When friends found out I was having a baby girl, some two years ago, they said, ‘maybe she will soften you’ (because apparently I needed “softening”. Like a stool.)
So many times I’ve been told that I am “too hard”. Not in the context that I’m too hard to deal with, but in the context that I’m emotionally black and white. I have a tendency to charge through people’s emotions in an effort to bypass awkwardness and tears, so that I can just fix the damn problem.
Those closest to me understand that this comes from a deep place of love. I’m fierce in my desire to fix the things that make the people I love feel stuck, or awkward, or sad, misunderstood, defiled, insulted. I’ve felt more empowered to raise fists for my friends than I ever have for myself. (Not that I condone violence, just saying).
I fretted about having a girl long before I was ever pregnant. I was raised watching the channel seven news and pretty much thought that going outside meant being kidnapped and/or raped. Apparently ‘no means no’ wasn’t cutting it as a way to get people to stop harming other people.
It’s hard enough being a woman, let alone raising one.
Years later, when I found out I was actually having a girl, I fretted more and plotted the deaths of every man and woman that my sweet baby Hazel might ever come into contact with. I scoured the universe (figuratively, not literally) for a planet that she would be safe on. I worried about the different rules my husband and I would have to give each child due to their gender. Would my son get to go to parties? Would Hazel at that same age be told no, because the risk of her being assaulted is far greater as a girl.
What I didn’t consider, until Hazel was pulled from the safest place she’ll ever know (or not know because who can remember back that far), is that it is me that will have to change. I didn’t and still don’t have time to wait for society to change for us.
It is me that will need to lead the charge. As her mother, the most prominent women in her life, it is I, even without her realising, that is going to formalise and shape her expectations of herself and others. It is me that she will subconsciously look to when making decisions in a society that wants her to be what it wants, when it wants.
Raising a daughter isn’t going to make me softer.
It is going to make me harder.
Harder to push over.
Harder to put down.
Harder to patronise.
Harder to criticise, penalise, demoralise.
Harder to be condescending to.
Harder to render submissive through conflict.
It is one thing to be a woman; it is another to raise one.
I am a woman.
I am a mother.
I am forced to be fierce for the sake of my daughter.
For the sake of her confidence, intelligence, and emotional welfare.
It is important that Hazel hears me say the word ‘NO’ loud and clear when I want something to stop; when someone is imposing on me an act that I am not comfortable with. From man or woman. From people.
Workplace, restaurant, or bedroom; Hazel needs to know she can use her voice to stamp her feet. She needs to see in me a woman that isn’t afraid to make mistakes, to laugh so loud people stare, to pull her hand away from those that take it without consent, to walk away from things that no longer serve her, to reach beyond her fingertips. She needs to see that there is no shame in not wearing makeup everyday, and there is also no shame in wanting to perfect the art of wearing it.
She needs to see me, being me, unapologetically.
She does not need to apologise.
She does not need to make excuses.
She does not need to “know her place”.
She does not need to soften.
I am frightened of what it means to be a mother of a young girl, a teenage girl, a woman. I am only just now, in my thirties, finding my voice in all different arenas, and it is still a little shaky at times.
Perhaps she needs to see that too, the shakiness: to know that sometimes we need to reach out to our fierce friends with their big voices that will raise their own fists for us before themselves…
Just like her mum does.