“Dear girl-mom! Smash the stereotype”.

You know I found it cute when women dressed up like their daughters and called their toddler daughters their “bestie” or “partner in crime” or “fellow diva”. It was cute for a while until it wasn’t. I felt this was a shift from the normal and I felt like this was a huge disservice to our toddler, tween and teen girls if we started seeing them as our peers and our friends. I mean how is a woman in her thirties even considering her toddler daughter to be her bestie ? It’s a little asinine.

But as stupid as my observation of this seemingly innocuous trend might seem, I have to preface this blog post by saying “Keep the cute twinning pictures coming”. I love them.

What I don’t love is the subliminal message that sometimes we can be transmitting to our next generation. A message of “You will have my life”. Because if truth be told, I wouldn’t want my life that has so far been dictated by patriarchy and misogyny to be my daughter’s life at all. I wouldn’t want her to find solace in pretty clothes and expensive jewelry. I wouldn’t want her to be another cookie cutter girl in the world of cookie cutter girls at all.

Sometimes it’s hard to understand what a woman wants when she is loaded with predetermined expectations of her behaviors and choices. Let me tell you how. And let me tell you a little story.

I was born to a doctor dad and a housewife. As cool as my mom’s “profession” was, my parents had always thought that when it would be time to pick a profession, I was going to pick a profession that was somehow considered a family trade at that point just by the sheer number of people who were doctors in my family. I was almost predetermined to be a doctor twenty three years later.

So when I was growing up, I never veered off the path. Any time I showed my aptitude at math and physics I was actively told that in order to be a medical student I would have to ace life sciences. It was a cause for concern for my folks when I actually wanted to think before choosing medicine versus physics after completing college. I was just thinking, mind you! I wasn’t even serious about physics. I was just wondering if I could have physics.

It became a trend with me. I conformed to what people expected. Sometimes I conformed to what other women my age were doing. I modeled their behavior. I even modeled others’ Islam and had no particular affinity for Islam or culture or tradition or even my profession. It all sounds weird, right? Yes it was weird and now that I look back, I was slowly conditioned into thinking that my own self wasn’t good enough.

I grew up like all people and had a child. A child with autism. A child who changed my way of life completely. In many ways that change has been painful. In many ways, it has been liberating.

You see I had to become a self-directed and self-motivated individual in order to be a mother to an autistic. I didn’t have the luxury or the resources to model my life after another cookie cutter autism mom. I didn’t have the obligation anymore to listen to patriarchy anymore. Nothing, not even my deep-rooted yearning to always do the socially right thing, could not prevent the dramatic changes that I went through.

So finally I came to the conclusion that I was protected in a bubble and outside the bubble, I had no manual. It’s strange that a bubble is protected but that’s how rote stereotypes work. I had to relearn my way. I had to reroute my energies. I had to smash the stereotype.

So I’m not saying that we shouldn’t find ourselves in our girls. It’s natural for women to look for themselves in other women because the quest for an identity has been so exhausting. But I wouldn’t want my daughter to look for herself in me. That I wouldn’t want. I would want her to find her own way, choose her own destiny and wear her own clothes. Occasionally she and I can wear the same clothes, as a fun thing, a thing to take pretty pictures for, but not as something that tells her that her life will also be the life that I led. Dictated by patriarchy and shaped by misogyny. That should never be the message.

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