We discussed this in hushed tones out of earshot of our children. How do we, as women, raise our daughters to respect who they are, their own time and talents, and choose life partners that value their contributions to the world as much as their own?
We are (or in my case, was) married to men who see their own time as more valuable than ours. Even though we are both educated, intelligent, accomplished women, women who have been socialized to believe we can work and contribute in meaningful ways and should, we are attached to men who subtly believe their own lives are more important than ours. If you talked to these men, you would not see this attitude. They don’t see it themselves. They will tell you they are married to accomplished, educated women, smart women, ambitious women. They say, “honey, do those things you dream of,” out loud. But in a whisper only the subconscious can hear, they say, “yes, do them, but only as long as they don’t inconvenience me or get in my way.” It is only the darkness of relationships where arguments are birthed and resentment mildews love that you will hear the deepest chauvinist beliefs growled. My time is important, my time is money, my time is more important than yours. My life’s dreams are more important than yours. There is not room for both.
We wondered how to raise young girls, more eager for acceptance and love than defending their personhood, to see far into the future. To see beyond the first blush of young love and marriage, into their middle years, when they have given up who they are and wanted to be for peace and marital harmony. There are marriages where the woman isn’t the only one who has to ask permission to take a few hours off without the children, or to take a class, where it isn’t assumed that she is the nanny. There are marriages where the man follows the woman’s career. I know there are marriages like that because I read the articles them in women’s magazines. Those men are revered, almost like gods. Sometimes, in a subconscious whisper, their manhood is questioned.
Don’t get me wrong. Being a CEO of a family is vital, it is my life’s work. But it loses it’s vitality in a marriage when it is assumed and taken for granted, year after year, with no sign of reciprocity, no true appreciation.
My girlfriend will cogitate over how to keep the strong sense of self that her preteen daughter has now and nurture it through the courtship years. And I, who have no daughters to teach, will tell my sons this: the woman you choose to love needs you to see her as a whole person with important dreams and goals. You were captivated by her wit, intelligence, ambitions, achievements and goals; continue to respect that part of her. It is part of her essence. And that vibrant part of her that attracted you in the first place will die if you neglect it or let her neglect it. And with it, the relationship.