When were we programmed to be rescued? I thought about the concept recently when a guy my daughter went on a date with said he thought it wouldn’t work out because going on a date didn’t make him feel better. The comment bothered me, like why is it someone else’s responsibility to make us feel good about ourselves, fix our self-worth, heal our depression, entertain us, rescue us from our problems?
When we had our fourth daughter, I had dozens of people ask over the years if we were trying for a boy? My husband, Todd used to say, “we missed that class in Jr. High!” I really disliked this response because it implied, we should feel ashamed for having four, kids let alone girls. I told Todd to start telling people we wanted 6, we just couldn’t have anymore, and when people made terrible comments such as, “the planet is already overpopulated,” like while I was pregnant, I would respond, “better it’s me repopulating….”
The raising of daughters has significantly changed culturally, even since I have been a parent. My belief that you can do whatever you want to do (within your own physical limitations) has become a standard concept. Thirty years ago, when I was first entering the workforce, it was uncommon to see a female chief of surgery, a female orthopedic surgeon, and other largely male dominated positions in medicine. There is still a huge gap in female leadership in most careers, but the glass ceiling is slowly breaking. I say all that to say the idea that the female characters we grew up with being rescued by the prince is dead, or it should be. All the movies, books, records, toys, that paint the feminine role as the weak, helpless, damsel in distress need to be rewritten into current versions in my opinion.
What about our boys? They were raised to believe they had to grow up to rescue their fair maiden. It is no wonder that they think they should feel amazing when they do. They should meet the damsel and feel clouds part, bells ring, and angels sing right? If they don’t then it couldn’t be the right fair lady. What about the pressure of having to rescue someone? In this day of inflation, millennials can barely afford to take care of themselves let alone the burden of being “man enough” to be responsible for all the ladies’ problems also.
When I was raising my girls, I tried to project that a woman can wear a beautiful dress and still throw on a pair of combat boots and outshoot my competition. I tried to show that with hard work you can accomplish goals at any age. Did my husband sort of rescue me at age 23, when I was feeling lost? I always thought he kind of did but looking back I think we made a choice. He decided he could handle my amount of crazy, and I decided he was the rock I could tie my balloon to.
It is ok to lean on another person when you need someone to hold your head up. Then you are their person to lean on when they need support, but we need to stop teaching our little girls to wait to be recused by their version of the prince and our boys that their job is to rescue their future partner. That leaning on someone through a situation is one thing, letting someone lean on you indefinitely is enabling. That there are healthy boundaries and then there is codependency. Where is that fairy tale/life lesson Disney?