I know it can be an odd request but just take a moment to read and consider why I am so sick of my daughter being called “pretty”.
No, it’s not bad to be pretty, be called pretty, or call someone pretty but the word does make an impression and leaves behind a lesson in it’s tracks.
The lesson is, “Your looks matter most”.
You see, my daughter is called pretty constantly. Everywhere we go people stop her to tell her they like her looks. They mention her large blue eyes, her cute as a button little self, and her uniquely red hair. I’m sure many moms of girls experience this and it isn’t just mine but she just seems to attract attention everywhere we go. All these people have good intentions. Their hearts are in the right place. They think they are boosting her up, complimenting us, giving her a nice solid foundation of a self esteem. What they don’t always think about is that they are giving her a self esteem based purely off looks. Based purely on outward image. And being told 12 times per outing by strangers that you are visually appealing lets one know one thing- we judge others and ourselves on looks.
I know some people think I am being dramatic or extreme but imagine being a 4yr old. You have a mom and dad who tell you a handful of times per day that your health matters and that it’s good to be strong and that exercising your brain is crucial. But then you are told a dozen times per day… sometimes 2 dozen times in a day- by strangers, family, and friends that your looks are what they notice. Your looks is what they talk about. Your looks is what makes them want to praise you. Your looks is what stops them in grocery aisles. Your looks is what makes them want to talk to your mom. Your looks is what they are saying they wish they had too.
What do you think a 4yr old is going to take in? While health, intelligence, strength..ect.. is important- Pretty is what really counts and matters to others.
Not long ago we were at a park and my daughter paired up with an 8yr old girl and they quickly became playground buddies. At one point the girl told Eve that she looks just like the character Merida from the movie Brave. Eve’s response was this, “I really dont. My hair isnt the right red. and it’s not curly enough. and it’s not long enough.”
and the thing about this that really stood out to me was that Eve said this as if she fell short. She wasn’t “Merida enough” to really be told she was like Merida. And well.. she’s right… only the cartoon character Merida can be Merida and be exactly who Merida is. Eve is Eve… not Merida. But what happens when I translate that to her being called pretty? At what point does the same rational kick in that she already has when compared to a character?
But do I really compare to the standard of “pretty”?
While we may think we are building up her self esteem, I fear we are just building her up to feel meeting this standard is what matters and in the end- due to a culture with unrealistic expectations, anorexic models, photoshopped magazines, plastic surgery and professionally applied makeup that she will start seeing herself as falling short, like so so many of the females in the US who never feel good enough to really be pretty.
Instead of spending so much time calling her pretty, I wish people would stop her to compliment her taste in the books she picks out in the store. Or her energy. Or her wits. Compliment how smart she is after talking with her about science experiments or bugs. I know it comes more naturally to tell little girls they are pretty then it is to actually have to have a discussion with them and find their strengths but they are worth the time spent. If you talked to my daughter, you would know that she loves going hiking and that she goes running with her dad and that she (at only 4 1/2 yrs old and 28 lbs) has run a 5K in The Color Run. She is more than just red hair. She is a torch lighting the way for girls everywhere to be bold and strong and I never want her to think she is any less based on a scale of pretty.
While watching some shows on huluplus, I noticed this commercial being used every commercial break. Since my focus is often on carseats, the first timeI noticed I thought, “oh, good, some ok carseat use in a commercial” (not fabulous in the snug harness department- but pretty good). The next time I saw it I saw that this commercial does a horrible thing to fathers. The job of the dad does not begin in the car. Unless, of course, that is where he conceived the baby! wink wink.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching this father get neglected and pushed into the background during his baby’s birth and first days in the hospital- here you go.
So Dads, this is for you.
Dad, your fatherhood does not start with buckling your baby into the car. Not only should you be there with your wife every step of the way through her pregnancy and birth- it’s your JOB and your right to be there.
So here is my tips for Dads, who I know often get pushed into the background during birth and are an afterthought to the hospital staff during your baby’s arrival.
1- Talk to your spouse/ baby mama
Let her know that you want to be involved in the birth process. Yes, birth is very mom and baby focused. After all, it is very physically demanding on both of them, but you exist in this process too and deserve to be recognized. You may not even be sure what that means yet for you to be involved in the birth but that is ok and exactly why you need to speak to the pregnant mama of your baby and figure out how you two want to bring this baby into the world and how you can be part of this journey with her.
2- Go to some prenatal appointments
I get you may not be able to be there every 4 weeks but try to make a range. An early on appointment in the first trimester to hear that heartbeat and initially meet the OB/MW. If you have questions, ask them. Don’t sit back in the corner and try to make yourself invisible. Be there and present and an active part of the discussion with mom and doctor. Also, try to make a 2nd tri appointment and a end of pregnancy appointment. You’d be surprised how different each appointment is and how different stages of pregnancy can really bring up different topics in the doctors office. Also, putting yourself out there and being involved in this way shows the staff that you are that dad who wants to be involved and active with your wife and her birth.
3- Be in the birth plan
Make sure you and your role in the birth are a topic in your baby mama’s birth plan! It should state that YOU are her support person and who she wants with her and near her while going through whatever her birth may bring.
4- Consider getting a doula
I know men often get skeptical about the role of the doula and fear that she will be replacing him but that simply is not what she does. She will help make sure that you do not get shoved into the background. If your wife is going through a rough moment in her birth and you freeze up or are not sure what to do, she will suggest some ways that you can be there and help her through. Also, her presence will allow you to use the bathroom from time to time without leaving laboring mom alone.
5- Speak up!
Unless the baby has some immediate NICU needs, do not let the hospital staff bully you into feeling like your baby is not your baby. You do not need to prove anything to them. You do not need to wait until an official release. Your baby is yours, not the nursery staff’s baby. And trust me, they sometimes like to make parents feel like they have no rights over their own baby, but you do! Tell them, you want your baby. Tell them, you insist on staying with your baby at all times or that you will be holding and helping mom with baby during the night. You are that baby’sfather and fatherhood does not wait until you leave the hospital. You are the father IN the hospital too and if you aren’t being recognized as your baby’s dad, you need to speak up.
6. Believe in yourself
TV shows and general cultural perspective may have you believing that you are the second class parent or not as intelligent or don’t have the parental instincts you need to raise a kid. Those are lies. I know you probably weren’t given as many baby dolls to practice on as a child as your female counterpart but trust yourself. You can hold your baby and rock your baby and play with your baby and soothe your baby when they cry. Believe in yourself that you are a great father and practice great fatherhood through the entire pregnancy by being a caring and involved husband (or boyfriend/partner) to your baby mama. 🙂
You are dad!
Thank you to all the amazing Dads who allowed me to use their photos.