Teaching Girls to Care for Themselves First
Do you have a daughter or young woman in your life who you are hoping will become a woman who is able to care for her own needs?
I do. I do, and one of the most difficult things I run up against in the world and in my own brain, is the tendency to expect her to take care of everyone else before herself. It’s a tough row to hoe, being a girl, having needs, and dealing with the expectations of the world and of those directly associated with you.
Girls are taught to care for everyone else’s needs before their own. This isn’t the same as teaching young men that they are supposed to financially support the entire world, because boys are taught that their needs come first. Generally. Girls are taught to ignore their own needs until we become so numb that it can be difficult to even identify what we want, what our needs are, and even what our feelings are.
I want my daughter to experience life differently. I want her to know her own, vast importance in the scheme of things. I want her to know that she cannot possibly take care of anyone else if she is not first cared for.
This often results in powerful blowback from our community. Spiteful comments when she takes an action that directly reinforces her own ability to tend to her needs. Judgmental comments from those who think that she should care for others first and not worry about her own needs, desires, or feelings. The directness of the attacks, the amazing blindness of the adults, mostly women, who make the charges is stunning in a world where adults are supposed to model good behavior.
These women have no idea how deeply ingrained their training is. They have no idea that they are suggesting that a child completely negate her own humanity in order to shelter, protect, or otherwise care for another person. This is not an across-the-board situation. Often adults see her actions as an admirable ability to take personal authority and the comments are positive.
Adults in our community have also done weird things to try and manipulate me into punishing my child for saying or doing things that either bother them or are hearsay and not real. These folks have no idea. No clue. There is no way they could know, living as they do, the kind of dialogue I have with my children. The idea that I will bring their issues to my daughter, ask her if their words are true, and that she will say what she has to say, confirm, deny, define whatever it is and *that I will believe her, unquestioningly* is beyond the scope of experience for rumor mongering adults who want to lean into teen drama and mama drama.
It is fascinating to watch. And it is frustrating, too.
All I know is this: My daughter will understand and experience that caring for herself is good and right. I will lean into this with her and for her, and for the rest of you wo/men reading this, and for your daughters. Because we have to shift our world. *We* have to shift it through our intentions, actions and thoughts.
This isn’t about ‘self-care’, it is about consent, personal authority and the idea that it is necessary for women to be firm, clear and decisive in their decisions.