I was talking about princesses with my 7-year-old daughter the other day, and the discussion turned to the idea of princesses who need to be rescued (Cinderella, for example, or Sleeping Beauty) and princesses who don’t (Disney’s revamped Rapunzel, and Merida, the red-headed heroine of the newest Disney/Pixar movie, “Brave.”) As an example of Princesses who do the rescuing, I brought up Eowyn from “Return of the King,” the last book in the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy.
(You know, Eowyn… the princess who defied her father and rode into battle to defeat the embodiment of evil, who could not be killed by any man. “I am no man,” she declared as slayed the faceless demon.)
“So,” I told her, “next time someone says you can’t do something just because you’re a girl…”
“Mom,” she interrupted, rolling her eyes a tiny bit. “No one has ever told me that.”
When I was her age, rarely heard it, and when I did it was a.) from a kid my own age, and b.) had nothing to do with anything important — fort-building and secret clubs, not career options or education. Growing up in India in the 1950s, my mom heard frequently and she mostly ignored it, leaving home to study abroad even though she was the daughter and not the son. Her mother, my grandmother, heard it nearly constantly, and defied people as readily as Disney’s Merida, becoming a member of Parliament.
But my daughter? No one has ever told her that she couldn’t do something just because she’s a girl, she says. And that makes me feel incredibly hopeful for her future.
I’ve been writing The 36-Hour Day for a little more than four years now. That’s a little more than 340 posts about juggling career and family, working outside the home and inside the home, and trying to figure out an honest answer to the perennial question: “How do you do it?” — which, depending on the speaker and the context, sometimes sounds a lot more like “You can’t do that, you’re a girl.” Or, more often, “You can’t do that, you’re a mom.”
Our course we can do “that” — whatever “that” may be. Having an amazing network of like-minded people helps tremendously; having great resources makes a difference. Little changes and triumphs can help you go from a job that pays the bills to one that fits in with your dreams.
But the funny thing about landing your dream job is that it can involve having to say goodbye to some of the wonderful things that helped you land it in the first place. And, for me, that includes this column.
Thank you for reading and sharing your stories with me for these last four years. I’m looking forward to continue reading about all of the fabulous things we working moms do when we ignore the “you can’t” comments and explore the things we can do.