I always hoped I’d have a little girl, so being Willow’s mum really is a dream come true. I had her about a year ago, and I love being her mother. Watching my daughter’s personality develop with each passing day is such a delight and privilege. But even though she’s only a baby, I already feel the gravity of my role. As her mum, I’m her first and strongest role model. And believe me, I’m a many-flawed person
I have so many hopes and dreams for my daughter. I want her to grow up to follow her heart, to believe in herself, to be strong, courageous, honest and caring. I am pretty proud of the woman I’ve become, but there are definitely things I don’t want to pass down to my daughter, self-doubt being at the top of the list. I can teach her by example that life is a gift. I can show her gratitude, humility and strength. But I also have the power to mess that up with a few simple words.
As adults, we have “moments” — but it’s important to remember the words we say in front of our children will affect them long after that moment is over. My own mum did a great job of raising me, but I’m sure she regrets some of the things she’s said when I was listening. I have said things, too, that I’d never want my little girl to hear. With all this in mind, here are the things I’m vowing to never say in front of my daughter.
1. “I look fat.” Or “gross,” “ugly” and so on. I’ve also been known to skip the “look” portion of the sentence and go right for, “I’m fat.” This is not okay. I don’t want my daughter to fixate on her appearance, and certainly not to criticise it.
2. Unkind words about (or to) her father. Thankfully, we are married and raising her together. But if that were to ever change, or if we just had a big argument, I want to be careful not to be unkind to him in front of her. She needs to see her parents respecting each other.
3. Anything about financial struggles. I learned this one from my dad; he was strict about keeping any money woes from us as kids. Children don’t need to worry as the economy goes up and down or as jobs come and go. As her parent, I want to be my daughter’s buffer from adult matters that will only scare her.
4. Nasty things about another woman. Sure, I can think it. But I already make it a point not to talk smack about other people, especially other woman, in front of my daughter. I want her to learn to seek and celebrate the good in people, not to fixate on their perceived flaws.
5. “I can’t do that.” The last thing my daughter needs to see out of her mum is a defeatist attitude. I have a tendency to leave certain chores or projects for my husband, but I need to be strategic about letting her know that we each share a portion of the housework, not that Mummy is incapable or weak. (I’m thinking specifically of emptying the rubbish bin and doing home repairs here, but the options are limitless…)
6. “I’m such an idiot.” This is going to be a toughie. I really am not an idiot; in fact, I consider myself to be rather smart. But whenever I mess something up, forget someone’s name, or otherwise drop the ball in life, my confidence falters and I revert to this name-calling defence mechanism that has got to stop.
7. “Men are better at…” This is just another way of saying #5, but even more directly. And yes, I’ve done it.
8. A generalisation about another race, religion or group of people. Full stop. There are no exceptions to this one. I don’t do it anyway, but I’m just throwing it out there.
9. “That’s for boys.” I so appreciate that my own parents made a point of putting both of their boys in purple, having us all play with dolls and blocks together, and letting me run around topless with them until I had boobs.
10. “That’s for girls.” Life, fun, toys, clothes, music, cars…none of it is just for one sex and not the other. It’s all for all of us, and I need her to know she’s welcome to carve out her gender identity in a way that feels right to her.
11. “I shouldn’t eat that.” My own war against food has haunted me for far too long. I know it started when I watched my own mum weighing her portions on a small kitchen scale, and I need to break the cycle for my own girl. Her diet will be rich in hearty vegetables, juicy fruits, lean proteins and healthy fats, but treats are fun and important, too.
12. “I can’t wear that.” Sort of a spin-off of #11. Luckily, despite my long-standing issues with my body, I’ve never really let it deter my fashion choices. I want my girl to know that I feel great in everything I wear; and if I don’t buy something it’s because I don’t like it, not because I “can’t” wear it.
13. Trash-talk about celebrities. They’re people, too. And when it comes to cruelty, it doesn’t matter if the subject can hear your words or not; it’s about using them in the first place.
14. “That’s a terrible picture of me.” Mama definitely knows how to take a bad picture, but the lips will have to be sealed on this oft-used phrase in front of my girl.
15. A derogatory word that’s used toward women, even in jest. I’ll always be tempted to jokingly address my girlfriends with the b-word, just for fun, but I really shouldn’t do that in front of my daughter.
16. A list, or even a mention, of my body’s “problem areas.” The first time I noticed one, I was 4-years-old. We were driving home from my dance recital and I was in a leotard. I caught sight in the mirror of the small piece of skin that peeked out under my armpit and was disgusted. We might think our daughters aren’t listening to us yet, but they are.
17. Anything about my breasts, which are super small. Or hers, which might not be.
18. A comment about another woman’s clothing that makes an assumption about her character. Or any conversation about fashion that is anything less than empowering. I am all about celebrating our bodies and showing off whatever we have. To tack onto this one, she’ll be allowed to wear what she wants and what makes her feel good.
19. A statement that ends in a question mark. Ooh, this one’s tough. When I’m not feeling confident, I tend to upswing my sentences to allow room for someone else to swoop in and tell my I’m wrong. Not good, Mama. Not good at all.
20. The incessant “I’m sorry.” You know, the unnecessary one that slips in multiple times a week during conversations with colleagues, family members and strangers. The one that really means, “excuse me,” “thank you” and so on.
21. “You got so dirty today…” or any complaints about stains on her clothes. Girls have a right to get dirty. Stain fighters exist for a reason. Having and taking good care of beautiful things is a separate conversation entirely; when it comes to daily life, I want her to enjoy living in her clothes. And sometimes that means mud, grass and chocolate stains.
22. “Life isn’t fair.” I’ve always hated this one. It’s not inaccurate, per se, it’s just so darn negative. Sure, life isn’t “fair,” but it’s so beautiful. Furthermore, I don’t want my daughter thinking she isn’t entitled to feelings of disappointment or sadness when she has an expectation and it goes unmet. That’s a part of life, sure, but it’s something to be experienced and explored, not shut down with these pithy words.
23. Criticism of another person’s parenting. The best way to teach my daughter to live and let her peers live is by example. What happens in our house is our business, and what happens elsewhere is up to the people who live there.
24. Swearing. Okay, just kidding. That’ll be nearly impossible. But maybe now that I’ve written it down, I’ll be inspired to really, really try!
More tips for raising strong girls:
- 15 Lessons I Want to Teach My Daughter About Having Girlfriends
- 25 Powerful & Inspiring Quotes to Share with Your Daughter
- 15 Books Every Girl Should Read by Age 5