"Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too" - from the song Daughters by John Mayer.Mahatma Gandhi once said that we must be the change that we want to see. So you have been blessed with a daughter? Congratulations and commiserations, there is much work to be done! There will be tangles that need to be gently teased out of your little one's hair, you'll probably have to purchase an immense wardrobe to house all of her fashion statements and there will be tears and tantrums over seemingly simple issues that her little brother would solve with a spade and a shove in the chest.
Daddy, in his invisible Superman body suit will be expected to save her from the harsh world, keep his shot gun loaded and ready for any unsuitable suitors and is duty bound to make her feel safe and protected. But mum, I am afraid, has the biggest and hardest job of all. Like most of her other roles, the job description is vague, offers no promotion, no holidays and is bound to come with a side serve of friction and discomfort. Our daughters are poppies, with delicate petals; our mothers, the wind that scatters seeds ready for pollination. Where we choose to blow, results in the direction our daughters will go and indeed where the world will go, too.
Along with love, care, educational opportunities and the commonsense nurturing that we should give to all children, daughters require mothers to assume an additional responsibility. Our female history is peppered with pain, suffering and struggle. There have been few matriarchal societies that have truly survived and flourished, and although considerable progress has been made with regard to recognising and supporting the equality of the sexes, there are still a myriad of invisible threads that connect us to our unfortunate legacy and continue to pull us into webs of injustice - many of them still slumbering beyond our own consciousness.
Centuries of fear rooted in the belief that women had access to dark and dangerous powers unavailable to men, of women's bodies being territories more connected to nature and its untamed forces, gave women a reputation of needing to be controlled.
Our power went underground a long time ago; a really long time ago when men walked around colossal stones, with big long beards in white nighties. Stories of women being burnt at the stake for being intuitive "witches", or sirens of the sea that lured lusty sailors to their untimely deaths, litter our psyches. Most world religions support this fear: Eve was a naughty girl, Islam wraps women in shrouds claiming it's for their own good (as men lose all self control when in direct contact with such potent power) and there seems to be no mention of Buddha possibly being a girl because menstruation would surely have got in the way of his endless meditation. The Virgin Mary looks good in blue but thank goodness she gave birth to a baby boy who saved "mankind", for where would we be if she'd had a girl?
I grew up in countries where women are considered second-class citizens and daughters considered a burden (oh no, another dowry!). Where honour killings continue, menstruation means exclusion from spiritual practice and equal pay is not even on the drawing board. What is intriguing is that despite these overt examples of injustice, the real crime is how we as mothers in the "civilised" world, in our patriarchally induced comas, still secretly and often unbeknowingly continue to allude and collude to this unfortunate legacy.
If our daughters are to inherit a just world whose language is not just equality but true partnership, where the unique female perspective is given air, then we as mothers, as women, are required to take on an extra dimension - one which involves unravelling our own misty history, one that acknowledges and deals with any glimmer of pain, rage or injustice that we might feel in our current daily lives or of the past.
The days of burning bras, donning pinstripe suits, short haircuts and carrying corporate briefcases are coming to an end. We have access to control regarding fertility and infinite educational opportunities that give us keycards to the halls of patriarchal power. But the truth is that if women want to participate in the world in any capacity - work or motherhood - they still have to do it in a pretty masculine way, and there still exists saddening and difficult compromise along the way.
The "earth mother" vs "career woman" no longer cuts the mustard and if we truly wish to love our daughters into wholeness, we as mothers need to first understand and integrate ourselves. Social and political change does not come without a deep shift in our own personal and individual consciousness. When mothers truly accept their gender's own unique brand of worth and power, stop buying into the "good girl syndrome" that habituates us into silencing our own needs in favour of someone else's to an unhealthy degree, when mothers embrace yin in its entirety, take responsibility for their own happiness (which may require intense or painful reflection and sometimes an uncomfortable disloyalty to their heritage), then we can begin to make this a more appropriate, comfortable and just world for our daughters to live in.
Our girls' physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing relies on grown women taking the lead and peeling back the cataracts that our murky histories have blinded us to, as well.
How we handle our daughters' transition from child to woman heralded by the onset of menstruation and an evolving body is crucial. Rites of passage that embrace and honour the marvellous creative power and unique gender differences, set our daughters up with a backdrop of self recognition.
Imagine if all our daughters, including ourselves, had beautiful experiences when it came to trying on our first bras. Imagine if our first "bleed" was met with celebration, flowers, new earrings or a fancy dinner, instead of worry, unconscious vibes of shame, fear and sadness. What if her "awakening" to womanhood was not just considered a biological change infused with fears of pregnancy and decisions concerning whether to go with tampons or pads, but the acknowledgment of a fantastic flow into her own beautiful power and strength?
What if awe and wonder were offered rather than the silent grief we subconsciously still hold in our energies? What if a father made clear his vow to protect her sacredness and respect her for the miraculous being she is now rather than mourn the little girl she once was?
Our society is still obsessed with keeping womanhood at bay. Our ideal female form is pre-adolescent: boyish figures with no hips or breasts, no flesh. Our female youth are still suffering. The recent "ladette" syndrome where girls mimic the uncouth behaviour of young men, where binge drinking and casual sex is equated with freedom and gender equality, is a sad myth, for in their access to this so called freedom, women are still adhering to male standards: the "bad girl" is ironically still the "good girl".
It is as if we are afraid of femininity; afraid of moving into our own power. Although childhood may be waning, a new, miraculous creative phase is being born. As mothers we must always be aware of tendencies of extremism: for some of us we feel the loss of a child and bestow an unconscious ether of negativity on the emergent women our daughters are becoming. For others we contact that part of ourselves that by the silent osmosis of a subservient and cruel history leads us to feel fear, shame and worry for our fragile little girls. Becoming a "woman" can also trigger flashbacks into our own lives when we were suddenly handed responsibilities that we didn't always relish or understand.
How our daughters experience their femininity, for which the mother is the primary role model, has close and causal links to their health and wellbeing in the future. There are increasing connections between reproductive health and how we relate to our gender. PMT and other uterine problems are metaphysically connected to how comfortable, whole and safe we feel being a woman. Fibroids are indicators of being hurt or dismissed in primary relationships, and there is some conjecture that breast cancer has its roots in not being able to nurture ourselves appropriately.
The increase in fertility problems and other female specific disorders indicate that we are still struggling with truly accepting our feminine nature despite good educational and social opportunities. To ignore or subjugate motherhood as a side issue to our emancipation is dangerous and foolish.
In the myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, Hades abducts the latter and Demeter is enraged, causing the earth to become barren. Without keeping the Great Mother happy and nurturing the "womb" in our world we cannot bring balance to fruition. Without truly respecting our creative essence in its entirety, or our crucial life giving roles as mothers, without caring for our complex selves, we can only live in a disconnected intellectual world.
A child's experience of a mother is closely related to feeling safe, trusting and personally powerful. So as mothers of daughters we have a duty to be wide awake to our own story as a female in this world. Then our parenting can offer up a balance of natural, earthy, physical and cerebral, celestial and intellectual wisdom.
To truly empower our girls we need not wage war on men or try and become them, but instead allow a resurgence of ourselves, an opportunity to breathe life into that which was lost, through activating a new gentleness and acceptance of the feminine. We must support our daughters to feel whole, as they are. The age of believing that two halves make a whole (one of them being a good man/husband/partner) is over. We are at point in time where we are being cosmically coerced to integrate ourselves into wholeness so that when we do partner up we are two wholes that embody respect for ourselves as well as for others; a place where the exhaustion caused by continually attempting to tailor ourselves palatable to another can end.
There is an increasing frequency of female energy on our earth right now that is healing and regenerative, guiding us to go within, consider, meditate and seek our true spirit. The answers to all our pain, all our earthly problems - social, political and personal - lie within our deepest selves and our willingness as mothers to seek out this space. And this exploration might just lead us to a treasure most rare that our beautiful daughters, our women of the future can safely inherit.