A Mother’s Musings: On Raising Daughters

I am more cognizant than ever of the importance of raising daughters well in a world that is not kind to those perceived as weak.

I love being a mother to a daughter, and am completely invested in raising her to be her own person.
When I was pregnant with Iman in 2004, an acquaintance asked me if the biological sex of my baby had been determined. I enthusiastically responded that I was having a girl. He looked at me quizzically and said, “the world is a difficult place for girls.”

It is true that girls/ women continue to be stereotyped and objectified. In several parts of the world, we are taught that submissiveness is a virtue. It is often inculcated into girls that they are obligated to comply with every societal demand, however unreasonable it might be.

As a mother of a teenage daughter, I want her to know that she is NOT obligated to be perfect. She is NOT obligated to be submissive to authority figures. She is NOT obligated to kowtow to unreasonable societal pressures. She is NOT obligated to silently accept mistreatment or barbs.

Although intelligent women have a tough road to hoe, I want my daughter to know that nothing beats carving one’s own path and discovering one’s own identity.
I want her and her friends — who are like my daughters as well — to know that their self-worth is far beyond their physical appearance. They don’t have to have hour-glass figures to be well-liked.

I encourage my daughter to make her own choices and to have the courage to handle the consequences. I encourage her to brush herself off every time she makes a mistake, and pick up from where she left off.

I do not ask my daughter to toe my line. I refrain from forcing her into doing something that I think she ought to do. The attempt is to give her a safe environment and space to explore her strengths and grow in the areas she cherishes.

Adolescent girls are prone to anxiety and low self-esteem. The best that I can do as the mother of an intelligent girl is to give her a strong sense of self. When life demands its dues, a strong sense of self enables one to balance life’s demands.

I will pass onto my daughter those strengths I have been fortunate to inherit from my parents, and give her the space to employ strength as she chooses.

I hope to do for my daughter what my father did for me: give her wings to fly and roots to which knows she can always return. 

NOTE: A noted writer and scholar, Nyla Ali Khan resides now in Oklahoma.