I got into my teens. I was podgy and never learnt to dive because I didn’t want people looking at my body. I developed a way of getting into the pool that involved shuffling along on my bottom – only dropping the towel the moment my body hit water. I knew I didn’t conform to type. And the sad thing is I still get into the pool the same way (but I’m working on it).

My daughter is currently a toddler. I’m pretty sure we’re

SelfishMother.com
4
raising her in as gender-neutral a way as we can. She rarely wears ‘girlie’ things (she has one or two of those ‘Laura Ashley/retro’ dresses but they only come out now and then). She has functional rather than ‘pretty’ shoes. She has a doll but also a box of cars. I want her to be just as good at kicking a ball as dancing around in a tutu (this may be a grand ambition as I’m crap at both). Things are fairly straightforward because I’m in control. In control until she starts noticing all the glittery, princess stuff targeted at
SelfishMother.com
5
girls.

I’m hoping we can bypass this stage by moving to a remote island.

But there are still all sorts of things I’m aware I’m getting wrong. One of my best friends told me to be really careful about ever calling her a ‘BIG GIRL’ because it’d mean a possible body issue in the future. I don’t talk about diets (I don’t talk about them anyway because it’s generally a signal that interesting conversation has dried up). But we regularly pat my tummy and sing the ‘Jelly on a Plate,’ song. The problem is my belly IS LIKE A JELLY and

SelfishMother.com
6
there’s no point lying about it.

I try to leave the word ‘pretty’ out when describing how she looks but then it’s difficult to come up with an alternative- is ‘powerful’ better? I don’t want her to be deluded either. It’s a tough world out there and she needs to be realistic about just how powerful she’s going to be made to feel.

As a toddler she still has a great unselfconscious attitude – she doesn’t care what others think. She hasn’t had a boy come up to her in the playground and call her a ‘Fat Pig. Or been teased during

SelfishMother.com
7
a swimming lesson because her thighs rub together. She hasn’t looked into a magazine and seen all the sandblasted, cartoon depictions of women.

Yes, there are also lots of positive things about being a modern woman. We can grow a life inside us. We can attend a board meeting without our shoulder pads preventing us from getting through the door. We can like Instagram photos of hot men reading on the underground and get away with it because it’s ‘redressing gender inequalities’.

There’s birth control, female astronauts and women with hairy

SelfishMother.com
8
armpits. Progress of sorts.

But I worry about my daughter. I worry about her future. I wish I could fast forward through a whole heap of stuff so she didn’t have to go through it. And I’m aware that much of the stuff I can’t control. One day she’s going to see an enormous, shaking butt on her smartphone. She’s going to worry about her thighs. She’ll stare at a fashion magazine and feel a twinge of envy. Sometimes she might peer at her face in the mirror and feel sad. She will go on dates and feel bored.

In our modern times of social

SelfishMother.com
9
networking, celebrity body shaming and obsession with aesthetics, telling my daughter to wear dungarees isn’t going to cut it. I need more robust tools in my arsenal. But I don’t want to put her off everything either. I want her to be happy and confident in her body. To accept who she is. To be able to switch off when all the sexist hum starts up in her ears.

It took me about thirty five years to feel confident. To be robust enough to reject societal pressures and be myself. And I have to accept that whatever I teach her, my daughter will need to

SelfishMother.com
10
learn some of these things on her own.

There are reasons to feel hopeful. When I actually look around me at the next generation of young women coming through, it seems as if they’re doing a really good job. They haven’t passively absorbed all this shit and gone quiet. They’re talking about it, complaining about it and deciding what they want to do. And some of them are steering their own path and refusing to conform to certain feminine stereotypes. They’re taking less time to arrive at the place I did and that can only be a good thing.

And

SelfishMother.com
11
hopefully it won’t take my daughter thirty odd years to feel comfortable diving into a swimming pool.

I just need to learn how to dive myself so I can show her how it’s done.

Motherhood is different for all of us… if you’d like to share your thoughts, why not join our Network & start posting?

SelfishMother.com

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- 31 Mar 15

When I was pregnant, I thought I was going to have a boy. It was a hunch really. And the sonographer kept referring to the baby as ‘he’. I assumed that she’d just let it slip by accident. But whatever. I was happy. Happy to be having a baby. The gender wasn’t important.

Then at the end of the kind of birth that would possibly kill a horse, the first thing I heard was the exclamation – ‘IT’S A GIRL!’ and I was shocked. Shocked firstly that I was still alive and able to hear words. But also shocked that we had a girl. I had a momentary shift in perspective. My life flashed past in a blur.

This child would be a girl: just like me, but also different. She’d have to go through some of the self-same stuff and struggle with similar challenges. But she’d hopefully be more confident and better prepared. That was my job. An intimidating one.

My Mum was a feminist. She told me it was okay not to shave my legs (I thought this was disgusting and shaved them anyway). She encouraged me to wear dungarees because they were comfy. She taught me how to re-wire a plug. But she couldn’t shield me from the societal pressures that kicked in once I got to primary school – these only got more intense once I got into my teens. I was podgy and never learnt to dive because I didn’t want people looking at my body. I developed a way of getting into the pool that involved shuffling along on my bottom – only dropping the towel the moment my body hit water. I knew I didn’t conform to type. And the sad thing is I still get into the pool the same way (but I’m working on it).

My daughter is currently a toddler. I’m pretty sure we’re raising her in as gender-neutral a way as we can. She rarely wears ‘girlie’ things (she has one or two of those ‘Laura Ashley/retro’ dresses but they only come out now and then). She has functional rather than ‘pretty’ shoes. She has a doll but also a box of cars. I want her to be just as good at kicking a ball as dancing around in a tutu (this may be a grand ambition as I’m crap at both). Things are fairly straightforward because I’m in control. In control until she starts noticing all the glittery, princess stuff targeted at girls.

I’m hoping we can bypass this stage by moving to a remote island.

But there are still all sorts of things I’m aware I’m getting wrong. One of my best friends told me to be really careful about ever calling her a ‘BIG GIRL’ because it’d mean a possible body issue in the future. I don’t talk about diets (I don’t talk about them anyway because it’s generally a signal that interesting conversation has dried up). But we regularly pat my tummy and sing the ‘Jelly on a Plate,’ song. The problem is my belly IS LIKE A JELLY and there’s no point lying about it.

I try to leave the word ‘pretty’ out when describing how she looks but then it’s difficult to come up with an alternative- is ‘powerful’ better? I don’t want her to be deluded either. It’s a tough world out there and she needs to be realistic about just how powerful she’s going to be made to feel.

As a toddler she still has a great unselfconscious attitude – she doesn’t care what others think. She hasn’t had a boy come up to her in the playground and call her a ‘Fat Pig. Or been teased during a swimming lesson because her thighs rub together. She hasn’t looked into a magazine and seen all the sandblasted, cartoon depictions of women.

Yes, there are also lots of positive things about being a modern woman. We can grow a life inside us. We can attend a board meeting without our shoulder pads preventing us from getting through the door. We can like Instagram photos of hot men reading on the underground and get away with it because it’s ‘redressing gender inequalities’.

There’s birth control, female astronauts and women with hairy armpits. Progress of sorts.

But I worry about my daughter. I worry about her future. I wish I could fast forward through a whole heap of stuff so she didn’t have to go through it. And I’m aware that much of the stuff I can’t control. One day she’s going to see an enormous, shaking butt on her smartphone. She’s going to worry about her thighs. She’ll stare at a fashion magazine and feel a twinge of envy. Sometimes she might peer at her face in the mirror and feel sad. She will go on dates and feel bored.

In our modern times of social networking, celebrity body shaming and obsession with aesthetics, telling my daughter to wear dungarees isn’t going to cut it. I need more robust tools in my arsenal. But I don’t want to put her off everything either. I want her to be happy and confident in her body. To accept who she is. To be able to switch off when all the sexist hum starts up in her ears.

It took me about thirty five years to feel confident. To be robust enough to reject societal pressures and be myself. And I have to accept that whatever I teach her, my daughter will need to learn some of these things on her own.

There are reasons to feel hopeful. When I actually look around me at the next generation of young women coming through, it seems as if they’re doing a really good job. They haven’t passively absorbed all this shit and gone quiet. They’re talking about it, complaining about it and deciding what they want to do. And some of them are steering their own path and refusing to conform to certain feminine stereotypes. They’re taking less time to arrive at the place I did and that can only be a good thing.

And hopefully it won’t take my daughter thirty odd years to feel comfortable diving into a swimming pool.

I just need to learn how to dive myself so I can show her how it’s done.

Motherhood is different for all of us… if you’d like to share your thoughts, why not join our Network & start posting?

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I'm Super Editor here at SelfishMother.com and love reading all your fantastic posts and mulling over all the complexities of modern parenting. We have a fantastic and supportive community of writers here and I've learnt just how transformative and therapeutic writing can me. If you've had a bad day then write about it. If you've had a good day- do the same! You'll feel better just airing your thoughts and realising that no one has a master plan. I'm Mum to a daughter who's 3 and my passions are writing, reading and doing yoga (I love saying that but to be honest I'm no yogi).

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