Dear Daughter: I Want You To Be Empowered

by Heidi Vermette

Let me tell you, baby girl, I was empowered as a child. A neighbor reported that a boy was annoying me at the bus stop: “She turned around and gave him a piece of her mind, and he didn’t mess with her no more!” But empowerment is all too often conflated with testiness, and that’s not what I want for you. I want you to be truly empowered.

I want you to be empowered to make own your choices. Want to have a high-paying career with long hours? You won’t have much time for relationships, family life or recreation. Want to be a stay-at-home mom? Your income will take a hit, and children are expensive and needy critters. Want to be a working mom? You’ll be scrambling to be good at your job and be there for your kids when they need you. Want to be a nun? A stuntwoman? A physicist? Recognize the opportunity costs associated with your choices, and forge ahead as hard as you can. Don’t whine about the road not taken, and don’t whine that you can’t have it all. No one can.

I want you to be empowered to believe that you can make your life better. Yes, bad things can (and will) happen to you, and you won’t be able to do a thing about them. But look at what you can do to help yourself in any given situation, and do it. Work hard. Get whatever education you need, formal or informal. When tragedy strikes, get whatever help you need to deal with it and thrive in spite of it.

I want you to be empowered to have a sense of humor and a thick skin. People will be rude to you, or they will unintentionally say hurtful things to you. Sometimes you will be able to tell off the rude ones (see above), and sometimes you won’t, and often you’ll have to deal gently with people who are needling some tender point without knowing it. Don’t get your knickers in a twist, and don’t be bitter.

I want you to be empowered to focus on something besides yourself. I want you to be so confident in yourself that you don’t need to prop up your ego or constantly navel-gaze. Instead, think about how you can make the world better, whether that be in your profession or in your personal dealings. Ideally, it would be both.

I want you to be empowered to be competent. Know how to gain new skills and to constantly improve them. Let neither intellectual labors, nor artistic endeavors, nor mundane tasks hold any terrors for you.

I want you to be empowered to be kind and loving, to forgive, to admit when you’re wrong, to be generous and prudent.

You’re nobody’s doormat, child. You weren’t when I saw you kung-fu kicking on the ultrasound, and you certainly aren’t now as a toddler, and you won’t ever be as a girl or woman. You’re my brave, strong girl, and I always want you to carry that courage and strength throughout life. But know that “empowerment” doesn’t mean “bitchiness”—it’s something much harder to achieve. You’re just the girl to do it.


Your Semi-Empowered, But All Too Often Bitchy, Mama