How do you raise ‘kick-ass’ girls?

My feminist nightmare.

I’ve always been a proud ‘feminist’. My husband is too. Our initial partnership was extremely 50/50. We earned the same. I could make Asian broths. He made a mean green peppercorn sauce. We both cleaned the bathroom.

But then we had kids. And everything changed.

Soon afterwards, I found myself at home, enslaved to household chores and watching my career drift off to Nowheresville while my husband steadily climbed the corporate ladder.

My part-time job was unfulfilling. Somehow if I worked 5 days a week I could be awesome, but 3 days a week, I was only suited to junior jobs and zero responsibility. There seems to be some sexist notion that unless you can commit to the full 40-hour-per-week game, you are effectively OUT of the game, and forced to spend much of your career on the sidelines, watching.

After a few years of juggling everything, I got overwhelmed and overburdened. I chucked a wobbly and quit work. So there I was. At home. Full time. Doing ALL the chores. Financially dependent on my spouse.

It’s a common tale I think.

Since then, I’ve been working on Vegie Smugglers. It’s done well and I’m proud. And while the label ‘mumpreneur’ irks me a bit, I’m happy to be aligned with a generation of women who are utilising technology in an attempt to combine nurturing their family with pursuing their own personal potential.

But recently for homework, Miss F had to interview someone about their job. I offered to help but she looked at me, genuinely confused. “But you don’t work!” she cried!

No? Just two cookbooks, two e-books, 200 blog posts, 7500 facebookers, plus the entire management of the household and our family for the past 3 years. I don’t need to tell you guys how hard I work.

Soon after, I was offered two days a week of traditional work, outside the home and I took it. The extra money is handy and more importantly, I’m showing Miss F a role model of a ‘working’ woman. Her attitude to me has noticeably changed. She’s not taking me for granted. She seems ‘prouder’ that her mum is now like the other mums (ie, more unavailable and consistently stressed).

The feminist debate that’s had me thinking about all this is the recent call by Anne-Marie Slaughter for the world to shift and for women to no longer be forced into the male structure in order to find success. Because it’s true. How on earth can women have it all with just 24 hours in a day?

And with Slaughter’s opinion that balancing career and family is impossible, just what are we supposed to be telling our daughters? What examples are we supposed to be setting? What kind of women do we want our daughters to be?

Miss F turns 8 soon and I want to know how to guide her to be a ‘kick ass’, strong, woman. I thought that I’d been raising her to be a good feminist. But actually, all she’s seen is a woman at home in the traditional role that feminism has fought to free us from.

I want a kick ass daughter. But what does that even mean? And how do I do it?

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12 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Ali said,

    Wendy, when you crack the formula be sure to share with me!

  2. 2

    Natural New Age Mum said,

    I think you CAN have it all, just not all at once! I think a kick ass, strong woman is one who does whatever makes HER the happiest – for some that is working full time, for some that is being a mum full-time or any combinations that work. PLUS are dedicated to self-care!

  3. 3

    Nicola said,

    It’s the debate of the generation. And while the debate thus far has centered on the motherhood guilt (you’re damned if you’re a stay-at-home mum, or if you’re a full-time working mum, or if you’re trying to juggle both slices of the pie), it’s an fascinating question to consider the impact to the next generation.

    I think Natural New Age Mum has hit on it though: when we, as parents, feel that what we do is kick-ass, and we can pass on that confidence to our kids (both girls and boys), then they will also understand and gain that self assurance. The key is also to be able to present the strengths and weaknesses and the kick-assery in ALL of the lifestyle choices, so that our kids understand that their capacity for awesome is bounded only by their desires (and financial constraints), not the angst of what we “should” be doing.

    • 4

      wendyblume said,

      Yes, think you’re right Nicola. And instinctively, I think that’s how I’ve been parenting. But I’d never stopped to think about the type of woman I hope my girl grows up to be.

      Perhaps that’s the best proof of feminism… I’m just waiting for her to make her own choices and I’ll just support and and be a loving spectator.

  4. 5

    Nicole Hore said,

    LOVED your article (for too many reasons to go into here), and thought this blog article may be of interest in regards to careers and home life http://down—to—earth.blogspot.com.au/2011/10/homemaking-power-career.html

    • 6

      wendyblume said,

      Nice reference Nicole. Like the quote “from where I stand, in my grandmothering years, I know that I have done my best work here at home”. I suspect that that’s what I’ll look back on and say too (I hope)…

  5. 7

    Jenness said,

    I don’t know about kick ass but I do know you can teach her not to be considered just a sex object. Melinda Tankard Reist has a great book called ‘getting real: Challenging the sexualization of girls’. There is so much in the media these days that present women as being only valuable when it comes to their sexuality, if we can teach our girls to look past that to foster great self esteem and believe they can do whatever they put their mind to, then I think that will help them develop into stronger women regardless of what career path they choose be it stay at home mum or a full time professional

    • 8

      wendyblume said,

      I’ll check out that book. Sounds interesting. The sexualization of girls is such a weird and worrying thing. So many opposing forces at work in feminism today. Being a high-achieving career lady is fantastic, but heaven forbid we should do it with any pubic hair.

  6. 9

    Kim said,

    My mother wanted her girls to have the career opportunities that weren’t presented to her. She was a stay at home Mum and she thought her girls deserved and were capable of much more. Both my sister and I have degree qualifications and have had corporate careers. Now my mother feels guilty as she has seen us struggle to manage both and her grandchildren have suffered as a result.

    What is a kick ass woman? I think that it has got to be someone that is confident and happy in themselves no matter what they choose to do. I loved my Mum being there for me when I was younger. She wasn’t busy and distracted all the time. I have given up the corporate world and am happy bringing up my children being the best role model I possibly, for me that is far more rewarding.

    • 10

      wendyblume said,

      Yes, my mum was there when I was small, and went back to full time work when I was in high school. So I saw her do both things. And I did feel as though anything was possible. Hopefully our daughters will see the same thing. And maybe appreciate us a bit more later on too!

  7. 11

    AmyB said,

    Somehow, even with a very nearly full time job, a website, a decent study load and running a house, my daughter thinks my ‘day off’ is spent lounging around. Now she has a little brother and my work load has lightened a tiny bit, I’ve been alone to keep her home on the school holidays- and I make sure I expose her to what I actually do! Trips to the library, where she sits and reads while I study, helping out with housework and shopping, and I am starting to include her in the work on my website, asking her opinion on what I’ve written and mentioning what I’ve accomplished in a day. I also try to make sure I get ‘work time’ in the evening while dad takes over, so she sees that what I do is important. I think it’s helped a tiny bit 😉


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