When you think of a woman 'having it all' it elicits a vision of a woman who has some combination of the following; multiple kids, nice house, happy marriage, successful career, accomplished chef, ninja crafting skills, fulfilling hobbies, and a killer fitness routine (the list could go on ridiculously enough).
While any given combination of each of these things can play a meaningful role in most women's lives, I believe what begs questioning is whether or not they are really the best criteria to signify that we 'have it all' as women. The truth is I see many girls in my office that have 4.0 gpa's and play on multiple club sports teams, who become totally overwhelmed and buckle under the pressure of a minor conflict with a friend.
When it comes to the idea of women 'having it all' we can do better for the next generation of girls.
What if having it all meant pursuing your true passions and interests instead of aspiring to have an Ivy League diploma hanging on your wall? What if 'having it all' meant cultivating self-love first, before aspiring to find the perfect man or start a family?
What if instead of basing the meaning of 'having it all' on a set of culturally determined externals it meant possessing the traits and qualities that would serve as a portal to fulfillment in any and every area of life?
These qualities would allow our girls to successfully navigate their way through life's ups and downs, helping them to engage in healthy and meaningful relationships and leading them to make positive choices in regards to how and where they invest their time and energy. They'd also serve to aid them in remembering their intrinsic value as human beings, and that they are worth more than the sum of their achievements.
If we start now, we as parents can collectively redefine what it means to 'have it all' for the next generation of women, starting with our daughters.
Our daughters will 'have it all' by having a strong sense of self. It may seem hard to understand how your energetic, artistic and generous daughter wouldn't be privy to the awesome qualities that reside within her, but you'd be surprised how many young girls in my practice aren't able to describe their own personalities, character traits and talents. If our girls don't know where their identities lie, they will go out and find one in the world, and let me say that many they find will not meet their potential.
As parents, we can provide an environment for our daughter's that allows their true selves, including their innate personalities, gifts and talents to emerge. If we help to nurture and value the qualities that make our daughters who they are, we will assist them in creating a safe haven that can always be returned to during the inevitable ups and downs of their lives.
Girls will have it all if they are equipped with effective communication skills. From a young age, our girls are taught to 'be nice', 'be quiet' and 'be polite', often at the expense of not getting their own needs met. When being taught to suppress genuine thoughts and feelings, girls learn that conflict is not tolerable, and by virtue, are given no guidelines to navigate through the conflicts that will inevitably surface throughout lives (if you're not buying in ladies, take a minute to think of the last time you threw someone a passive aggressive remark, eye roll, cold shoulder...).
What if we were to teach our girls that instead of airing out their grievances over Instagram, It would be more beneficial to talk directly to that person and that indeed, it is ok to tell someone they have upset you. The positive communication skills we teach and model for our girls will guide them in interactions with their friends, significant others and colleagues for the rest of their lives.
Our girls will have it all if they develop healthy boundaries. Girls in our culture are raised to be people pleasers, putting aside their own needs and desires as well as often defaulting to the agenda of others. Imagine if instead of being imprisoned in thoughts of what others might be thinking or feeling, our daughters decided to go ahead and join the math club or stay home from that huge drinking party, regardless of its social implications.
Teaching our girls boundaries means giving them assertiveness skills to confidently and honestly say "yes" and "no" and accept a "no" from others without taking it personally. Nurturing strong boundaries in our daughter's is the best way to lower the chances that they will be victimized by a bully now or enter into an abusive relationship later.
Parents impart boundaries in their girls when they empower them both emotionally and physically. This is done by taking a proactive role in challenging the relentless unhealthy images of female sexuality they are exposed to daily and emphasizing that in actuality, a women's body is deserving of love and respect, not exploitation.
Perhaps a shift in perspective is warranted in regards to what our true long-term goals and dreams are for our daughters. One that centers more on happiness and contentment within one's self and less around cultural ideals. I honestly believe if we can begin teaching our girls these vital life-skills, they will already be well on their way to 'having it all'.
If you're a parent whose goal is to raise an awesome emotionally healthy adult you have a supportive home at http://www.parentswithconfidence.com
Angela Pruess MA, LMFT, is a Child and Family Therapist and parenting mentor at Parentswithconfidence.com, where she is on a mission to support and empower parents of kids who are behaviorally challenging or have special needs. When she's not supporting parents, or seeing kids in her private practice, she is at home being challenged (a lot) by her own three kids (and sometimes husband). She can be found hanging out on facebook and twitter as well.