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If I had a daughter by @melissatalago

campfirecommunications

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by Melissa Talago | Founder & Chief Fire Starter at Campfire Communications

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have a daughter. I’ve wondered what it would be like to shop in the pink section of the shop. Or what it would be like arranging Frozen themed birthday parties instead of aliens and superheroes. I’ve imagined having to hunt for ballet shoes instead of rugby boots. And I’ve always breathed a sigh of relief that I don’t have to get hair into a pony tail in the morning.

But more than that, I have wondered what I would tell my daughter about growing up. Would I tell her that she could be anything she wants to be? How would I prepare her for the day she decides to become a mother? How would I tell her that no matter what her chosen profession or how well she has done, there will come a time that she is faced with a choice: have a successful career with a big fat dollop of maternal guilt to go with it; or be there for your kids and put your career on hold, potentially harming your ability to be financially independent?

I know that there are countless amazing women out there who manage it all. They have forged a successful career and been there for their kids. But I think they are still the exception, rather than the norm. (I am almost certain that they’ve had their dark days too).

For millions of women, staying at home with their children is the only choice that works financially or emotionally for them in the short to medium term. In making this choice, they hamstring their ability to earn the same as their partners. And maybe that doesn’t matter if your marriage is destined to last. But many marriages fail. And when that happens, the woman who has sacrificed her career for family is royally screwed. The man whose career has been supported by his wife can continue to earn well and live a roughly similar standard, while a woman typically ends up bearing the brunt of the childcare while trying to get back into the working world with outdated skills. She’ll start at the bottom, earning far less than she might have once done all while being a largely single parent. Her living standards will plummet, for a while at least, until she finds her feet. Many never do.

It is exceptionally unfair. And I’d love to be able to say that it’s changing. Maybe it is. But what I can see, by and large, is that women still get the shitty end of the stick.

And this has always troubled me. How do you prepare your daughter for this reality without making her fearful or defeatist or vitriolic? How would I advise her to prepare for life in a skewed world?

I’d do this:

  • I’d tell her that no matter what she trains to be, she must learn how to run a business too
  • I’d encourage her to think like an entrepreneur from a young age, looking for problems that need solving and how to create the solutions to those problems
  • I would teach her to value herself, to believe in herself, to not be afraid, to take risks, to not try to be perfect but to simply try.
  • I’d teach her not to be afraid of money. I’d get her to manage accounts and budget and save from a very young age.
  • I’d show her that it is possible to run your own business and structure a life around your children.
  • I’d strongly suggest to her that she gets the foundations for a business in place before she conceives, even if she is still in full time employment and has no intention of leaving her job. Hormones are a bitch. Holding a newborn can do strange things to you.
  • I’d teach her that she has to take responsibility for herself.
  • I’d show her how far kindness and consideration go, to not judge and to keep an open mind.
  • I’d teach her to look for a partner who, above all else, respects her.
  • I’d get her to travel and live and experience as many things as she can before settling down with anyone.
  • I’d tell her to listen to her gut. Because it will always be the voice of truth
  • I’d tell her to get a circle of true friends who will be there for her if the bottom of her world ever falls out and her family is no longer there.
  • I’d tell her – and show her – that she really is amazing. And that the only thing that will limit her is the voice in her head.

I don’t have a daughter. I have two sons. I am teaching them the exact same things.

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melissa talagoMelissa Talago: I am founder and chief fire starter at Campfire Communications. After spending 20 years working as a communications expert for some of the biggest brands in the world and some of the most exciting start ups, I realised that what I love most is helping small businesses figure out what their story is.  I coach my clients to do their own PR, help them define their messaging, write captivating copy and provide ad hoc marketing help when they feel a bit stuck.  I can spot a good story from a mile off. I know how to get a small business into the press and will teach entrepreneurs how to do this for themselves. I can express what other people are trying to achieve with their business even when they can’t succinctly say it themselves. I use words to paint such a compelling story that customers want to engage and buy. And I give good, practical, easy to understand advice on how to get businesses noticed.  Most importantly, I offer a fresh perspective, a sense of adventure and encourage small businesses to think big so that they can live the life they want, doing the things they love. And I would love to work with you too!

P.S. I love the smell of woodsmoke, being outdoors, huddling round a campfire and having a chat with friends. It’s where the best stories are told.

3 Replies to “If I had a daughter by @melissatalago”

  1. Jay Commins

    As a dad of three girls, I am trying to teach them…
    – that every surface in the bathroom is not intended to be used to store hair elastics, open make-up bottles and/or toy mermaids
    – that the laundry basket is the big red thing with the label on it that says ‘laundry basket’ rather than the large flat thing that I prefer to call the floor
    – that when they bring their first boyfriend home, they should fully expect me to draw up my full 6ft4 frame and demand to know what his intentions are, and that I have a range of power tools in the shed that I will use on him if he harms a single hair on their head
    – that wearing an item of clothing for half an hour is not a justification for putting it in the wash. That’s why coathangers are reusable
    – that even though there is a river running outside our house with a plentiful supply of water, this is not *hot* water, so spending 45 minutes in the shower and using all of the hot water supply when I am patiently waiting for my turn is simply unfair
    – that even though all the used plates and cups do eventually make it to the dishwasher, we have neither a dishwasher fairy nor a butler that does it. Just because they don’t see me and their mum moving stuff, it doesn’t happen by magic
    – that whilst dreaming is actively encouraged, most dreams take hard work to achieve. But that is part of the fun.

  2. Gemma Nightingale

    Hi Melissa. Brilliant article. I love that you ended with the fact that you are teaching your sons those exact same lessons. It’s a really important point – too often overlooked – that we should not be looking for ways to treat our daughters differently because they are female. The world will do this to them, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We, however, are there to support their development into brilliant, fulfilled adults. We try our hardest to get the difficult balancing act right between career and family, just as our daughters and sons will have to do. Keep up the excellent advice.
    Gemma

    1. Melissa

      Thanks Gemma. And I completely agree about not treating boys and girls differently. But I do think that it still tends to be girls who end up having to make the big kids v career decision. I’d like my boys to know that they are just as responsible for making that decision.

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