Raising girls — it’s complicated

If I was to use Facebook to announce my relationship with motherhood, my status would read ‘It’s complicated’.

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You see, if I’m completely honest, becoming a mother never featured as one of my life goals. In fact, I remember when I was a teenager, telling my own mother “I’m never having kids”. I said it after an argument where she had yelled, “You wait till you have daughters of your own.”

Then life happened. At 21 I found myself pregnant with my first child, a beautiful wee girl. It was then that the full weight of what it meant to bring another young woman into the world, really hit home. I was determined to raise the strongest, most confident, amazon-like-warrior-woman I could.

There I was, baby girl in my arms, dreaming up the many ways in which my warrior princess would take over the world. Not the best way to approach raising a child, but give me a break, I was young.

Suffice to say, I’m a very different mother today to who I was at 21. I’m not perfect, and when it comes to lessons, I’d say my girls have probably taught me more than I’ve taught them. But here are a couple of do’s and don’ts that I’m happy to share from my experience of raising girls.

My do’s and don’ts

Do

Teach them that their value is found in the content of their character. It’s not in their dress size, the labels they wear, or how ‘on fleek’ their eyebrows appear on any given day. Focus more their whole being rather than their outward appearance. Just in case you noticed, I did steal the first statement from Martin Luther King Jr. but it’s great advice, so you’re welcome.

Don’t

Complain about your body in front of them (I learnt this the hard way). Your daughters are likely to adopt and mimic the same behaviours and beliefs about self that you hold. If you’re lucky, you’ll have daughters like mine who actually called me out on my unhealthy self-talk. Legends, I know. I put it down to good mothering.

Do

Be honest and open when you’re going through hard stuff (age appropriate, of course). I educated my girls on depression when I became depressed. I also walked them through the steps I took to recover. Our girls don’t need to be cotton-wooled. In fact, it’s vital that they learn to recognise and acknowledge struggle, understand how and where to get help, and be prepared to do the work needed to overcome it.

Don’t

Downplay your own passions and dreams. It’s just as important for our daughters to see us loving ourselves as much as we love others. This includes giving yourself permission to pursue the things that stir your soul, not only as a mother, but as a human. Pursuing your dreams is the best way to encourage them to pursue theirs.

All the do’s and don’ts aside, the one thing that has been constant throughout my years as a mother, is just that I am a mother. Not a best friend, not a pal, a mother. I know my role. It is such an important role in the life of a woman. A role that’s ever shifting, and without an end. A role that I count as a privilege. I am a better human for having brought two beautiful women into the world. And I am eternally grateful for the wonderful, complicated journey it continues to be.

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Gina Tinning

Gina is all about authentic stories. She’s a passionate truth teller, empowering parents by sharing the real life lessons she’s learnt from raising three beautiful kids.

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