In her essay, ‘Dear Ijeawele, A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions ‘ Chimamanda Adichie writes about the importance of teaching girls to reject likeability.
It’s a concept that I’ve taken to heart, personally, as I’ve been a people pleaser all my life. Somehow believing that being liked and not rocking the boat were life’s key objectives, rather than prioritising your own wants.
I’m 37 ( and 51 weeks, as it happens ) and only now am I am really conscious of the shapes I have twisted myself in to keep other people happy. As if making other people happy were my job. It’s not, no more than it is anyone else’s job but mine to make me happy.
So it’s taken me thirty years to get to this point , and I’m not even fully there yet. If I can instill this in my daughter in her formative years and save her a lifetime of putting herself second, or last, then I’ll consider that a substantial parenting victory.
She was being stubborn and not doing what I had asked , as is a three year olds wont.
I’ll be cross with you if you don’t stop that, I said.
Hurray! But then she said
Mammy are you happy with me ? I want you to be happy with me.
This is a pretty regular refrain of hers. Are you happy with me mammy ? Do a happy face mammy.
Of course all children want to make their mothers happy , but it dawned on me, somewhat belatedly I admit, that threatening her with my displeasure was not the way to get her to change her behaviour. She was changing her actions to make me happy. This is not a pattern I want her to continue in her future.
She is three. She needs to be directed occasionally when she makes a misstep , but the way to deal with this is by guiding her to make the right choices, rather than withholding my satisfaction from her.
Feminism has informed my parenting in many ways, most notably being mindful of the language I use . The words that we use matter. These are the messages that stay with our children throughout their lives.
It’s not her job to make me happy. Not me, nor anyone else but herself.
Not you, not anyone else but myself.