My big girl, because three seems so very big.
You are just like I was when I was a child. Not only in looks; in some pictures it’s clear to see that with your blonde curly hair, you couldn’t possibly be anyone else’s but mine…. But also in attitude. God help us all.
You are stubborn; you will only wear what you want to wear. At the moment this is anything as long as it’s pink. Pink, pink, flipping pink. You are strong-willed; you have very firm ideas of what’s right, and have no problems telling us all off if you perceive us to be in the wrong (which we frequently are). You will argue with me over anything even when you are demonstrably incorrect. You’re caring; when you’re not fighting with each other and screaming you look after your little brother. You involve him in your play and it makes me so proud. Until the screaming starts again of course. You’re funny, you’re happy, you’re clever, you’re confident and goddammit you’re beautiful too.
I can see already the person that you will grow up to become. You’ll probably do well at school. You’ll almost certainly be a bit bossy. Thinking about it, only little girls really get called bossy. Once you’re a bit older, they’ll call it leadership skills. I’m quite sure you’ll be able to lead.
|Me, rocking some pink dungarees|
It was not until I’d brought you into the world that I got to experience inequality first hand.
Until then, I had never felt overlooked because of my gender; I had done precisely what I wanted to do and meant to do. I had been given opportunities, I felt equal.
Once I became a mother, things changed. After many years of hard work I was no longer able to compete in the workplace; not only did I not want to work long hours any more a) being too knackered and b) scared to miss out on the precious milestones, due to our childcare situation it just wasn’t possible. Despite my education and experience, it fell upon your dad to find a job that could support us all and I reluctantly became a stay at home mum to you and your brother.
I say reluctantly not because I don’t like being at home, but because I was forced to give up a career that I enjoyed and worked hard for because I was a woman and had made the choice to have children, and because I did not realise the truth of this until after I had made this choice.
Not that I would have done anything differently.
I don’t for a moment blame you. I blame the flawed, inflexible system and the work which doesn’t work for so many, which expects of mothers that they do all, or nothing; that we give ourselves over completely to being a parent, or become a slave to the workplace, and then face a society that looks unkindly on whatever decision you make.
You and your brother are my entire world. You are my hope for the future. And my biggest hope is that whatever you wish to do with your life, that is exactly what you will get to do.
I hope that by the time the years have passed and you are old enough to have your own children, that this country has moved on and women are no longer forced to choose between motherhood and self.
I hope the world is no longer a place where young girls have to fight for schooling, where they can be forced against their will into marriage at a young age, where the President of the United States can get away with saying disgusting and derogatory things about women. I wish for you, a world where women are given autonomy over their own bodies, and where the statistic that one in four women in this country suffer from domestic abuse is merely a shocking headline from the past.
I hope you never once feel undervalued, unappreciated, or unequal.
We’ve come a long way in the last thirty years. Let’s keep on going.