by Maya Angelou
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
It’s tough being a girl in today’s world. Personally, I believe girls deal with so much pressure at a young age. The pressure to be smart. To be strong. To be capable. To be athletic. To be beautiful. To be thin. To be Everything.
Now my husband thinks I’m a bit too outspoken on certain matters, so I don’t want everyone jumping down my throat with this post. I’m just interested in a discussion, in an exchange of ideas, because I’m quite curious for the sake of research on what people think.
I’m just worried about today’s girls. How are they going to handle the pressure to Be Everything? I’m not sure whether all this pressure to succeed is a result of the women’s movement and the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which incidentally is still not an official part of the U.S. Constitution. Or maybe it’s a result of a technologically advanced world and the incredible opportunities just waiting to be embraced. Or maybe, it’s just the way of the world and I just need to learn to deal with it.
Some women might remember the famous television commercial of the early 1980’s with a beautifully coiffed and dressed woman who does it all — takes care of baby, has a great job, cleans, cooks and more — “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan. And never let you forget you’re a man, cause I’m a woman…”
Of course the message of this commercial was quite clear to my college friends and I. While our moms had to make choices of whether they stayed at home with the kids or had an incredibly successful career, my generation would be able to have it all. Oh yes. This commercial promised us we could have it all, quite effortlessly, mind you. All because countless amazing women had paved the way for us to have it all. So we better go for it baby, because women have fought for our rights. And we better do them proud.
Numerous women of my generation have proved that women can accomplish so much and be so much more than any of our mothers have dared to dream. We can survive, with or without a man. We can live our own dreams without waiting for Mr. Right. We don’t need to be married to have children. We don’t have to get married right out of college. We’re not considered hopeless spinsters if we’re still single in our 40’s. We don’t have to have children if we don’t want to.
Women run businesses and run for political office. Women can be plumbers or electricians. Astronauts. Professors. Policewomen. Doctors. Surgeons. Principals. Mechanics. There are so many capable women who are intelligent, brave, courageous–simply amazing. We are survivors. We are women. Hear us roar.
Sure there are sacrifices and lots of angst. But the achievements have been extraordinary. And this is the incredible gift my generation gives to the next generation. The ability to know they are capable of and deserve so much more. We paved the way so the next generation of girls could have it easier. Forget the sacrifice. Forget the struggles. We can do anything. We are women. Hear us roar.
But with this special gift comes a price. Some women are so competitive, they put down other women who don’t have the same edge. We have the Mommy Wars and the Best Career Wars. Instead of uniting, mentoring and helping each other, we women are so determined to prove we have the better life, so we end up attacking one another. Obviously this isn’t true of every woman, but when it is noticed, it is plain disturbing. Sadly, this all rubs off on our daughters.
As a mother of young girls, I worry about my children’s generation, who will soon wonder how they can dare compare or how they can achieve everything without losing a part of themselves. Girls are exhibiting unethical behavior, worried about their smarts and their beauty(podcast), and bullying one another. And this is all before the teenage escapism in weight control, plastic surgery, drugs and alcohol.
I worry about my generation and the expectations we have for our children. Because as we all know, there are parents who will take the expectations a bit too far. There are parents who will want their daughters to be friends only with the popular kids in school. Some parents want their girls to always be on the winning team. And there are the parents who constantly put pressure on their talented child because they want her to be the next superstar.
A number of girls in my town (boys too for that matter) are overscheduled with activities, starting in kindergarten or first grade. They are enrolled in sports teams, music and/or dance lessons and special tutoring classes too. Playdates need to arranged a couple weeks in advance. Some parents even keep their child behind a year in kindergarten for the sole purpose of giving them an edge the next school year over the other children in the class. I find this plain disturbing.
Part of me is worried because I’m not exposing my children to all of these wonderful opportunities. Sure my kids are involved in activities, but I limit them to 2 activities rather than the typical 5-6 commitments, so they can have kid time. I want my kids to be kids for as long as possible, and enjoy life. Another part of me is trying to be understanding because most parents only want the best for their children and to give them what they didn’t have a children. I am left to wonder whether all this overscheduling is part of what is causing the tantrums, the talking back, the attitude of some of my childrens’ friends. This gives me much sorrow.
I find it interesting how we now expect our girls to be stronger and tougher, while our boys are taught to express their feelings. Isn’t it sad our girls are losing their ability to be empathetic and caring? Most girls feel imprisoned by all the expectations and pressure to surpass what women have already accomplished. Is it any wonder they feel the stress and the worry? How do we set them free so they can Be what they want to be?
Am I the only one who feels this way? What can we do to ease the burdens of the next generation of exceptional girls, before we end up destroying the hope of our future?