Dear Mom Who is Raising a Daughter,
Let’s talk a minute about what it’s like to be a mom — the hopes, the dreams, the sacrifices both big and small, the everyday requirements of daily life that stretch us and grow us and sometimes nearly defeat us. Then those shining moments of clarity and joy when you feel that your heart could nearly burst because this child — this miracle of life — calls you “Mom.” You know what I’m talking about, right?
Add to this tumble of emotions the fact that your child is a girl. She may look just like you. She may look nothing like you. But there are certain expectations that accompany being a mom of daughters because we ourselves were once little girls, then teen girls, then young women, and we know what it’s like. We know.
We look at our daughters and we remember. Good, bad, indifferent — we remember.
- What it was like to want to “fit in” and be a popular girl.
- What it was like to hate the way we looked — we were too thin, too chubby, too tall, too short, our hair too straight or too curly, our clothes all wrong.
- What it was like to want others to notice us, especially boys.
- What it was like to just want to be left alone to think and cry for reasons we couldn’t even explain.
- What it was like to spend a Saturday driving around with our friends, listening to the car radio and loudly singing along to our favorite songs.
- What it was like to run and jump and roll down a hill just for fun before anyone told us that girls aren’t supposed to get dirty or play rough.
- What it was like to spend hours daydreaming just because the future was scary and wonderful and free all at the same time.
Knowing all of these things firsthand can give us great insight and empathy when raising our daughters.
Unfortunately that knowledge can also cause conflict.
We want to spare our daughters from making the same mistakes we did. There are things we would have done differently. We’d make different choices. If only we had the chance . . .
Don’t let those feelings spoil your relationship with your daughter. She is her own person. She has a right to her own decisions. We can guide, we can advise, we can sympathize and offer a shoulder to cry on. We cannot live her life for her. We cannot live our lives over again vicariously through her.
God forbid we become the mothers who view their daughters as competition. I’ve had friends with mothers like that and it never ended well. Let us want better for our daughters than we had in life, so that each generation gains a measure of peace and joy even greater than the one before.
We must let go, and the letting go is hard.
I’m only beginning to know just how hard it is as my oldest daughter turns 14 next month. Where has the time gone? I remember the day she was born like it was yesterday. The pain and the joy swirling together like the churning whitewater of an enormous waterfall. I was a mom at last!
On the day she was born, I knew I had just received the greatest gift of my life. What I didn’t fully realize then was that I was raising my future best friend.
All the years of infertility and miscarriages previous to that moment had left me with imaginary daughters in my mind — the kind who wore frilly dresses and bows in their hair and had neat and tidy tea parties every day. Yes, there is some of that with my three daughters today, but so much more. My imaginary daughters were one-dimensional caricatures, but those have been happily replaced by my real daughters, who are so very vibrant and multi-layered in their unique personalities. All the years I was longing to be a mom, I didn’t quite understand that my future children would have their own minds and hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes. Just like a real marriage is not always the roses and romance of your imagination, motherhood has its own story to tell apart from the fairy tales you might have expected.
So tell your story. And let your daughter tell hers so that your grandchildren will one day do the same. This is how we embrace our destiny and leave a legacy.
What advice and encouragement would you share with other moms of daughters?
You might also enjoy my 5-day series on raising daughters:
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