Mother to Daughter: A Questionable Legacy – Part 3

This series of blog posts began here/:

So what are some of the consequences of the images and roles that women learn to appropriate, and what kinds of conflicts and losses are thereby created for a woman herself, for her family, and for society as a whole?

For the woman herself, I would venture to say that the greatest loss she suffers is the loss of self-esteem. If a woman is lucky, she may be repaid for some of her losses by leading a life that is relatively protected and less demanding than she might otherwise be forced to endure. These days, less than half of the female population is so lucky.

Her family, too, pays a price. The children spend the majority of their time during their young and formative years with someone who doesn’t have a very high opinion of herself, and this is likely to make them feel quite insecure. The husband may pay a greater price than even he realizes. In addition to being legally attached to someone who does not value herself highly, he often comes to value her less and less as years pass, believing her story about herself. Moreover, he is often the victim of the sort of passive-aggressive tactics so commonly used by people with no power or authority—by slaves, disaffected employees, and women. These tactics consist of such maneuvers as doing something destructive because, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know any better.” Or allowing something to become irrevocably damaged because, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to fix it.” Or not doing something that really needs to be done because, “I’m sorry, that’s not my job.”

As for society, well, the loss to society is manifold, particularly in this technological age when it is crucial to have competent individuals operating the many gadgets and machines with which we are surrounded. When the females in the population are convinced that they are not competent to operate anything more complex than an on-off switch, there’s certain to be trouble. The loss of mind-power and creativity available to society when half the population has learned not to live up to its potential is staggering. And the genetic loss to society by forcing women to choose—or by making them think they must choose—between family and career, can hardly be measured. Many of the most intelligent and talented women of years past did not reproduce; this may have resulted in an irretrievable brain-drain.

So, the key question is: How can a mother teach her daughter to become a woman and a real person, a person with genuine self-esteem? Perhaps the most important gift a mother can give her daughter is the sense of possibility, the sense that she can do or be anything she chooses if she is willing to work for it. I used to think that my motivation and ambition were primarily the influence of my father. My father was from a poor family, but he worked his way through college, and he worked his way into one of the top executive positions in one of the major corporations in this country. But over the past few years, I have come to appreciate increasingly the role my mother played in allowing me to appropriate some of my father’s ambition.

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(the final installment here)

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About joannevalentinesimson

Scientist, traveler, woman, writer, spiritual explorer, mother, grandmother, fascinated with the world, appalled by deliberate human ignorance. Blogs include: http://joannevalentinesimson.wordpress.com/ http://solowomenathomeandabroad.blogspot.com/ http://spiritandscience.net/ http://caringforyourbody.org/
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6 Responses to Mother to Daughter: A Questionable Legacy – Part 3

  1. As I was reading this post I was thinking that it was my father, and not my mother, who encouraged me and convinced me that I was capable to achieve all that I desired. But then I read your comment about your mother’s role in allowing you to appropriate some of your father’s ambition and it caused me to realize that while my mother never pushed me, she always supported me, a different kind of encouragement that I think that I have taken for granted until now.

    • Unfortunately, children do tend to take for granted a lot that mothers do for them, because most mothers care for children quietly and consistently and without demanding gratitude. Once you become a mother, you may realize this when your own children take you for granted! ;-)

  2. nrhatch says:

    I know many women who received the insidious messages you described in part 2 from their mothers and others. I never remember being encouraged to downplay my intelligence in order not to compete with boys, nor do I remember being encouraged to pay undue attention to how I looked. As a result I never got addicted to shopping for shoes or handbags. ;)

    I always knew I could be anything that I wanted to be. I never felt that my worth depended on who I married. When I married, I kept my maiden named and chastised people if they addressed cards to “Mr. and Mrs. BFF” instead of using MY NAME TOO.

    That said, my mother encouraged me to be a nurse because that was such a good profession for women. My father overheard her and said,”Why should she be a nurse? Why not a doctor?”

    I fooled them both and went to Law School. :mrgreen:

    Fantastic series. Looking forward to Part #4.

  3. Well said, Jo Anne! My mother was a wonderful influence on me, too. Societal factors had a more discouraging impact, especially back in the fifties and sixties.

  4. Pingback: Mother to Daughter: A Questionable Legacy – Part 2 | joannevalentinesimson

  5. Pingback: 7 More Unpolished Stones | Spirit Lights The Way

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