by Judy M McCutcheon MBA
A woman called me bitch the other day over a comment I made, and I was really amused by it. I was thinking, well she’s not my friend so who gave her the privilege to call me that, so since she was not my friend, I asked her to call me Ms Bitch.
I’m a little bit peeved though, not by the name calling, but by the example, we as mothers set, for our daughters. Times have changed drastically from when I was a little girl growing up, I knew how to climb a tree, pitch marbles and generally do all the stuff my brothers did. Home was a safe place to be, where your mum was your rock and saviour, even though she was the one that disciplined the most. She didn’t try to compete with you, she didn’t try to dress the way you do, she didn’t try to be friends with your friends and she sure as heck didn’t cuss you out to make you feel bad about yourself. If she did give you a tongue lashing, it was to help put you on the straight and narrow. These are new times and they bring new and different attitudes.
There’s a 1968 advert about women which says, ‘we’ve come a long way baby,’ and indeed in that context we have, we can vote, we can work and pay our own way — even though we are still severely short changed when it comes to being paid fairly. There are more and more women running for public office, although in some Caribbean Islands when you look at the slate of people running for political office you would be hard pressed to find a woman. There are a significant number of women who are running C-Suites and a greater portion who are independently wealthy. The point here is that we have come a long way, but we still have quite a way to go. And as mothers, we have a substantial role to play in paving the way for the continued upward movement of women by ensuring our daughters believe in their full potential. Marketing campaigns are heavily skewed towards getting our girls to think that their role model is a Disney princess. I abhor beauty pageants, they do nothing but objectify our girls and send the message that they should not be confident, smart, or strong, but that they should have the ‘mirror mirror on the wall syndrome — who is the fairest of them all.’ Our daughters are being sexualised from the toddler stage with all these tiny tots beauty pageants, remember that show — Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Our girls are being viewed as sexual objects and are valued more for their looks rather than their talents and abilities. Why do mothers allow their daughters to go through these harrowing experiences?
As I was thinking about it, a thought came to mind ‘Do some mothers secretly despise their daughters?’ Could they be secretly jealous of her youthfulness, her beauty, her confidence? Is it that they think their daughter is more emotionally mature, kinder, gentler, more loving? There are some women who think that having a child has prevented them from moving ahead in life, so they unleash their anger and pent up frustration on the child. But remember that little girl didn’t ask to be here. So, when we constantly berate and belittle our daughters, we are breaking their spirits, we’re telling them that they are no good and that they will never amount to anything. As women, we are bombarded by so many negative messages from friends, family and society, they pour cold water on our dreams, and sometimes we can shake them and move on. But dusting yourself off from negativity is especially hard to do when it’s your mum raining on your parade. My daughters told me that what they needed most from me is love, support, understanding and discipline — I am supposed to be their biggest cheerleader. I spur them on every step of the way, I tell them that I believe in them and their abilities, I tell them that they can be and do anything they set their minds and hearts to. Your role is not to break them down and destroy their self-esteem and self-image, but to build them up and to ensure that they are strong, independent and resilient. You are to be that positive motivating force in their lives.
Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. No, we are not. We are courageous, we are confident, we are intelligent, we are loving, we are emotional, we are relational, we are supportive, we are funny, we are patient, we are kind hearted — yes daughters of the world, you are all that and then some. Mothers, the constant labelling, judging and comparing of your daughters to each other or their peers, destroy their self-esteem. Your constant badgering makes them think that they are crazy or that they are somehow cognitively deficient, but more than ever, it sends the signal that they are weak and inferior. When we fail to give them support and guidance, it leads them to make incorrect decisions, including financial decisions that could be detrimental. Mothers, your daughters want nothing more than your approval, support, love and understanding, therefore, do all you can to support her choices, don’t second guess her decisions, constantly telling her she’s wrong. Encourage her always, show her that you are human by admitting to her when you are wrong, don’t compete with her, and know that there are boundaries as it relates to her personal space. No matter what you have been through or how rocky your relationship, it’s important that you keep loving and supporting her. It’s imperative that she sees herself as worthy and for her to know that she is more than enough.
Judy McCutcheon is a partner in the firm Go Blue Inc, a Human Development Company. www.goblueinc.net