By Noeline Kirabo
For “What Your Mother Didn’t Tell You (Part 1)”, click here.
Your greatest asset is your brain:
As women, we are raised to believe that your greatest asset is your physical appearance, followed by character. This is constantly affirmed by the different messages we get from different people throughout our lives. Mothers pay careful attention to the physical development and stature of their daughters. They are concerned about outward beauty, sometimes at the expense of intellectual development. As you grow older and enter the labor market, you realize that your intellectual capital will take you further than your looks. Beauty must be matched with brains. Every woman needs to invest in her intellectual capital and every girl ought to be empowered to use her brain at a very early age. More than teaching our daughters to simply submit, we should teach them to reason and empower them to submit appropriately.
Being assertive is feminine:
Growing up in the African context means growing up with clearly defined roles. This also includes the demarcation of how the different genders ought to conduct themselves. One of the things emphasized for girls is the fact that they ought to be submissive and never assertive. This is far from reality because running a home and raising a family requires some level of assertiveness. It is not possible to embrace all the different roles that women bear successfully without being assertive. Being assertive does not mean being aggressive and every woman needs a level of assertiveness to succeed in life.
Girls are fighters:
While growing up, it was normal for boys to fight and unacceptable for girls to engage in fights. Fighting was identified with masculine tendencies. I was told that it was unfitting for a lady to raise her voice in public or, worst still, take part in a physical fight. The truth is women are fighters, although they hardly fight physical battles. Every mother has fought the battle of childbirth and won. Women all over the world are fighting different kinds of injustices to create better communities. Every married woman fights battles both on their knees and through silent strategies. Women are fighters, even if they employ different strategies from those used by boys.
Women have more influence than men:
I come from a patriarchal society where men have the upper hand in most areas, if not all. It is common sense to recognize that men are superior and, therefore, have more authority than women. Fathers are the final authority in the home and girls are raised to hold their husbands in the same esteem when they get married. Any married woman will tell you who actually runs the home. Like someone once said: “Men are the head while women are the neck that determine which direction the head should turn”. No doubt men command more authority than women; however, women have more influence than men. It is therefore paramount to teach our girls to learn to use that influence at an early age without turning them into manipulators. Give girls the opportunity to start influencing at an early age and there’s no doubt that they will make great leaders of their generations.
A woman is the pillar of her family:
All over the world, men are viewed as the head of the family. It’s their God given position and many diverse cultures have embraced this ideal. There are few things that cut across cultures and this happens to be one of those fundamental truths. To oppose this position is to oppose the foundation that holds many of our cultures together, more so in the African context. What our mothers never told us is that women are the pillars that support and uphold that position. Women are the strength and backbone of the family system globally. They raise the children, run the home and in many cases fend for the family. The man is the head of the family and the woman is the pillar that supports him. Young women have often times been caught in the fantasy of believing that marriage and a husband will sort them out because the man will be their pillar, only to get married and realize it’s the other way around. Every girl should be raised to harness her strength and be prepared to be the strongest pillar she can be for her man when the time comes.
Children take after their mother:
In the African context, at least for most of the cultures, children belong to the man’s clan, which implies they belong to the man. Your clan defines your lineage and it’s a vital aspect in one’s right to an inheritance. There is an ugly joke about children belonging to the woman when they err or don’t come out the way society expects them to. As much as I hate and detest this perspective, it does hold a whole lot of truth that needs to be embraced. Although women don’t have inheritance rights in many cultures, they do define and shape how their children turn out. If women knew the power they have in influencing and shaping the destinies of their children, they would take their parenting roles more seriously. A man will give his children a clan while the mother will give them a heritage. Children indeed take after their mothers because they are the ones that nurture them, instill values and shape them into the people they want them to become. Every mother has the power to shape the destiny of their child through nurturing, discipline, role modeling and prayer. Be intentional about how you raise your children because they shall soon be your reflection.
Being strong can be fatal:
Girls and women are being raised to be strong in this generation and strength is now becoming a sign of feminism. Before you get me wrong, I have no problem with strong women, I think they are amazing in every sense of the word. I learnt to be strong at a young age and mastered the art of never letting people see my tears, especially in public. Unfortunately, this has slipped over into my private relationships. Unconsciously, I began to view crying as a sign of weakness. The older I have become, the more I have found tears to be liberating and therapeutic. I don’t cry often, but I learned to cry when I needed to and not feel embarrassed. You can’t be strong for everyone all the time, sometimes you just have to let off the steam. We need to teach our girls that crying is okay and that they can cry as long as they know when to stop and pick up their lives. Let girls and women cry because that’s where their strength is sometimes found. Being strong doesn’t mean being emotionless. Being strong is okay as long as it’s well balanced with moments of relief and expression. I have discovered the beauty in being vulnerable and it’s worth discovering. It’s okay to let down your guard some times and let people see you in your weak state. Everyone shouldn’t have access to this side of you but rather the people that matter to you. If people never see the weak side of you, they might assume you are never in need of help and will not offer you any, even when you need it the most. That can be fatal!
Our mothers have noble intentions and mean well for us as they raise us up, it’s just that many things are left out in our conversations that we discover as we grow older and wish that we had encountered these facts ahead of time. I am speaking to the current and next generation of mothers, challenging ourselves to raise our daughters differently. Let’s change the tone and context of the conversations to match the growing needs and expectations of society on our girls. Let’s be open and blunt about the lessons that life has taught us so we can better prepare them. I pass the baton to you so you can write the next part of this series…