The Struggles and Rewards of Choices for Girls
What do mothers teach their daughters about their roles as women in life? There are innumerable pressures on mothers to raise Superwomen – confident, capable, caring daughters who are loving and nurturing, yet strong and independent. When it comes to encouraging daughters in their endeavors for the future, moms might automatically push for the path they have travelled. It is imperative that daughters are taught to pursue their own dreams and explore their own options.
Studies have shown that it is not just about which path your daughter chooses, but more about her expectations for what life will be like once she gets there. It appears that the largest risk for depression for women around age 40 comes not as much from which path they chose, but about their preconceived expectations for how that path should look.
Working moms who had the preconceived notions that they would be able to be Superwomen and “do it all” were more likely to suffer from depression than mothers who had developed more realistic ideas about the balancing acts involved in motherhood and outside work. Conversely, stay at home mothers often suffered higher rates of depression than working mothers. The true key component appears to be the expectations about the life choices and the acceptance that having it all isn’t always what it is cracked up to be.
My mother once told me that a part of her wished that my generation didn’t have the immense pressure that it does to prove that women can do it all – careers and families – all of the time. While it might be a gift to know that the glass ceiling is lifting for women, especially mothers, it does come with a crystal weight that women wear. The weight comes from the expectations put upon them by bosses, partners, spouses, families, and themselves, to be the next supermom.
How to Teach Our Daughters to Live Balanced Lives as Women
- If you are a stay at home mom, do you teach your daughter that she shouldn’t work outside of the home?
- If you are a working mom, do you teach your daughter that her value is less if she chooses to stay home as a mother?
- If you are a work-at-home mom do you worry that your daughter will be confused in her future roles and abilities?
Daughters often look to their mothers as their sources for imagining their own futures. It is important that we set realistic expectations for them and provide them with the emotional skills to handle whichever paths they choose.
Allow for your daughter to do something different. Let her know that she can choose differently from you – she can stay home, work, or combine the two. Teach her what you can about your path, and introduce her to other women on different paths to expose her to various experiences, trials, and challenges that women face.
Make sure you always set a tone that is respectful of women from all backgrounds. Several years ago a young boy asked me what my job was (his mom is a divorced parent who works full-time outside of the home). I told him that I stay home with my children, homeschool them, and work part-time at home writing and editing from my computer. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s not a real job. That must be easy.” His mother, who was standing by, said nothing to correct his idea, which was more disappointing that his own words. Make sure you acknowledge the sacrifices, struggles, and triumphs that woman make.
Remember that your daughter is an entirely unique human being, and her individual experiences will shape her decisions. Maybe she will be an entrepreneur and open her own business at age 21, perhaps her husband will stay home with the kids, or maybe she won’t ever have children. Make sure that your attitudes and personal choices allow her to grow up to be the woman she wants and needs to be. Be careful not to confuse the reasons why you made a certain choice with reasons why she should make a certain choice.