Monday, August 24, 2009

The princess problem

For a couple of years in another lifetime and when I had the luxury of doing something I loved and not needing to support a family, I had the blessing of being a preschool teacher. It was the one job I truly loved in my soul. I was good at it, my kids loved me, my bosses adored me and made me a trainer for their beloved science curriculum for other teachers and my supervisor wept when I left for greener pastures.

What I learned during those years of being around girls is that girls are by and large reared by their fathers (and yes, their mothers too) to think of themselves as princesses. Don't misunderstand me - I think that a natural part of a girl's development requires that she be a princess - she needs to feel special and pretty and have a dream that one day a prince charming might come along and sweep her off her feet.

Unbeknownst to my bosses, I would create stories for my children at story time that were not part of the curriculum - they were "Miss Annette" stories - I lived in Kentucky at the time and the title was a formal one. I would tell stories of broken families, families with no children, families with just one parent - children being reared by grandparents - In those days, I would not have dared speak of same sex parents, but I would today. I digress.

One of my favorite stories to recount to the children was about a princess. She was a beautiful girl and loved her father very much (her parents were either divorced or the mother had died - likely the latter, given the Disney angle that the stories took on for the most part) - she lived in a beautiful castle - of course - where else would a princess live? and had been raised in Europe (hey - I am European, so it is not a stereotype) in the breathtaking Alps. When she reached the age of maturity or coming out, her father set about finding her a mate. He searched through all the surrounding kingdoms and could not find a suitable man - he searched for years, all in vain. Finally, he wept and told his daughter that he had failed her.

His daughter was wise for her years (of course she was - she was my creation) - and told her father not to worry - she would find a husband herself. She decided that in order to have a husband, she needed a career, so she set about going to college, which was unheard of in that day, and learned how to be an excellent manager. Years later, she still had not found her prince, but she was happy and fulfilled in life with her circle of friends, her church and her volunteer activities.

One day, a man came into her life who turned out to be the prince she had sought - no white horse, no kingdom, nothing to offer but his love, support and a decent job - they lived together in bliss. The moral of the story, I told my enraptured little ones - was that they might grow up and find a prince, and they might not - the trick is to be happy with what you have in life, not with what you want and can't have.

And now to the meat of the story. A couple of weeks ago in a USA Today public forum piece, "The Princess Problem" came to light again. I have discussed this with a friend on more than one occasion. These are women who are raised to expect a man to take care of them. My friend and I believe that a man is more likely to be attracted to a woman who can take care of herself - indeed, if either wants to take care of a mate in a co-dependent relationship, someone should seek counseling - but fast!

The article speaks of professional women in great jobs who are just biding their time until they marry and can move to the suburbs, essentially - waiting for their prince.

Women still earn less than men on average, thank God for Obama's pay equality legislation - however, in this economic downturn, more and more women are finding themselves as the main breadwinner in their families.

I was most fortunate some 27 years ago - I met an amazing man with whom I fell deeply in love. The marriage did not last, but that is not the point of this article. What I loved about him the most was his willingness to let me choose for myself whether I wanted to be a princess (stay at home mother) or work outside of the home. The two of us were both devout Mormons at the time and that religion pretty much dictated that a woman stay home during the formative years of her children.

Being a full time mother was not an easy transition, and never was a very good fit, but I made it work, because my church demanded it and I thought that it would be the best thing for my children. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last. Fifteen years later, it came crashing down around my ears, and while I had taught preschool initially during the marriage to support my partner during school, knew that I would not be able to support my children on such an income.

The moral of the story is that we should not raise our daughters to be princesses - we should raise them to be educated, resilient and strong women - they don't have to "need" a man to feel "needed" - that is the icing on the proverbial cake - to be needed, that is - to have a man love you is the greatest and most choice blessing in the world - that is why God ordained marriage and why he/she wants us not to be alone - it is not the natural state of being.

Princesses, throw away those damn tiaras and glass slippers and quit looking - find your own kind of happy and he will come along when you least expect it - just don't expect him to "complete" you, or to provide for you - that is just not fair!

Feedback appreciated.......

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