Raising Daughters to Be Themselves

We all have to curb our expectations

We all fall into expectations—both conscious and subconscious—that we've developed long before our daughters entered our lives. Every mother expects her daughter to follow the course she (the mother) knows. But perhaps you are an accountant, and God gives you an artistic daughter who has never understood coloring within any lines. Or you garden, producing and eating only organic produce, then daily slip into your Birkenstocks, and your daughter wants to become an entertainment lawyer. Imagine a woman who is a politician, always in the limelight, and her daughter wanting to be a stay-at-home mom in the carpool lane.

That's where a mother's counseling in personal creativity must get really creative. It must not only ensure that your daughter follows a path of growth in character and principles, but that she also pursues her own place in our human race. The one uniquely designed for her … not the path you choose for her or one of others' expectations.

The girl you are entrusted with is not a clone of you, and she's not her sister or her cousin. She should also not be conformed to the image of what others—your mother, mother-in-law, neighbor, friend—think she should be. This is not to say there might not be invaluable advice from each of those people. But each premise, yours or theirs, must be tempered with the nature of your daughter. Are your expectations based on what's best for your girl—or simply there because it's what you know, what you've been told, and what you're comfortable with?

To do the job of motherhood well, we need to be confident about who we are—even when we don't know how to handle a situation. We need to know what our worth is, what we believe, and how we want to live. If we understand these important issues, it will be easier to guide our daughters to do the same. To perform effectively the duties of a Creative Counselor, we are required to set aside our comfort and do our best to help our daughters follow their own course … all the while maintaining their individuality.

Nellie Cashman is a great example. Though not much has been written about her, I find her series of adventures fascinating. Born in Queenstown, Ireland, she and her older sister, Frances, immigrated to America in 1851, when Nellie was 16 years of age. Arriving at Boston Harbor, they stayed one year, then boarded a transcontinental train for San Francisco, California.

Nellie signed on as a single woman at the age of 23 to a mining troupe as cook and set out for the Cassier Districts in the mountains of Juneau, Alaska. Nellie was a lone, petite, attractive woman, but she held her own. Even in the mining camp the men treated her with dignity and respect. She worked alongside them, cooking and mining, and suffered the same hardship, success, and disappointments they did.

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