When I was a little girl – and I’m talking elementary and middle school here – all I really cared about was reading books and drawing for fun. Boys were seriously off my radar.
But I distinctly remember many extended family members, family friends, and even neighbors, constantly asking about whether I’d found a boyfriend yet. It’d be the first question out of their mouth anytime I’d see them.
Now, they probably only asked because they wanted to poke a little fun at me. I was an extremely shy child, who found it hard enough to make girlfriends let alone find a boyfriend. But the problem was that with so many older relatives and friends drilling the question into my brain, I grew up thinking that finding a boyfriend was way more important that it really was.
Little girls are constantly hounded about “finding the love of their life,” not only from innocent questions from well-meaning relatives, but from their friends, movies, books, games, or stories of any kind. The majority of children’s books, especially when made into movies, will throw in a “love story” even if it kills them. Even if it in no way enhances the main story line!
While this is probably just because “love sells” (much like “sex sells” with adult stories) it sends our children the message that there’s some kind of ultimate goal in life to find your soulmate and “live happily ever after”.
What about earning an MBA? Or going to the moon? What about winning a Nobel Peace Prize?
To kids, these accomplishments mean almost nothing.
But getting their first boyfriend? Or their first kiss?
These they consider “mile stones”.
Striving for More
This comes as no surprise given that back in the day (less than 100 years ago) a woman’s only job was to find a husband, get married, and raise babies.
Now I’m a mama just like you are, but in this day and age, women are now able to be so much more. I’m not saying this to “look down on” stay at home moms who are perfectly satisfied with raising their children. There’s nothing wrong with that! I’m saying this because we should be raising our daughter’s to know that anything is possible, and more importantly, to always strive for more.
Women have choices now! Our daughters can grow up to be leading scientists on important projects, much like Nina Tandon, who’s actually the founder and CEO of a company using stem cells to grow human bones.
Or female astronauts like Sally Ride.
Even CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies like Indra Nooyi at Pepsico.
The point is women have greater opportunities today than ever before. Yes, there is still inequality in the workplace. Yes, there are still plenty of stereotypes and expectations to overcome. But compared to where we’ve been, women have made enormous strides.
Teaching our Daughters Better
Now I may have tried to avoid the boyfriend scene as long as I found possible (my first-ever boyfriend was at 15 years old) but it still seemed to consume my thoughts, even as an adult.
I do not want that for my daughter.
I don’t want her to be consumed by an imaginary expectation that she should be hell-bent on finding her true love, which is why I will not allow any adult to ask her questions about her love life.
Do not ask my daughter about her love life. It’s not important!
Instead, ask her what her favorite subject is, what she’s making for the science fair, what book she’s currently reading. Any education, learning, or career-related question, is a-ok in my book!
Setting a Better Example
Yes, love is fun. It’s fulfilling. It can even be life-affirming! But you are never going to find the love of your life until the powers that be feel you’re ready. As a divorcee, I learned this the hard way.
It’s my job, as her mother, to protect my daughter from the idea that finding a man is her number one priority. And being that it was on the forefront of my own mind for much too long, I am determined to reset the clocks.
No, I don’t mean traveling through time to erase the terrible example I may have left. (I focused on my love life way too much in high school and again after my divorce.)
But from now on, I’m making it a point to show my daughter that there are more important things to worry about.
Like learning how to be a successful adult, for example.
Elementary School Relationships
The other day, after picking K up from school, somehow we got on the topic of boyfriends. I’m not sure what it was we were talking about originally, but I was trying to tell her she didn’t have to worry about boyfriends until she was, well, 30, but her response surprised me.
“You know I have a boyfriend, right?”
Um, excuse me? I almost had a heart attack.
Trying to remain calm, I asked her how she came to acquire a “boyfriend.” And (thankfully) she went on to explain it was just a little boy she liked. There was no “will you be my boyfriend” conversation.
Phew. I was relieved, and may have giggled a little.
The Family Front
K is only 6 right now, so we have the next 6 years or so until she hits puberty to instill in her a love of learning and ambition before boys really come into the picture.
And lucky for her (and us), as part of a family with a mom, stepmom, dad, and stepdad in the picture, K has plenty of parental figures to keep her on the right path.
Eventually, boys are going to show up. It’s inevitable.
But by laying a solid foundation centered around education, watching her moms grow their own empire, and knowing her dads set such high standards for how a man should treat her, I’m hoping that K (and later, K2) will grow up aiming for more than just a husband.
So don’t ask my daughter about her love life, she’ll worry about that when she’s older.
Ps: While I wrote this with my daughter in mind because I’m the mama of 2 girls, this also applies to little boys, as well.
Men don’t often have to overcome as much as women when it comes to stereotypes and striving for more, but they are certainly bombarded with questions about their love life, too. (Especially as a single adult.) So here’s to protecting all of our kids from well-meaning relatives, gender stereotypes, and the idea that marriage is the only accomplishment that matters!