I’m lucky to have grown up and around strong women. My Mom was a lady of many trades, successful at most of them too despite becoming disabled at the age of 36. I was proud of my Mom; how many people bounce back from a major stroke— losing the ability to use her right arm and yet, go on to take care of two young daughters, put clothes on our backs and food on our table, with limited/next to no income? I can’t even imagine how hard it was for her sometimes; I was young and no matter how mindful I was about money from an early age, or how much I didn’t want to upset her, I was still too young to focus clearly on everything that was going on. But I watched her with admiration, and I keep those thoughts of her as I embark down my own path of parenting– an easier one.
We see positive role models of women, and as women, we try to emulate that in our own lives. Whether it’s our family members or on TV, we need someone to look to sometimes, but especially when we are younger. I’m a believer that while you may have a compass inside of you, pointing you in the direction of who you should be and what you should do, you still need to see someone living life, and succeeding at it. Know what I mean? So we look to women before us, and we try to learn the boring lessons they learned (not the fun ones, we want to learn those for ourselves), and… then what? We start tearing other women down?
Because here’s the thing; we live in a culture where women are not treated or regarded as special and important, which they happen to be in spades. Look at Hollywood, we love Jennifer Lawrence but we hate Anne Hathaway— and why? I don’t even understand why that’s a thing. I don’t know Anne Hathaway or Jennifer Lawrence, and I never will. I know their work, and they play strong women more often than not, and I like that. I don’t like the way society wants them to be skinnier than yesterday, they way weight dictates beauty, the way they have to seem in life and interviews for people to like them. Why should any of this or that concern me… or us? Better yet, why should any of these women go to such great lengths to change their bodies and attitude just so people like them more? And you know the worst thing— a lot of this criticism they get is from women! Why? Because it’s supposed to make them feel better about themselves? Because that’s why they were told to do? Support a lady only so far until she has something you want, and then you can cut her down again? I just don’t get it. But this is an example, let’s talk about every day.
As a new mom, I’m bombarded with advice and opinions of what I’m supposed to do with my baby. And while sometimes this advice is helpful (and wanted), sometimes it’s harmful because it makes me indecisive and creates doubt. I have to find my own confidence, work out my own system, and that may not be the way someone told me. But I’m the best Mom for my baby, and I know that. I don’t lack confidence, I’m a learner by nature, and I like finding my own way through things. But how many times have I been parent-shamed for having a bib on my baby as she slept in her stroller, as I was shopping by nosey older ladies? Often. I also got fat-shamed and was unknowingly criticized at 7 months pregnant because I was buying a chocolate bar. As an expat, I’ve been offended by many ladies who don’t know me all that well and are quick to judge, by Germans who don’t like my opinion regarding pushing in the grocery store or any of my negative opinions of one thing or another, and by friends who have no idea what it takes on a daily basis to live abroad. I’ve had comments all throughout my life by girls and women calling me fat, calling me stupid, making fun of my clothing (too poor), making fun of my mixed parents and my dark skin… you name it. And my experience isn’t an isolated one, if you asked most women, they’d tell you the same damn thing. But nothing makes you feel weirder/more uncomfortable than someone telling you that you are parenting wrong. I don’t take it to heart; I’m not someone who loses sleep over idiots, BUT I do get angry and that’s not an emotion I particularly enjoy.
Why can’t we support each other, say we are happy (and actually be happy) for one another, and be happy with ourselves? We don’t need to put down others to feel better— many studies show that we feel better about ourselves when we are respected, kind to others, compassionate, grateful, cooperative, and we have friends. So the next time any of us wants to say a judgmental, unfair, catty comment about another woman, let’s think about why we want to say it and what we think we will get out of it. We (and I say we because I need to do this too) need to be supportive of our fellow ladies, not only for ourselves but for our little girls looking up to us, because we’ll be happier, and because we can be proud of who we are at the end of the day. And to my fellow ladies abroad: don’t snark and take offense to things that were not intended to be offensive, or attack someone for their beliefs or desires. Just be nice; we are a community of people abroad, brought here for different reasons, under different circumstances, and we have to be there for each other. <— or at least try to be. And I cherish you. Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts. Thanks for reading.