I woke last night from another one of my nightmares. I screamed so loudly that I woke my spouse and toddler daughter, who had once again made her way into our bed. My husband gently rubbed my back and reassured me I was safe.
My daughter then brought her tiny hand to my cheek and softly embraced me, stating, “It okay, Momma. I had sweet dreams of kitties and puppies.”
As she regularly reports having such sweet dreams, her father asked, “Can you send Momma some of your sweet dreams? Can she dream of kitties and puppies instead of the bad things?”
“Momma dreams?” her father asked, “What do Mommas dream about?”
“Mommas need to dream about cooking and cleaning,” she merrily replied.
While there was amusement in my daughter’s naïve response, those words also brought forth anger. This anger was not directed at my adorable, comforting child, but at our culture and my own role in our skewed society. At only three years old, has my daughter already become conditioned to believe that women’s roles are as mothers only, to raise the children, cook the meals, and clean the home? Does she believe she must spend the remainder of her life subservient and smiling? Does she believe that she can be defined only in relation to a man?
If so, those are not my dreams for her. In addition to those delightful dreams of soft, cuddly puppies that she currently reports, I have far superior, more significant dreams for my daughter. I dream that my daughter may never find herself in so many of the unfortunate positions I have discovered myself in.
I dream that my daughter may never work in an environment where sexism is so commonplace that a complaint is scoffed at. May she never sit in an employee lounge where copies of FHM and Maxim are spread across the tabletops, with the images of barely clad women smeared with greasy fingerprints.
I dream that my daughter will never be in an occupation where she works more skillfully and competently than her male coworker, yet earns $2.00 an hour less despite his lack of experience.
I dream that my daughter will never date a man who requests she step on a scale to verify his belief that she isn’t trying hard enough to stay pretty for him. I don’t want her to doubt her self-worth so greatly that she would remain in this relationship.
I dream that my daughter may never believe that intelligence is shameful in women. I never want to hear her say, “I didn’t want to do well on the test because my friends would just call me a geek for being too smart.”
My greatest aspiration for my daughter, though, is that she pursue her own dreams – whatever those may be, with disregard to common gender roles. Should she achieve her goals, I aspire to a world where she is respected and rewarded consistent to her male counterpart. I want her to know that some mommas may cook and clean, but they also do, build, think, teach, inspire, plan, shape, and lead. My dream is that she believes in herself enough to recognize she can do any or all of these things.
I know that my nighttime terrors may not vanish should these dreams be achieved. However, such dreams would make growing up a girl less frightening for all young females. So, have sweet dreams and big dreams, my bright, growing young woman.
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