My daughters are growing up fast (too fast, if you ask my own mum). They are becoming more self-conscious and perceptive – a killer combination that will one day be an asset, but right now is a huge confidence hit. I am doing my best to prop them up through the confidence-busting years so they can one day rise to become confident, self-assured women who claim their place in the world.
It feels like there are still so many aspects of our society that are stacked against our daughters. Personal safety, pay rates, maternity support and the ‘boys will be boys‘ attitude are just some of the things we are fighting, that our girls will need to fiercely stand up against too. While the list of lessons I want to pass onto my daughters is long, here are some of the things I will be talking to them about in order to help them rise.
1. Financial independence matters
So much of life is uncertain, but if we can teach our daughters to value money and invest for their future, we are doing them a massive favour. There’s a lot of talk in the media about the uncertainty of the financial future of our own generation of women – due to the gender pay gap, reduced superannuation due to maternity leave and part time work, many of us are facing a shaky old age.
While I’m hopeful that these issues will be addressed for our own girls, I’m not betting on it. Instead, I’m going to teach my girls to invest in their future through an investment adviser like Stockspot (the one we use). The more financially independent our girls are, the wider their choices and opportunities in life.
2. No means no – no matter what
This one is also a total no-brainer. I want my daughters to know that they are not responsible for another person’s comfort, pleasure or happiness.
They can say no at any time, for any reason. They can leave at any time. Right now that means that they don’t have to play with kids they don’t want to play with.
Later… well, later it means exactly the same thing: you don’t have to play with people you don’t want to play with. Leave any situation that makes you feel uncomfortable – no need for an explanation, just go.
3. You don’t always have to be nice
My generation of girls was raised to “be nice”, and while I totally agree that it’s important to be kind, respectful and considerate, I draw the line at being a push-over.
I want my girls to always stand up for their values, their friends, and their wellbeing. It doesn’t matter if people don’t like you for it.
Our goal isn’t to be liked; our goal is to be true to ourselves. I want my girls to know that they deserve to be respected and heard.
4. Life is not a comparison
Despite evidence to the contrary (social media ‘likes’, I’m looking at you), I want them to know that life is not about what other people are doing or not doing. It’s about what you are doing, what you have done, what you will do next.
My favourite saying is, “you do you.” You do you and let other people do them. There’s room on the broom for all of us to have a go at anything we want in life.
More about the comparison trap: To be a good mum, raise yourself first
5. Being alone is okay
Being content to be alone is a gift I want my girls to have. I’ve always been very clear on that. When my kids came home when they were younger saying, “Nobody wanted to play with me today”, I would say, “Take a book in case it happens again tomorrow.”
There’s no shame in being by yourself. It happens to all of us at one point or another. The key is to be the best company for yourself that you possibly can be. That way, you will look forward to alone time when it comes, even carving out space every day to enjoy your own company.
Matter of fact, one day you may absolutely relish it.
6. Everyone is good at something
It might take some people longer to find what they are good at, but everyone is good at something. You don’t have to be smart or sporty – you can be kind, helpful, creative, funny, or wise. There are so many ways we can be useful and important in society.
Don’t give up on searching for your place, and don’t forget to seek out what others are good at too.
7. You are more than a selfie
Looking good is fun, but it’s not what really matters. This will be a hard one for girls to grasp as they grow up in the era of the selfie.
I find it hard to answer the questions my young daughters have about how people make money from posing in their swimmers on Instagram. I honestly don’t really know what to say about that, so instead I remind them that those girls are business people who work hard and treat others well.
“It’s not just about how they look,” I say. Even though I’m not entirely convinced of that myself.
8. It’s okay to feel sad
I think in some ways we’ve all forgotten that we don’t have to be ‘up’ all the time. I want my girls to understand that they can’t always be happy, and that’s okay.
There’s such an onslaught of positive affirmations and an entire industry devoted to ‘being happy’. The expectation is that we should all be hugely successful and smiley all the time, but old Eeyore was right when he said, “We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
9. Plan for the future
I am not a planner (except meal planning – always that), but I really hope my girls are the opposite. It makes so much sense to set some goals to work towards. I’ve dawdled and meandered my whole life and the future has often come crashing in unexpectedly.
I want my girls to realise that what we do today has consequences for the future. So, plan your path, work out how to get there and, for goodness sake, tuck some money away for a rainy day.
10. You are perfect just as you are
While these are my dreams for my girls as they grow, more than anything, I want them to know that they have always been perfect, just as they are.
The more they stand alone to make their own choices and decisions, the prouder I become. Their curiosity, quirkiness and charm is a constant delight.
No matter what, they will always be utterly loved by me.