I would like to show them that I am strong and brave and content. I would like to show them that this is what it is, to be a woman: it is fair and equal and life is just. There is no fear, there is no constant regret over not matching up or constant frustration over giving in. Because it’s easier.
But, despite all my wishes, when we wake up, we are so damn tired and yet must start another day. We are exhausted by not being able to do it all, by telling ourselves we can’t do it all, and by years and years of just not managing to be good enough. And, on this morning, we are shattered because all night, we held them while they cried or we worried about them while they slept. We feared that we weren’t good enough, to show them how it could be. Then, we went out into the world and didn’t let anyone see our sadness. We looked over our shoulder and got a taxi in the dark and pretended we took it all in our stride.
And in the years between our daughters and us, we berated ourselves for not being that one we’d built in our minds, that one who haunts us each birthday and never was real anyway. In those years, we did everything wrong, but how were we to know, because we didn’t know we had any choice. Did we?
And so on another tired morning we wake and dress, not for ourselves, but for every single other person who will see us today. We wear the clothes we have bought over the years to hide our scars and bones and roundness and woman-ness. We look in the mirror and there is sadness as we try to cover up the guilt. We have become accustomed to gathering up our armour, which gives us a blanket to hold up against the world and crouch behind with our mistakes. Somehow though, sometimes, still, for our daughters, we try to walk with our heads held high. But first, this is not for them, but for every other person who would not notice us if we didn’t.
Then, when we speak, we try to erase the self-doubt and loathing that we have grown to live with, because we believe we don’t measure up. We listen to our words and hear in them decades of not being enough.
Our daughters will embark upon the worst years, the years we want to forget, to erase, to one day stop crying over.They should know that these years will pass, that they can be stronger than we were, that they can be not-broken. They can know choice and courage, and turn their backs on fear. Yet, after living those years, I don’t know how to tell them that. Those years, I now see, are lived by knowing that there’s something to prove or to succumb to. They are lived in a constant state of blame, that points only to ourselves.
I don’t know how to fix it. But maybe this will help: to our daughters – it’s not your fault.
It’s not because you are weak that you cry broken-hearted tears in the dark, it is not your fault that you can’t find a way out.
I wish, for our daughters, things were different now. I would take away the hurt and the fear. These things have been built on a world we aren’t changing quickly enough. I would take away the loathing, the brittle and fragile sense of self, the mistrust and misunderstanding. I would make it all better.
I thought, by now, I would know how to do that for our daughters. I was wrong.