How to raise a daughter

I am not a mother. At least not yet. So you must think that I am the last person who should give this kind of advice. So why am I giving advice on a topic that am clearly not qualified to give?

I was raised to be an independent woman. From as long as I can remember my parents and especially my mother taught me the value of working to earn my keep. However, in the African culture there are things and lessons that are never taught especially not to a girl.

Of course no one is to blame for that, it’s just how things were then and may be even now. The difference is that now things have changed exponentially In terms of technology, westernization and access to information.

I wish that I had known all that I know now when I was growing up. Actually, I wish I read more. Of course I only read fiction and romance in my teen age. Had I read a book like “Dear Ijiawele” and “Everyone should be a feminist” both by Chimamanda Adichie then I wouldn’t be writing this now.

This may seem like a book review of Dear Ijeawele, and I suppose it is. I can’t help myself I just have to share these life-changing lessons with you: mother, a girl, a lady- a woman;
This is for all the young mums out there.

Be a full person

Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood. You do not want to define yourself by your child’s successes or mistakes. It can be overwhelming to let each of your kids’ actions define you. Your child will benefit much from you being a full person since then you can truly be honest and compassionate as you guide them through life.

Do it together

Sometimes mothers, so conditioned to be all and do all, are complicit in diminishing the role of fathers. I don’t know whether it’s an African thing but growing up my mom was like a super woman. Doing it all from household chores, to raising us and also working.

This is the case for most African women but you know what… we make cultures not the other way round. So let him do the household chores, let him change the diaper. Do not choose to be a single mother while the father is right there just because of the gender roles attached to women.

The idea of ‘gender roles’ is absolute nonsense

‘Because you are a girl’ is never a reason for anything. Ever. This is a lesson that you will need to repeatedly teach your daughter. Growing up with three brothers was resentful for me. I had to do all household chores ‘because I am a girl’. You do not want your little girl to grow up resenting her brothers for this nonsense. Cooking and cleaning are basic skills that every human being should have.

The knowledge of cooking does not come pre-installed in a vagina. Cooking is learned. Cooking – domestic work in general – is a life skill that both men and women should ideally have

Chimamanda Adichie

Teach her to love books

Teach your little girl to love reading. You should know that kids do what they see not what they hear therefore you have to love reading too.

By reading I don’t mean those curriculum books, I mean to read books outside the syllabus. Books that will inspire her young mind to be curious and opinionated. To be knowledgeable in real life issues. Most of all to understand her own history. The history of her people.

Pride in her background and history

The world will define for most people that some are better and privileged than others. She will read and watch movies from other backgrounds and feel that they are portrayed as better than her in some ways.

Teach her to embrace her culture’s good practices and reject the negative ones. To be proud of her culture and background before the world defines it for her.

Marriage is not an achievement

A marriage can be happy or unhappy, but it is not an achievement. For some reason girls are taught from a young age to aspire for marriage, to dream of their wedding day. Shockingly boys miss this lesson. This means that even in marriage women will cherish this institution more than men. They will therefore give more, sacrifice even more to keep the marriage.

If only boys were in the same class when girls were being taught this, then more marriages would last. Therefore teach her to dream bigger than marriage. To aspire more in her life beyond being a wife.

Teach her to reject likeability

Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people. For some reason women are supposed to be ‘nice’. To be mild mannered: not loud, not aggressive and certainly not angry.

This is very dangerous as it gives power to abusers, sexual or otherwise to prey on girls and women in general. So teach her to shout when she feels uncomfortable or threatened. Teach her not to think of the ‘feelings’ of those who intend to harm her.

Last but not least give her a language that she can speak to you free of judgement and full of understanding. Am not saying to be her friend: be her mother. This actually over rides all lessons you could possibly teach her. It sums it all up.

Let her be able to talk about her first crush, her first love even of her sexual desires. Most importantly do not admonish her but seek to understand.

Don’t tell her to abstain from sex until marriage while you know too well you didn’t either. Instead teach her to own her sexuality, to have power over her own body and actions. To say no when she feels its not right or when uncomfortable.

I could write so much more…but most lessons are learnt in the process. Unfortunately, most of these lessons apply mostly to raising a girl. However, I plan on doing one for the boys so subscribe and comment below, tell me what you think.

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