8 lessons I won’t be teaching my daughter

Mothers of daughters have a tough job, and a much tougher responsibility. As a feminist myself, I will of course raise my daughter the same way, meaning I will not subscribe to some of the more traditional parenting ideologies and styles.

I want my daughter to be fearless and strong, and emotional and kind, all at the same time. I want her to grow up knowing she deserves the world and more, especially now where we have a number of people (particularly in the political spotlight… AHEM… no names…) who think it is still acceptable to treat women like they are a lesser species. My daughter will NEVER be made to feel like this.

So, here are 8 lessons I won’t be teaching my daughter, in the hope that she grows up to be that fearless princess dinosaur that I already know she is on the inside.

1. Children should be seen and not heard

This is outdated and completely limits children’s imagination. I want Olivia to be comfortable in her own home, and everywhere else, to speak her mind and to be sociable. I will obviously still be teaching her respect for others and patience (waiting her turn when someone else is talking), but that doesn’t need to go hand in hand with mandatory silence.

2. Don’t get your clothes dirty

How else do you measure a child’s enjoyment if not by the amount of muck they manage to get on themselves in a day? My daughter WILL play outside and she absolutely WILL NOT be afraid of mud.

3. That’s a boy’s toy/not for girls to play with

Ugh, gender stereotyping. If she wants to play with a football, she can. If she wants to wear a princess dress while playing football, she can. If she wants to dress up as a dinosaur and do ballet, she can. The point is, again this is another silly social construct that limits our children’s imaginations. I don’t ever want her to feel that she can’t do something because she’s a girl, and that starts even at the youngest age with telling them they can’t have certain toys, games or clothes!

4. Don’t be bossy

Firstly, it’s not “being bossy”, it’s leadership skills. I am HATE the word bossy and I will never use it to describe my daughter. She is strong-minded, strong-willed and incredibly confident and independent. She is a handful at times. She likes being in charge and having people follow her lead. She is not bossy. A boy is never described as bossy, because it’s somehow a demeaning word, and I don’t want to suppress all of those amazing qualities Olivia has into that one word.

5. Be more lady-like

My daughter is funny and gross at times, but I don’t care. She’s a kid. I’ll teach her to be polite, kind and courteous, but not to be more lady-like. Plus, boys should be showing those qualities too!

6. Ladies first

I hate this. It makes me cringe. I’m all for holding doors open for people, but I have a particular disdain for someone holding it open and saying “ladies first” as I walk through. JUST WHY? Why and how did that even become a thing?

7. Respect your elders

Nope. Respect is earned. Not everyone deserves your respect purely because they were born before you. As above, I’ll teach my daughter to be polite, and respectful, but not that a certain class of people can demand respect from her. It’s hers to give!

8. You have to hug/kiss [insert relative here] hello/goodbye

Her body, her rules. I respect her autonomy. I never force her to give hugs or kisses if she doesn’t want to. She is an affectionate little soul and if she wants to show affection she will. If not, I don’t really care who it upsets. Everyone needs to respect that SHE decides whether she wants to hug/kiss them.

What other parenting rules are you breaking? What will/won’t you teach your children and why?

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(MEN)tal Health.

Mate, you just need to man up!

As I am sure most of you know, mental illness will affect 1 in 4 of us in our life times… That is a pretty scary statistic. What is even more scary? Women are twice as likely to receive help for mental health issues and illnesses than men… (and we wonder why suicide is STILL the biggest killer of men under the age of 35!?) Put it this way – I have around 1000 friends on my Facebook profile, from all over the world. I’d say a good 60% of them are male; taking that into account, around 150+ of them will experience mental health issues in their life times. That is a HUGE amount of people. Devastatingly, more than 1/3 of these lovely guys could end their lives, due to inadequate mental health treatment and the mental illnesses they experience.

SOME IMPORTANT FACTS TO REMEMBER –

  • As I was saying, mental illnesses are very common and can have an impact on anyones lives regardless of gender, physical health, race, sexuality, etc.
  • EVERYONE has mental health, yes absolutely everyone.
  • Mental health, like physical health is a spectrum from ‘good’ to ‘poor’.
  • Just because many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances it doesn’t mean females are the only sufferers. It may seem obvious, but too many people forget that WE ALL HAVE HORMONES.
  • Mental health is just as important as physical health and go hand in hand, as part of a healthy life style.

There are many misconceptions around men having mental health illnesses. As a campaigner against mental health stigma, some of these are so preposterous that they literally make my skin crawl – others I understand are just down to pure naivety.

  • If a fella has a mental illness they are ‘weak’ for showing their emotions and having such an illness makes you ‘less of a man’…

Most of the brave male friends and acquaintances I have spoken to have fear of facing stigma from this disgusting misconception. Stigma is DEFINITELY shrinking, but frustratingly, too large of a proportion of society seem to brand any man who is open about their feelings and mental health as a ‘pussy’ or ‘being weak’. Let me be completely clear here, I know I am not the only one to think that a man who can talk about his feelings and be a little more sensitive, appears so much more manly than a guy who keeps it all to himself. This misconception is likely to come from your buddy, maybe even a male relative, who means the best, BUT constantly makes you regret emotionally confiding in them by telling you to ‘man up’, ‘get a grip’ or tell you that ‘life isn’t that bad’ or asking ‘what do you have to be upset about?’.

  • Only Women self-harm and have eating disorders…

Self-harming exists in all gender identities. Male self-harm is at an all time high and is almost at a 50/50 split with females. Although eating disorders statistically affect more females than males, they are also across the board and can impact anyone, at any time. No one chooses to have these illnesses and no one takes the decision to harm themselves lightly, whether it be substance or drug abuse, cutting, pinching, hair pulling or putting yourself in risky and triggering situations. It’s a release and in NO WAY is a “cry for attention”.

  • Men only face mental health issues through drug and alcohol abuse…

Statistically, men are only slightly more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, although there is a link between this and mental health issues, it is by no means the only cause. So many mental illnesses are caused by hormonal imbalances in the brain, some are hereditary, others are caused by triggering life events such as abuse, failure, grief, change, hardships, social standings and economic backgrounds can all have a negative impact on your mental health.

  • Talk therapy? Sounds like circle time to me…

Going to therapy is possibly one of the most daring things anyone can do in attempt to turn their mental state around, laying yourself emotionally bare to someone you’ve never talk to if you had more of a choice is hardly appealing to anyone. There are many types of therapy, but those that work best, generally are those that allow someone to talk through what they’re experiencing to make sense of it in their own heads. Being open doesn’t make you weak.

  • Suicide is an easy way out…

No one contemplating suicide takes that decision lightly. Having tried myself, I can 100% vouch for that. Many men who suffer with mental illness experience extreme amounts of guilt, feeling that because they are feeling the they way that are, that they’re unworthy and a disappointment to their friends and family. That, because they can’t face the day and get into work, that everyone would be better without them? Not being able to accomplish their dreams, so they’re a write off? OBVIOUSLY, this is never the case but when you’re in the wrong mindset, that’s exactly how it feels. Suicide may stop things getting any worse- but it brutally stops the chance of things ever getting any better.

  • Mental health leave is for slackers and is a complete cop out…

I think this is sooooo ridiculous! Say, you’ve broken your ribs, you’re in too much pain to get out of bed so you’ve had to call in sick? What if you’re so low that moving makes you vomit and the idea of getting out of bed brings you to tears? What if all you see is emptiness and you know you need help? Why not call in sick then? It’s just as painful and crippling. Physical illness is no more important that mental illness.

  • Medications are for people who can’t sort their own issues out…

This irritates me endlessly, so i’ll keep it sort and simple- if you’re diabetic and you need medications to get by and live, what is wrong with taking medications to help with mental illnesses?? I may just be one woman, but I know a lot about mental health stigma and have a lot of experience in this field. It may not count for much but you’re never alone and PLEASE never be afraid to speak out. Getting help is more difficult than anything you may ever experience, but you’re not the first and you won’t be the last. A problem shared is often a problem halved and you should never worry about being a burden to anyone who cares about you. Recovery is always possible. You can never be replaced.

At the end of the day, everyone is entitled to emotions. Always be respectful; everyone is going through their own battles, so try not to be a dickhead. If you guys can take ANYTHING from this, let it be to talk. You have no idea how just a text can turn someone’s day around.

If you’re worried about a friend, let them know you’re there- take them out for a pint, go play cards, darts, go to a gig or for a coffee. All of these things are so simple, there is really no excuse to leave anyone out of contact if they mean something to you.

Useful UK links…

http://www.rethink.org
http://www.samaritans.org
http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

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Is it okay to dress my daughter up as a princess?

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I am a Feminist.

Pure and simple. Always have been and always will be. From as long as I had the ability to understand what the hell that was, I knew I was one.

For those of you who are still unsure on what being a feminist actually is, it is nothing more complex than this:

I BELIEVE MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL.

Yes, there are numerous variations of feminism – there are different sub-categories of feminism which have been adapted to suit the different sub-categories of women that exist (i.e. black feminism for black women as an even further marginalised group who have their own specific cultural needs). BUT the basic principle across all feminism is that women are no less than men, and should not be treated as less than men.

I have obviously adapted MY version of feminism for me – there are certain ideas that I subscribe to, such as being against gender stereotyping, and there are ideas that I don’t subscribe to, such as the radical feminists’ view that men are scum (though there are many men, and probably as many women, who are scum, but it’s not a gender thing).

Gender stereotyping, for those of you that don’t know or think I’m a bit “PC gone mad”, is basically that boys and girls from BIRTH should not be told or encouraged to act a certain way, dress a certain way or play with certain toys because of the genitals that are between their legs. Why is that important to me? Because somehow, even as a child, being a girl is still seen as being less.

Think about it… I bet you’ve all heard these phrases tons of times that normalise certain behaviours depending on whether it’s a boy or a girl that is the one behaving that way:

  • “Boys will be boys” – often used as an excuse for them being little shits, reinforcing the idea that boys and men are, characteristically because of their genitals, little shits.
  • “Man up”/”Grow some balls” etc. – implying that men are stronger emotionally. On a side note, this one is actually quite damaging for men’s mental health – no wonder suicide is the biggest killer of young men when from SUCH A YOUNG AGE we tell them that because they are men, they are not allowed to display feelings.
  • “She’s bossy” – when have you ever called a man bossy? Trick question, you don’t – a man is assertive, not bossy. Same behaviour, completely different word association, tone and meaning based on what bits are between their legs.
  • “She’s a bit of a tomboy” – god forbid a girl “acts like a boy”… Getting messy, being boisterous, loud, active, loving the outdoors – these are all qualities we associate with boys, and if a girl exhibits them, she’s not a girl anymore, she’s gained this new “tomboy” identity, whatever the hell that is.

So why does this bother me so much?

Well, it always has – I hated being called a tomboy when I was little. I was a girl, who liked playing football. When I found out I was having a girl, I didn’t immediately go and start buying tons and tons of pink stuff. Yes, I bought some, if I liked it, but ultimately I tried to find bright or neutral coloured clothes, and I found one particular range of unisex clothing I absolutely adore. Little Bird by Jools, stocked by Mothercare, if you’re interested.

I point blank refused to buy Olivia a baby and a pram, until one day at baby group she toddled over to find one on her own and enjoyed playing with them, so we got her one for home. I did not want to have that as an option for her to play with at home before she’d even shown an interest with it simply because she’s a girl. Similarly, I refuse to buy her toy hoovers, irons, kitchens etc., because these are ALL targeted at girls! Come on people, we are a progressive society, why should my daughter be restricted to playing with these toys which basically just reinforce the idea that only girls can do the cooking or the cleaning? IT’S 2019 FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, PUT SOME BOYS ON THE BOXES AND USE LESS PINK. Also I want her to have higher aspirations in life than spending all day doing the bleeding ironing.

Equally, if I’d had a boy, I wouldn’t have stocked my house full of action men. If he’d wanted a toy baby and pram, I’d have got him one the same as I did for Olivia. If he’d wanted a football for the garden, I’d have got him one the same as I did for Olivia.

So why oh why have I bought my daughter so many princess dresses, you ask? (SERIOUSLY she has like 20 of them!)

Well, because she wants them. At the age of 2 going on 12, she has decided that she LOVES dressing up, in particular, dressing up as a princess from any and all of her favourite Disney movies. She can be Snow White, Rapunzel, Belle, Elsa, Anna, Cinderella, Merida… Whoever she wants to be!

You may have seen Kiera Knightley talking about how she doesn’t want her daughter watching certain princess movies, and I’m minded to agree. I hate her watching Snow White (mostly because it’s boring, not gonna lie), but also, she watches Mulan and Brave and Tangled as much as she watches the others, and those are hella FEMINIST (way to go, Disney!)

The point is – I will never teach her to aspire to marry a prince, but by dressing up as whoever she wants to be, whoever her idols are at this phase in her life, I’m teaching her that she can be whatever she wants to be.

She loves dinosaurs equally as much as she loves princesses. Her favourite book is about a penguin who learns to swim by taking a brave leap of faith into a huge, scary ocean. Her second favourite book is about a witch and wizard becoming a dragon and a dinosaur and having a battle of who can have the best costume to a fancy dress party. Why would I stifle that imagination?

So, yes, I’m a feminist, and my daughter will grow up a feminist, knowing she can be whatever she wants to be, whether that’s a princess, a dinosaur, the Prime Minister, or a nurse.

What are your views on gender stereotyping? Do you try to actively avoid it in your home as well?

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