When our first born arrived we didn’t know if it would be a girl or a boy. After nine months of pondering between boy or girl I certainly wondered how to go about raising a girl knowing my family is male dominated, having two younger brothers (lord knows how my Mum coped). The pull towards having a boy was stronger, it felt familiar and the traditional Indian in me wanted a son to depend on. That right there showed the first glint of the incredibly male-dominated world we live in.
I did prepare for a girl by reminding myself it would be great, my closest friends are girls who and we lean on each other hugely in times of need where brothers simply didn’t cut it. Not to mention the thought of having a daughter to rely on her Dad akin to “Father of the Bride” seemed like a wonderful thing.
(If you’re reading this monkey do not frown because I was so incredibly wrong!)
As our daughter arrived into this world in that split second the latter became overwhelmingly true. Sadly at this point Mum haemorrhaged and it all became terribly scary especially when they rushed her tearfully into an OR. Whilst they worked furiously on Mum I was left clinging on to our daughter and trying to instill calm. The order of things would’ve been to stay with Mum for lots of skin-to-skin instead she got me. I looked at her and told her over and over “not to worry, Daddy’s got you”. In that hour that moment I had been digested the the responsibility I had on guiding my daughter into a world dominated by man.
What type of Man I was before
I never considered myself a total “lad” and was never great with the ladies however was friend-zoned an awful lot. Whilst I had been sexist and demeaned girls plenty of times (as boys do with locker-room talk if you get my drift), it wasn’t always second nature as my mum pulled us up and got us through very hard times working 20 hours a day so understood just how strong women are. That didn’t stop me consuming FHM, Maxim, Loaded to name but a few lad mags in an effort to be a cool guy.
Nothing gives you a Tango slap across the face after years of enjoying male supremacy you are suddenly blessed with a daughter. All of a sudden you realise as just how small and unfair you’ve been to daughters around the world. I don’t for a minute blame or make excuses that it was society that made me this way. Somewhere there was a disconnect where I couldn’t relate all the strong women in my life against the objectified view of women that exists in the “maniverse”.
Back on point as the epiphany has hit and I was liberated, just how did it feel knowing I had a daughter? It was bloody frightening… It was my responsibility to raise a strong empowered girl that was confident and competent to break glass ceilings.
Work with her Character
From the off our daughter was born strong-willed, purposeful and fiercely independent. Whilst these characteristics make it hard at times to raise her, they are not a bad mix knowing what is out in-front of her. As a Dad I’ve tried to use the natural characteristics to both empower and shape her to get the most out of herself. I physically and mentally challenge her to use her strength to push past the “can’t” to the “done it”.
Unleash the Inner-Girl
Girls are stereotyped and influences towards girly things such as dolls and the colour pink. My Wife says it’s the natural inclination but when I look at the world from what’s on TV to on the shelves in ASDA that is not the case for me. Girls are shaped to be girls and that’s okay as a Dad I try to find the girl in me (it’s not that hard)
Our daughter loves pink, cuddly toys, baby dolls and cooking. She knows Dad isn’t a huge fan of everything being pink (I do have a pink tie and shirt), I don’t mind cuddly toys so long as they’re monkeys or dinosaurs (Spider Monkey is my favorite), I can work a baby doll and we can look after them together including nappy changes and lastly we both know I’m a crap cook. So after embracing all these things and usually being dictated to by this strong-willed girl just what does she get from me?
Supplement with Man Things
We love potty humour (farting is our favourite past time), despite being nervous on climbing frames and going hugely fast on swings we get through it together with a persuasion and hand-holding, we run a lot and on occasion skip down roads and play hopscotch together. We love watching Star Wars and playing with my Lego Star Destroyer. When we do watch Sport, TV or a film it’s to demonstrate the character can be a strong woman (currently Moana or She-Raa) else we quietly steer away. Quick rant some might argue that Peppa Pig is a strong willed character but that show is tripe and teaches nothing, most of kids TV is designed to sell toys and not teach our children anything about being and doing good. We learn about hero’s of both sexes who stay on the side of right and push themselves beyond boundaries that limit them.
Don’t Force Manliness
I want my daughter to be herself. Where she is not keen on activities I might initially promote such as Football, Rugby, Taekwondo or Thundercats it’s all good. Where she prefers ballet, Princess Sofia and a Pink Lego no problem. It’s my job to bring the best of her into each activity. Where the word “can’t” comes up I absolutely force her to “can do” through love, encouragement and sometimes an outright challenge to prove me wrong.
We find the common ground and take it from there but there is nothing I can do that she can’t and there is nothing she can do that I can’t. That goes for all house chores, DIY, making Pizza bases and riding scooters (even if hers is a Peppa Bloody Pig one).
What type of Man I am now
I am not completely free of laddish mysogony however every day I get better. I gently remind anyone who forgets that women are Spartan warriors and if they respect their mothers or sisters show the same all around.
I notice the inequality that exists in the world within my own workplace, community and family. I see where to me womenhood is wrongly championed and promoted through the Kardashians for example or Little Mix (who promised to never live to the sexist portrayal) and daily onslaught of feminine abuse by the Daily Mail. This goes both ways as a Dad I’m totally overruled as a parent many times, someday I may as well not be in the same room as Mum.
I have learnt to appreciate the battles that the women around me go through and instead look to support them and never take for granted what the world expects of them.
To the Dads and Mums raising daughters it would be good to hear your views and advice on raising strong empowered women. Please leave your comments good or bad on my posts!