As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, my five-year-old daughter thinks another girl is pretty. She decided she wanted to give her a pretty plastic ring, so she made her a card and put the ring on it.
During the process, my daughter said she was embarrassed and “scared.” She said a few of her female friends were making comments like “eww, that girl isn’t that pretty anyway” and “I am weird.” It doesn’t surprise me that female competition is beginning to start at her age. Child and adolescent psychologist Katie Hurley describes in her book No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls the trend of toxic female competitiveness that is creeping down from high school, and starting as young as grade school. She offers many reasons for this, citing busy schedules, rise in stress and anxiety levels, and increased pressure for children to do well in sports and extracurriculars.
Girls uplifting other girls
I responded to my daughter’s concerns over giving this card to her friend, by telling her “we can show people we like them in many ways.” I told her, “girls can think another girl is pretty. And girls can uplift another girl.” Her twin sister also supported her, the best any five-year-old can. She also made the girl a card that said: “my sister thinks you are pretty and wants to give you a ring.” Afterwards, the twin quietly told me she doesn’t care if girls are not “suppose” to like girls, she loves her sister anyway. I told her, “we can like people in many ways. We are just going to send nice words to uplift another girl! Cool, right?!”
We, adults, have a lot to learn from young children about loving and not judging each other. We are conditioned to compete with our peers. We draw on our insecurities and instead of turning them into positives, we put other women down. We are not being uplifting because we are afraid of other women being more successful, prettier, “bigger” than us. We need to dig deep inside and find that inner strength to uplift each other. Us, women, we need each other. We need the support from others, the kindness, the acceptance. We should be helping each other to feel good about ourselves, instead of doing the exact opposite.
How do you uplift the women around you?
More on Hurley: https://www.thestar.com/life/relationships/opinion/2018/02/08/why-girls-are-getting-meaner-younger.html
Sandra gets home from work and finds her husband bathing their toddler. She marches up to him and said, “You’ve got water all over the floor! Stop! Let me do this!” Her husband fires back, “Fine!”
Traditionally childrearing is considered a woman’s job but the world is changing. Today women are excelling in education, succeeding in careers and entering into relationships holding their own weight. Men are also stepping outside of their social gender role, and are 3x more involved in their children’s lives compared to their father’s generation. Most mothers rejoice over this trend, yet a good 21% consciously or unconsciously engage in “maternal gatekeeping” that may dissuade fathers from taking on more childcare tasks.
Whether due to natural instinct or societal expectations, many mothers identify themselves as the primary caretaker of their children and hold this value dearly. Maternal gatekeeping happens when mothers believe fathers are not as competent in the caretaking tasks due to the same set of societal expectations, and behave in a way that discourages the fathers’ effort, thereby obstructing collaborative parenting.
It is understandable that mothers want to do what’s best for the children. We need a small dose of maternal gatekeeping to keep us parents organized and get things done, but too much of it can hinder father-child bonding and affect couples relationships. Having it keeps mothers overwhelmed and experience maternal burnout. Raising children is a tough job and mothers need support, especially those who are working outside of home. More men are willing to step in nowadays so moms, you can allow yourself some rest. You deserve less stress.
How to prevent yourself from being a “Maternal Gatekeeper”?
- Notice it – Sometimes our maternal instinct is so ingrained that we don’t even notice we are being the “gatekeeper.” Having an awareness of our behavior can help us make conscious decisions as parents.
- Let go of high standards – Your partner has his own style of parenting. It’s unrealistic to expect your partner to do everything within your standards.
- Focus on the big picture – Your kids will not remember the water splashing on the floor, but they will remember the fun times when their daddy made silly soapy hairstyles for them. (If the kids are old enough, you can coach daddy to have them clean up the mess together.)
- Communication sandwich — If you need to communicate with your partner on how he can do things differently, consider talking to him after the fact when you two are in a good mood, and use two compliments to buffer one criticism.
- Talk to a professional — Therapy can help you gain some relaxation skills so you can be happy even with soapy water on the floor.
Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls’ and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.
(Image source: GettyImage)
Jessica is having trouble concentrating in her math class because she is getting very little sleep at night. She lies awake for hours worrying about why her best friend doesn’t talk to her anymore, whether everyone is looking at her funny, whether she will bomb the math test tomorrow, whether her parents are really going to divorce, and other catastrophic what-ifs.
Tara seems to have the “perfect” life with a home, career and children that she adores yet she feels overwhelmed. Now her things are not getting done and she doesn’t laugh as often anymore. She doesn’t sleep much and when she does, she often wakes up heart pounding and palms sweaty, thinking she is going crazy and fearing “her perfect life won’t last”.
From the time a girl reaches puberty until late adulthood, she is twice as likely to have anxiety as a man. While men are not immune to anxiety, men and women’s differences in brain chemistry and hormonal levels in different life stages may be pieces of the puzzle as to why women are more vulnerable to anxiety during stressful events.
If you or your daughter experiences anxiety, there are things to do about it.
- Allowing Anxiety: Forcing yourself or your child not to worry or minimize the anxious feelings can create even more anxiety. It can be defeating when those worries just won’t go away. We need a healthy dose of worrying to keep us safe or get things done; it has a purpose so we don’t want to eliminate it completely. Since it serves a function, it’s important to take anxiety seriously and allow it’s existence so we can shift it to our benefits.
- Relaxation Skills: Breathing and visualization helps you calm down when you are agitated. Relaxation techniques need to be age-appropriate and don’t have to be boring. Some can even be done while you are in the middle of a task. For teens, there are apps such as Breathe that can help.
- Movement: It’s understandable that when you are anxious, the last you want to do is to get out of bed. It may seem cumbersome but setting a goal to do something as simple as walking around the block can work wonders. Sometimes staying indoor with the blinds closed may affect your circadian rhythm (aka. body clock), which can disrupted your sleeping pattern. Going outside and getting some sun and air can help “reset” your body clock so you can sleep better at night, feel more refreshed the next day, and have better mood.
- Talk to a licensed therapist who is in tuned with teen and women’s issues, and values whole-health approach. A good therapist is able to listen, teach relaxation techniques, and tailor a therapeutic plan that best fits you. The first session is usually paperwork and getting to know each other, so give it a few sessions before deciding whether the therapist is right for you.
While nobody’s life is completely worry-free, but anxiety can be manageable and it doesn’t have to control your whole life. You don’t need to do this alone.
Mabel Yiu is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in girls and women’s mental health at the Women’s Therapy Institute in Palo Alto, CA. You can reach her at email@example.com for more tips or tools, or schedule an online appointment.
Header image credit: Huffington Post