1) ‘Such a Girl’
My daughter is almost 5, she is the COO of our house, and she loves pink. I am not going to allow anyone to shame her for that. She lives her life without apology or explanation. She loves the princess clothes but thinks Barbie is too boring. She holds these and other views without restraint, and that should never change.
- When she checks herself out in the mirror, it’s not because she is “such a girl”. It’s a natural human reaction.
- When she prefers to buy clothes with frills and laces, it’s because that is what she likes, not because she is “such a girl”
- When she helps me cook, it’s because we involve her in every chore around the house. It’s not because she is a girl.
- When she says she loves little babies, it’s because she thinks they are cute and cuddly, not because she has “maternal instincts”. Did I mention she is only 5?
- Conversely, if she climbs up a tree she is not being ‘more like a boy’.
Every time we verbalize a stereotype, we are labelling her unfairly, and also doing a huge disservice to the group of boys and girls out there who don’t ‘confirm’. When a boy wants to paint his nails or wear ear-studs, it’s his choice. He has a right to choose his own labels. Every child has a right to decide who they are, on their own terms.
2) ‘Mommy guilt’
SAHM guilt, WHOM guilt, guilt because you nurse in public, guilt because you don’t nurse at all, guilt because you don’t “wear” your children, guilt because you yelled too much or too little, where does this end? The only way we can erase the significance of this phrase is to stop using it. My recommendation: Stop justifying yourself and your parenting, stop reading the “7 ways to conquer mommy guilt” lists, stop telling yourself that your guilt is innate and inevitable. Acknowledge the guilt and then refuse to let it become a part of who you are as an individual or as a parent. Parenting is difficult enough, it’s time we stopped making it so much harder on ourselves.
I am going to go ahead and remove the daddy guilt from this conversation. Yes dad’s feel guilt too – but they do it pretty much on their own. They are not subject to judgment and guilt from external environments to the extent moms are. A SAH dad has a little bit more slack because he is allegedly doing something noble, something beyond his realm of capabilities. Besides being inherently unfair to the SAH moms, I think it’s also quite insulting to the dad when the message is “You are such a moron, I never expected you to be this good at parenting, Congratulations!”
3) ‘Have it all’
This is one phrase that has created the maximum amount of stress in my life. More than anything else. I have spent 5 years trying to be the one who “has it all”, and always felt that I have failed miserably. I have come to the conclusion that it’s the biggest scam in parenting history. What does that even mean “have it all”? Does it indicate some sort of magical balance that allows me to be a 100% great at parenting, 100% great at work, 100% great at being a wife? And if I make a mistake in any of those areas, have I set the entire feminist movement back by 200 years?
Why doesn’t anyone ask my husband if he has it all? He seems to be doing everything I do – parenting, work, chores, husband-ly things (whatever those entail!).
I don’t think anyone who is a parent ever has it all. We all make sacrifices and cut corners in one area to make it work in another. Every single day is a juggling act. If you have kept the balls up in the air for more than 5 minutes in a day, I’d say you have pretty much nailed the have-it-all concept.
4) ‘Helicopter parenting’
It’s a much maligned phrase, and now no one wants to be caught dead with that label. I have a new and radical idea – STOP LABELLING PARENTS. There are no helicopter parents or tiger moms or free range kids. Let the parents do their job and stop calling it names. We all hover to varying degrees. We all care about our children’s homework being done, about their college applications, their futures, and their daily minutiae. And we are all (mostly) doing just fine.
Maybe the studies are all true – maybe you will stunt their emotional growth by helping them finish a puzzle. Maybe they will never develop the ability to make decisions because you let them drink from a Sippy cup till age 7. Who knows? One way or another, your kids will grow up and blame you for everything that is wrong in their adult life. So hover away!
5) ‘Man up’
Right. Because women and girls don’t have the ability to be honest, truthful or accountable.
(I know I snuck in a “non-parenting” type phrase, but it’s the kind of thing I watch out for when I am talking to my daughter!)
P.S: A word that I do NOT think is outdated: ‘Bossy’.
You can make a ton of effort to ban this word, but it will always rear its ugly head in your child’s life. You cannot make it go away, but how your kids react to the word is all up to you. Little girls are told they are being bossy but little boys hear the word “leader” more often. Let’s change it then. If you have a daughter who is an assertive no-nonsense type, keep telling her she is bossy and that it’s a good thing. Teach your little girl to look beyond labels and names and focus on standing up for herself. Teach her to reject the negativity that comes with it and own the word. This is who she is – a strong, kick-ass, little girl who knows what she is doing!