I start 30-40% of my mornings by getting up before the kids, having a cup of coffee, and reading CNN online.
[During the other 70%, I am jumped on by children and dogs or drink the aforementioned coffee like a sleep deprived sloth while sitting on the porch.]
One of the sections on CNN that I frequent is called Girl Rising. This area of CNN.com boasts that it documents extraordinary girls and the power of education to change the world.
I love that this area of CNN exists. I am happy that attention is being given to the pursuit of equality for women of all ages in all locations and all socioeconomic climates. I am thrilled that the message of Gloria Steinham is being continuously explored and reinterpreted by everyone from Christiane Amanpour to Michelle Obama to Sheryl Sandberg.
But, with education and progress come a set of fresh rules; a new arena is created in which everyone needs to learn how to do battle. With every step forward we take, we need to look backwards and make sure that we are adjusting our expectations. We need to be honest with ourselves about the demands that those expectations place on the shoulders of our daughters.
In my most-clicked blog to date, I speak to a frustration I have with my husband. But, on a deeper lever, what I allude to is the fact that I as a woman and mother and (at that time) player in the work force, feel personally burdened by the need to project an image that I can do it all. I can achieve the highest accomplishments at work. I can be the very best mother at home. I can be the most doting wife. The most creative chef. The comic. The therapist. The musician. The writer. The athlete.
If the world I live in affords me the ability to do all of these things, then isn’t it incumbent on me to do them? To do them perfectly?
This is the pressure I fear for my daughter.
It is consequently the pressure I want to protect her from.
I don’t want Zoe to feel that if she needs help-if she wants help-she is weak.
I want to protect her from the misconception that I had, that to be a great woman--a strong one, a liberated one-- you have to do it all.
For some reason, it took me 34 years to realize that I can’t do it all.
No one can.
Can do everything.
Because we are human.
And in that humanity is the secret to gender equality.
What our feminist leaders are trying to relate to us is that equality is a tough problem to solve. It’s a tough problem to solve because you need to start with an understanding of the fact that everyone is different. You need to understand that different does not mean not equal. It does, however, mean unlike in characteristics.
What we as women should be fighting for--for ourselves, our daughters, and, yes, our sons too-- is to be given equal chances. Fair shots; quality of opportunity.
And those daughters and sons alike should feel that they have breathing room to seize those opportunities. Or not.
I’m not painting a Candy Land world with rainbows and blue birds; what I am suggesting is that we should think about not thinking about it so much.
What I want is for Zoe to grow up confident that she can do anything that she wants. Say anything she wants.
To speak her heart.
To know that she doesn’t have to meet a standard simply because the standard exists.
Sure, I want her to pursue excellence. But, I want her to pursue excellence in the place where she wants and not necessarily in the place that the feminist movement dictates.
All gifts carry with them burdens.
I want my tenacious little girl to know that pressure is everywhere; to know how to navigate situations that are going to throw challenges her way.
I want my baby to know that she can achieve not because she is a woman; she can achieve because she is Zoe.