We have a book called Nurse Nancy which Juliana likes to read almost as much as much as its companion Doctor Dan. It was written in 1952 and starts out: "Nancy liked to play with dolls. She liked to play Mother. She liked to play Teacher. And best of all, she liked to play Nurse." Of course there are lots of good reasons to be mothers and teachers and nurses, but it's an interesting reminder that not so long ago, these were some of the few acceptable roles for women. One day Juliana picked up my book about women in leadership and started reading, "Nancy liked to play with dolls, she liked to play mommy, she liked to play teacher..." And not being familiar with irony, she didn't know why I was laughing.
I recently saw a post about a photographer who was planning a photo shoot for her 5 year-old daughter. While most ideas she found for dressing up your daughters were related to Disney princesses, she decided to do a shoot with her daughter dressed up as different female role models from history like Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, and Helen Keller.
I started thinking about how I appreciate all the good female role models Juliana has as she grows up. Of course it's great if she wants to be a teacher and mother (I happen to enjoy being both), but I also want her to realize she's got all kinds of choices. I'm grateful for her aunts who have stepped into areas that are still not exactly female-dominated. The one who is a surgeon, the one who builds houses, the one who is starting at a theological school. I'm grateful for her extended family of "aunties" who have earned PhD's, lead in their workplaces, and head off to all kinds of new countries.
I'm also grateful for the teachers, mothers, and nurses that she'll know - people who chose these vocations because they love and excel at what they do. Women who are molding and caring for the current and future generations. Those who show that being a mother isn't a waste of intellect or loss of self but rather a chance to be a part of something greater than yourself. Those who realize that sometimes teaching someone else can be a lot harder than just doing it yourself. Those who work long, hard hours with little pay because they care about the health and well-being of their patients.
I'm excited to teach her more about strong females throughout history as well as modern-day heroines. Girls fighting for a right to education under oppressive regimes. Women working to lower maternal and infant mortality and stop female genital mutation in Africa. Women who have escaped sex slavery in Asia and are now helping others avoid being entrapped. Women who are themselves impoverished helping others in greater poverty. While in the West we enjoy many equalities our predecessors strove for, I want her to remember that girls in much of the world still grow up without many of the opportunities she enjoys. When I look at the women around the world standing strong in the face of amazing odds, I have to wonder at the phrase "the weaker sex."
I'm excited for her to learn about the female biblical heroes as well. Sarah, who also walked in faith with her husband Abraham and put up with some real crap along the way (remember the whole "Just say you're my sister" - twice!!) Deborah who lead the entire nation of Israel. Jael who spiked the enemy leader with a tent-peg (which you have to admit is a pretty cool way of taking matters into your own hands. :) ). Mary, who was entrusted with bearing and raising the Son of God. I'd say that's pretty impressive. The unnamed woman at the well who shared the gospel message with her entire town. The group of women at the tomb who were first to realize and spread the news that Jesus had risen again. The Bible is full of examples of strong women who lived by faith and served God in sometimes in rather unorthodox ways.
I'm glad Juliana has so many options in her future. If her current interests are any indication she may grow up to be a dancer, a doctor, a mother, a railway engineer, an architect, whatever you call a person who demolishes things, a chef, a singer, or most likely a dictator. I'm not really concerned with her chosen profession (well, dictatorship aside) – I just look forward to seeing her follow her awesome role models into the path of womanly greatness.