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It is exciting to be 18 and on the brink of an independent life. Here are 15 life lessons from a mother to her daughter on her 18th birthday that we could all use.
Today, you turn from my baby girl into a young woman… and I am in equal measure excited and petrified. As you step into adulthood, you enter a world of responsibilities; I don’t want to scare you but I can’t stop myself from sharing my thoughts with you… my experiences as a woman, as a wife, and as a mother.
This society, people around you, the world we live in, all of them would try very hard to fit you into certain moulds. They would tell you how to talk and what to say, how to think and even what to think, how you should look and how you are expected to behave. Just ignore them and their unsolicited advice. Resist the urge to please everyone and try to create a space that is your own, that reflects you and your sensibilities.
Whether you choose to break the stereotypes or decide to live them, always remember the most important thing is choice, your choice. You have been blessed with a strong and beautiful mind, never hesitate to use it.
As a parent and as a woman, I can’t stress enough the importance of being independent. Naturally, I want you to be financially independent but emotional and mental independence is just as important. For me, independence doesn’t only mean the freedom to spend as much as you like. It means the freedom of thought, freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom to have an opinion… and the right to exercise them. I want you to be able to think for yourself, to have a say, to make your own decisions and to have opinions.
Always remember that your career, although important, is only a part of your life, just like love is. Do not make it your whole life. Your life is much more than your bank balance; your happiness is more than the designation on your business card.
To find out who you truly are, I would suggest, once in a while, look at yourself and see how would you want to define yourself, devoid of your career and the many roles you would eventually play… and if you don’t like that definition, work on yourself to change it. Explore. Laugh. Love. Eat. Dance. Listen. Speak. Think. Feel. Live to the fullest my darling.
As is natural, sometimes you would be exhausted with all the responsibilities adult life brings and you would feel like letting someone else, your partner perhaps, take charge of your life; someone else drive for a while as it might seem more comfortable… you won’t have to be constantly vigilant and instead you could relax… Seems enticing, right?
But, don’t forget, when you give someone else the steering wheel of your life, the power to drive you around, who knows where you would end up! When you give someone else the right to make your decisions for you, you also give them the agency to control you and your life… which in my humble opinion, is not such a good idea, don’t you think so?
There would come a time when you would be deified as a goddess or expected to be a superwoman who juggles home life and work life perfectly, someone who is always in control and whose life is in perfect harmony. Don’t let these epithets go to your head and also don’t be daunted by the expectations they entail. It is okay if you don’t live up to them. Don’t think less of yourself. It is okay if you fail because you are human, you are allowed to make mistakes, you are allowed to fail, you are allowed to ask for help.
Never be afraid to say ‘No’ when you mean it. Also, don’t be afraid to say ’Yes’ when you mean it… because the ‘choice’ when to say what, is always with you. I could not stress enough that you are the star of your life; you are the sun of your galaxy… you are bright and powerful.
Life is very long and along the way, there would be times when you would see people, your peers, your friends, doing better than you are… at those time, resist the urge to compare yourself to them, the urge to look at your life and feel dejected… just because you didn’t see their struggle, it doesn’t mean they haven’t had any. You concentrate on what you are doing to the best of your abilities.
Endeavor to be kind and compassionate to other people’s feeling and their problems. When I say you should think about others, I do not mean that you stop thinking about yourself… and believe me, it doesn’t make you selfish. So, even though I want you to think about others and be empathetic, but not at the cost of your own happiness.
Soon, there might come a time when you would fall in love, hopelessly and unconditionally so. But, at that time I would want you to remember your first love – that is self-love.
I have no doubt that someday you would have to choose between what makes you happy and what would make your significant other happy… making a decision at that time would be a tough one, right? But, that’s a test almost every relationship has to face sooner or later. You might be tempted to keep his (or her) happiness before your own.
All I can say is think long and hard before you do so. Again, it is not being selfish. Your happiness is as important too. If you put your dreams and aspirations on the back burner because of love, there might come a time when you would regret your decision and resent your partner.
But, that doesn’t mean you only choose yourself and what makes you happy because I, from experience, know that your decisions also impact those who are closest to you. So, I can only tell you to talk to your partner… and listen to what s/he has to say. A relationship is a partnership, and one of you can’t make a decision to what would impact both of you. When you are in a relationship, the saying – you should listen to everyone but do what you want to do – doesn’t work. There are two people in a relationship and it is only fair that the two of you decide on what works for both of you.
So, on the one hand I want you to never follow your partner blindly and put across your feelings, but on the other hand I want you to be considerate to his feelings as well. Love is an integral part of a relationship but so are communication, respect, freedom, and trust.
When you would grow up a bit more and get married, you would be told, like I was, to keep the husband’s needs before your own. People might also tell you that as a woman, your place is only behind or besides your man. You would be told that his career would always be more important than yours, his dreams more significant than yours. You would be told that his success is yours and later in life, your children’s success would be termed as yours.
Even in movies and TV shows, you would see that how it is a wife’s duty to make sure that her husband is happy and comfortable. All around you, you would notice that how a woman is expected to be a man’s strength and his support system… albeit a silent one. What they show in such movies and in such shows, in advertisements and in songs, is not true. Don’t believe them. All they attempt to do is to silence your voice and restrict your thoughts. Don’t let them.
If ‘you choose’ to be a housewife or stay at home mother at some point in your life, rest assured, people and society would again tell you to keep the needs of the earning member in front of your own. Do not listen to them. Even if you are not contributing in the financial aspect, you are contributing socially and emotionally.
I say again a marriage is a partnership. You are and would always be an important part of your family… irrespective of how much money you bring in. So, your needs and wants are as important. Your opinion matters as much. What you think carries as much weight as the one who is bringing in the moolah. Do not let the lack of finances make you feel inferior. But, I would again reiterate, always make sure you are financially stable… save, save and then save some more.
Do not settle to be a silent spectator in a marriage. There is no point to a marriage if you can’t share your feelings and thoughts with the person you are supposed to spend your life with. And if you feel lonely in a relationship, share your concern with the partner, and if still, nothing changes… it is time to move on. And believe me when I say, love doesn’t happen once and your first love is certainly not your last.
In the name of being a good wife, a dutiful daughter-in-law, or a selfless mother, you would be expected to take a backseat in your own life. But, do not let your dreams be tied down by these labels because that’s what they are, sweetheart, mere labels, unrealistic labels. You are and will always be much more than just a wife, just a daughter-in-law, just a daughter, just a sister and even just a mother.
It is very common in our society to use these terms, these labels to make women believe that only being a wife or a mother is enough but I can tell you from my experience that it is not. These are merely roles that you would play in one lifetime… Don’t let them define you.
Having said that, I know, in life, compromises are inevitable and sometimes you would have to sacrifice for someone else, be it friend, family, work life, your children… but the important thing to remember is that the keyword here is ‘sometimes’, do not make it a habit.
You would notice that I haven’t mentioned anything about how you should look? Well, because looks, they don’t matter. They are fleeting and whether you are stick-thin or overweight, whether you are dusky or fair, it is your inner beauty that concerns me more. As I said, people would tell you how you should look, what’s in style, how you should dress, what makeup suits you… let them. You wear what you want to wear. You be what you want to be.
Lastly, in your lifetime, if you ever feel trapped or lonely; if you ever feel hopeless and the world doesn’t make sense… always remember that I am here with an open mind and open arms… to always listen and never judge. My darling, you would always, always have a home with me and I will always support you and your decisions… no matter what.
Love you forever and always,
Published earlier here.
Image source: mother with teen daughter by Shutterstock.
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