I have two younger sisters. When we were growing up my dad would often get tickets to sports events (hockey and baseball were the two most common ones). With each set of tickets he would rotate through the order of cousins (there were 10 of us, all boys, except for me, my sisters and our one eldest cousin). He went in order of age, and it was all very fair.
A few years ago, after Syona was born, I asked my dad what it was like to raise three girls. His response was that to him, it was no different than raising three boys. He raised the three of us to believe we could be whomever we wanted and do whatever we wanted. My mom taught us that we could achieve everything we wanted but should always act with dignity, humility and love. I think both of these lessons are equally important.
It wasn't until I was in my early to mid-20s that I understood the gender quality my parents taught us was somewhat rare in the South Asian culture. As a culture we are known for practices, traditions and tragic crimes that show the world that our culture doesn't respect women. South Asian cultures are also known for the exact opposite: we revere women, motherhood and many religions celebrate female figures as spiritual representations.
I decided to ask some of my favourite Masalamommas I know how they plan to raise strong girls, what they've done to foster strength in their daughters and for those that have sons, what's the plan on teaching him how to treat women well. I think you will enjoy their answers as much as I did.
"To thine own self be true and everything will fall in to place! Other people's opinion should come after your own. Listen to all the advice, it's good, but you judge which one is good for you." - My massi, (mom to two teenage daughters)
"I've thought about how to guide my daughter and help her navigate and understand that she has two cultures, and that we put them together and made a new culture for our family. That means that we will borrow from both sets of traditions and do the things that work for us, and also leave out some of the things that don't. I think our job is to help her feel secure and help her explore the elements of her cultures that interest her.
Maybe she won't care about learning anything, or maybe it will become really important to her at some point in her life - who knows! But mainly we want to provide her with a safe, loving, and open environment where she can learn and express herself in whatever way feels right for her."
- Gwen Hughes (mom to a toddler girl)
"I will teach my daughter to be true to herself, respect herself and others. To know the importance of giving back and helping others in need...I strongly believe in karma, so I will teach her that everything comes back two-fold, which is why she should ALWAYS be a good person. As a strong career oriented woman, I would like to pass on the value of hard work and determination. Never give up and never let anything or anyone get in your way on the path to success.
Success in my opinion can be defined as not only having a great career, but also encompassing all the attributes I listed above. My dad always told me it was very important to have my two feet firmly planted in the ground, and I didn't quite understand this until I got older. This will certainly be passed on to my daughter."
- Sharmila (mom to a preschool-aged daughter)
"I think boys grow up watching their parents and learning what it means to honor the women in their lives. And it's in the small and simple things parents do - being a true partner, how they manage adversities, what is said in private and in public, the tender looks exchanged, and who washes the dishes. It's in the 'just checking in' calls to grandma, the way female service people and colleagues are treated, and the presence of other stable female role models.
I look at the men I admire for being stand up men, men who respect women and treat them well. I will tell my boys about love and marriage, what I wish I had been told - respect is far more important than love. Love can change, shift, transform, fade, reinvent, revitalize, betray. Love will repeatedly be tested. But if there is no respect, it all falls apart...
I hope to teach them to be self-sufficient so they know how to take care of themselves and can appreciate how much it takes to do it well (I don't want them growing up thinking that clean clothes miraculously appear folded in a drawer). I hope to teach them to be effective communicators, and that a big part of that involves being active and compassionate listeners. I hope these lessons will help them become true partners in their relationships, and someday in marriage."
- Anna (mom to two toddler boys)
I grew up in a family that didn't just celebrate our gender, it celebrated our identity and who we were as individuals. As a visible minority, who is female and has a visible disability, Syona will face some serious challenges as she grows up. I plan on raising Syona with the same values I was raised with- all of these labels that are placed on her don't define who she is, they are simply components of the woman she will be.
How do you plan to raise your daughters to be strong, compassionate women or teach your sons how to treat women well?
By Anchel Krishna
This post was originally published on masalamommas.com and has been republished with permission.
You can follow Anchel on twitter at: @anchelk
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