Am I Forcing My Views on My Daughter?

19 comments

As long as I can remember I have been a pretty strong feminist. Not your bra-burning, stereotypical version of the man hating beast that society tries to describe, but a woman just looking for women to finally be equal in a society where equal pay for the same job is still frequently unheard of.

I have also been a strong advocate for reproductive rights. Abortion, childbirth, pre-natal care providers, choices… all kinds of choices. Basically the slogan mind your own uterus comes to mind. You mind yours and make your own choices – and I will do the same. Right?

Seems simple enough.

Recently in preparation for the March for Women right here in Connecticut on April 28th, I had two custom shirts made. One for myself and one for my daughter.

My shirt is a simple pink shirt that says “Pro-Choice Mother of Three” a pretty accurate statement. Then for my daughter I made this:

Cute right?  I think it is downright adorable and I can’t wait for it to come so that I can put it on her and try it out. Of course when I posted it on my facebook fan page I got some backlash. A reader decided to make a bold “I am unfollowing you” statement which is completely fine by me – it wouldn’t be the first time I lost a reader over my political beliefs. But what followed really hit me.

There was a mature and extremely adult discussion about pushing my personal beliefs on my daughter. Which brought me to a whole new question as a parent I had never even though of before.

Am I right or wrong by doing this?

I mean… from the beginning I always just thought all the lessons and morals I have been teaching my children were right. At least in my eyes. And believe me, my husband and I have bumped heads on our views on abortion before. But I didn’t see anything wrong with me teaching my children, my beliefs.

I thought it was just something parents naturally do. Right?

It certainly has helped to give me a refreshed view on parenting around hot topics. But I just don’t know if I could stomach to teach my daughter anything else but what I already am when it comes to womanhood, woman’s rights and being a strong woman.

What about you?

19 comments on “Am I Forcing My Views on My Daughter?”

  1. I have worked for women’s rights since the 1970’s, and am the mother of a grown daugther. If your daughter is younger than 18 you should not include her in your political activities. She is simply not old enough to grasp the scope of this issue, the volitile nature of the discussion and wearing twin ‘cute’ tee shirts discounts the importance of this topic. This is not a mother daugter issue until she is old enough to under the impact of choice on the life of a woman. She deserves the opportunity to be mature enough to grasp what this means and accept the consequences of holding a pro choice opinion in an ‘anti choice’ environment. This is adult work and should be undertaken by adults, not be a ‘fun’ outing.

    1. Thank you for your input Catherine.
      For me, my work in this setting for woman’s rights and ensuring that all medical choices are options for my daughter strengthened immensely the moment I know I would no longer simple be a mother of boys. Adding a daughter made me want to fight even harder to know her rights are never taken away, violated or infringed upon.
      To me, I think issues like this start in the womb. But of course, too each their own!
      Thanks again for your input and comment!

    2. Catherine, i think that’s the thing though … the discussion doesn’t need to be volatile, and the t-shirt is a way to inject some levity into the pro-life/pro-choice drama (which frankly, I have grown sick of over the years). No one actually thinks that a baby is old enough to grasp the issue … and that’s what makes it cute and funny. I wouldn’t put it on my baby either because it’s not my style, but honestly, if I saw it on someone else’s baby I would probably not give it another thought. I think Danielle is clearly going to give her kids the opportunity to reach a level of maturity needed to form opinions on any topic in life, so on that point I feel you judge her too harshly. Also, I question what it is about 18 that magically makes kids able to form adult opinions? I know that at 33 I am a lot more mature than I was at 18, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have worthwhile opinions at 18 or even younger. And I grudgingly admit that perhaps I will be even more mature in another 15 years. Maybe. 😉 So I respectfully disagree that the cutesie t-shirt discounts the importance of the topic, or that this should not be a fun outing … why can’t it be fun? I appreciate the fact that I was born in 1979 and therefore didn’t live through the firestorm of the early abortion debates, so I see where your anger is coming from. But this is one thing that turns me off about the pro-choice movement, although I will always support reproductive rights. I think the pro-lifers WANT us to be angry (and divisive), the very stereotype of “angry feminist,” because it makes us look radical and crazy … just my thoughts.

  2. I am personally not a big fan of this sort of thing – regardless of the message (“Republican baby!” “witty comment about baby having deep religious insights” “pro-choice/pro-life etc”) for children not yet old enough to form their own opinions. Obviously, she is not pro choice – she isn’t pro-life either, she just has not yet formed an opinion. For me, I hope to teach my children my values, yes, but I hope to support them in finding where they stand themselves. I do believe that many of these issues are incredibly nuanced and complex, and I do hope that if you DO happen to end up with a child who is pro-life on their own accord (and Im sure we will all have kids who will disagree with us on SOME issue!) that s/he will still retain the values you imparted. I guess for me it comes down to… I think my job is to teach my kids values, morals, kindness, critical thinking, compassion, etc etc. And hope that they can come to well-supported opinions of their own.
    I guess I just differentiate between teaching my kids my values, about how to become an upstanding adult etc, and teaching them to believe in all the specific platforms that I believe in. I guess it is a good thing I am not religious eh?

    FWIW I would not have any issue if the shirt just said “My Mom is Pro-Choice!” 🙂

    1. I agree – keeping it at “my mom is pro-choice” might actually make the original statement you were trying to make, while potentially sidestepping this debate (even though I think these types of debates are beneficial).

      Than, you’d just have to deal with people disapproving of you bring your baby to the rally itself 😉

    2. Ugh. That should have read “if you DO happen to end up with a child who is pro-life on their own accord … *you will know* that s/he will still retain the values you imparted.”

  3. Danielle, I don’t see a problem with the shirt and in fact, I think it is cute. I do understand why it rubs some people the wrong way because abortion is a touchy subject but everyone knows that your baby is not REALLY pro-choice and will grow up to make her own decisions although for now, she will be a good sport and wear whatever you put on her. I wonder if a baby in a pro-life shirt would get the same reactions? I doubt it and I understand why but for me, it is all in good fun. It’s not too much different than me putting my babies in Red Sox shirts but for the fact that it is a political statement and pretty much everyone decks their babes out in sports team apparel without thinking twice. Nobody would be offended by a team logo even though it is pretty clear that a baby is not a fan of any team. I suppose it is because “babies” are at the heart of the pro-choice debate that this would not sit well with some people but as I said, I don’t see an issue with it. Thanks for the post!

  4. I’m so glad you posted about this, because i did see you post this on Facebook and it got me thinking. As a feminist too, I remember being pregnant and giddy that I’d be able to buy my kid a “this is what a feminist looks like” onesie.

    But then I rethought that choice. Why? I absolutely abhore those t-shirts made for girls that proclaim them as “princess” or “diva” or say, “I heart boys” or “I hate math” or whatever. I couldn’t help but thinking, how was “feminist” (or, here, “pro-choice”) any different? It would be a a characterization that I chose for her, and I don’t really want to do that.

    I recently saw a quote that said something like, we should teach our children how to think, not what to think. While Nora will be raised in a feminist household (my hubby considers himself feminist too, and is a good sport and even drives my car with the feminist bumper stickers – love him) and will no doubtedly be influenced by that, I would still support them in making their own choices, even if they differ from my own.

    So, I chose not to buy that onesie, but maybe she’ll want a tee with the same saying, when she’s older and makes that decision for herself – or, maybe not. But it would be her decision.

  5. I came across a pinterest pin the other day that said “Our children need to be taught how to think, not what to think.” Your post put a different spin on that saying for me. When I repinned it, I wasn’t necessarily thinking about parenting, but more about education and how our kids are being taught in schools.

    I agree that it is natural to teach our children our beliefs, since they are growing up in specific environments with parents and caregivers with certain beliefs. But I think they also need to be aware that our beliefs that we are exposing them to are not the only options out there, and shown where to go to seek out more information so that they, when the time comes or they are old enough, can make their own informed decisions.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post, Danielle!

  6. We teach our kids are values and beliefs every day. Sometimes they’re political because the media and the government say they are political. But in the end, they are our beliefs.

  7. Thanks for your input Lesliesholly, these are the kid of subjects where I simply agree to disagree because of the direction the topic can turn. But thank you for taking the time to leave a respectful reply.

  8. I heard some of the same arguments when I took my toddler daughter to a Life Chain years ago. I also took my boys to march against the death penalty. The whole family marches for life in January every year as well. Of course it’s natural to raise your children around your views and hope they will embrace them. I have to be honest and say I don’t like the t-shirt, though. Your daughter is not pro-choice. She’s too young to have an opinion on the subject. To me that’s like using her as a billboard. It would have been enough to say “my mom is pro-choice.” I feel the same way about putting presidential campaign shirts on little babies. And you are probably going totally disagree with what I am going to say next but it is from my own experience: little kids are NOT pro-choice naturally. If you neutrally explain what abortion is in my experience they are horrified. My ten-year-old just found our about abortion. I couched it in the most neutral terms possible because I didn’t want to upset him. He just could not imagine why anyone would do such a thing. Now I want him to be compassionate and not condemnatory so I explained some reasons people had for doing it. I think if you want your kids to be pro-choice you would have to do some persuasive explaining at that point in the conversation. Little kids naturally love babies, and if they’ve been around pregnant women they have been socialized to the idea that it’s a baby in their, and they aren’t stupid so they can figure out, even if you don’t give them the details, that the baby is dying. They aren’t naturally going to buy into that.

    1. Thanks for sharing your opinion. We respect everyone’s thoughts, even if they disagree with the blog posts author. It’s important to us to have a safe, positive and supportive environment for all women to come together.

  9. I think all parents do this, because honestly once they become teenagers and/or go to college/move out they are going to form there own decisions. I remember believing in alot of things my parents did when I was young but not so much now. Some things I still do but your child will become their own

  10. IMO it’s not any different from teaching them about religion. beliefs are beliefs. No matter what form. I am sure I’ll make my children aware of how I feel on certain things in life, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to disown them if they disagree. Also, I think the shirt is… just that. A SHIRT! I’m sure you were aware people would be offended by it, but it doesn’t really matter what they think. It’s just a shirt. They’re just over-reacting. Let it slide off your back mama. Life goes on. It’s your life, your children. They don’t like it? They don’t have to! 🙂

  11. I have to comment on this one. I agree with your definiton of feminist 100% and I, too, am adamantly pro-choice. My husband and I have a similar argument. Not about abortion itself, but about the idea of imposing my views on our kids. I see it as you do: your job is to teach your child right from wrong. In our view, being pro-choice is right because it lets every woman make that choice for themselves. I think what muddies the waters, though, is the t-shirt itself. It makes me a little squirmy and I can’t really explain why. Someone gave me a baby onesie that read,”Now that I’m safe, I’m pro-choice.” They thought I would love it. I laughed uncomfortably but considered it, well, unseemly. I don’t like to see kids wearing or saying things that espouse adult views that are clearly those of their parents, even as I expect those parents to be teaching their children those same views at home. Inconsistent? Maybe, but there it is.

  12. I think all we can do is teach them what we believe to be right and good. I’m pro-choice and my girls will grow up in my house, so of course they’ll be influenced by my beliefs. I’m very liberal, but we have some very conservative family members, too. They’ll grow to make up their own minds and while we may not end up having the same views on everything, all I can hope for are honest, caring, strong and thoughtful women!

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