I can't imagine how difficult it is to explain the concept of love to your children. I'm not there yet, as my kid is just a toddler, but I'm actually looking forward to the challenge. While I'm not above admitting that I'm still navigating the complex and multifaceted avenues of love myself, the idea of love, and the very real struggles of loving someone else (or even myself), I look forward to teaching my son about love, especially because I'm a proud feminist mom who believes that feminism is going to help me with that conversation when the time to have it eventually rolls around.
There's no denying that feminist mothers do parenthood differently; whether it's teaching your children to be sex-positive, highlighting the importance of gender equality, denouncing gender stereotypes, or simply adhering to gentle parenting practices, feminist mothers are changing the social expectations of motherhood. We're no longer adhering to age-old, often patriarchal-in-nature parenting tropes that promote an unrealistic picture of what it means to be in love. Instead of building up the importance of marriage, of one gender's power over the other in the name of a relationship, or denouncing the importance of self-love, feminist parents are being realistic about relationships, especially the romantic ones.
Which is why there are these nine things that feminist moms refuse to say to their kids about love. Relationships are evolving, as is the way we talk about them to our children, and feminist parents are at the forefront of that change.
Anything That Supports The Idea That "The One" Exists
While the idea of The One™ or a "soulmate" is romantic and pleasant, it's also downright fictitious. There isn't one completely and totally perfect person out there for all of us. There isn't someone who is going to embody everything we want and need, so we'll never be hurt or disappointed. There are just people whom we're more compatible with than others, and people whom we're willing to "pay the price of admission" for.
If you let go of the idea of the "perfect person," you not only rid someone else of the burden of attempting to hide their faults and flaws, but you rid yourself of the pressure of trying to be perfect for someone else as well. It's liberating, I can assure you.
That Love Is Only For Marriage
Marriage isn't an inevitable byproduct of love, and love won't always end in marriage. In fact, the number of single people has surpassed the number of married people, an indication that society is no longer considering love and marriage as synonyms (as I assume all of these unmarried people aren't also experiencing a perpetual dearth of love in their lives). Being in love really means that you're able to make your own relationship rules with someone, whether that means being in an open relationship, being in a long-term relationship, getting married or simply staying committed to one another without a wedding. It can mean having a baby, or never having a baby. It can literally mean anything the people in the relationship want it to mean, and that's the beauty of love.
That Love Is Gender Specific
Love is not defined by a specific gender, or race, or belief, or anything superficial like the social identifiers our culture has created. Love crosses any and all man-made constructs, so a feminist mother will never tell her children that they can only love someone of a specific gender.
That Being In Love Means Being Subservient
Contrary to popular belief, being in love does not mean being completely subservient to your partner, or being a doormat for them. While our culture continuously teaches subservience to women, seeing your partner as equal is a vital component of a healthy, romantic relationship. Equal partnerships foster honesty, communication, humility, respect and understanding; all things that every human being deserves and should have with their partner. A feminist mother isn't going to tell her children that in order to love someone fully, you must cater to their every need, put yourself last, and abide by their rules and wishes. That's an aging, dangerous concept that was used (and still is today, sadly) to oppress women and further gender inequality. Not today, patriarchy. Not today.
That You Have To Change Who You Are For Love
You should never change who you are for someone else. You shouldn't alter your personality so you can appear more appealing, deny yourself the ability to express yourself for fear you won't be understood, or feel like you're not worthy of love when you're being your authentic, genuine self. Everyone deserves to be respected and loved for who they are, and if that cannot happen with a particular person, then that particular person is dead wrong for you. I'd venture to guess there isn't a mother out there who would want her children to feel like they're not enough, and a feminist mother is no different.
That You Need Someone To Love You To Be Happy
A feminist mother isn't going to equate self worth to the existence of a romantic relationship. Being in love, or having someone to love, isn't the key to happiness, and you shouldn't wait to love yourself until someone else does. In fact, the most important relationship you'll ever have is the relationship you'll have with yourself.
That Loving Someone Else Is More Important Than Loving Yourself
Which is why focusing on yourself is vital. In fact, there are scientific reasons why loving yourself is important. For example, self-compassion can help any mental health issues you may or may not have, can encourage you to be healthier physically, and can lead you through any adversity you may encounter during your lifetime.
You Should Only Have Sex If You're In Love
A feminist mother isn't going to equate love to sex, and visa versa. In fact, most feminist mothers strive to be as sex-positive as possible, and see sex as a form of healthy self-expression, and not a binding pact that should only be made with someone you're in love with and/or someone you're married to. The idea that you should only have sex with someone you love can come dangerously close to slut-shaming, and a feminist mother isn't going to slut-shame her children, or anyone else for that matter.
That Love Is Enough
It's a cute concept, but love simply isn't enough. It's just...not. And the idea that "love is all you need" is a dangerous one that can keep someone in an otherwise unhealthy (and even abusive) relationship. For example, the lack of financial freedom can keep a woman in an abusive relationship, as she doesn't have the means or funds to break free from her abuser. Because being in a romantic relationship cannot (and should not) be a person's only source of self-worth, a feminist mother is going to be realistic with her children about love, relationships, and everything in between. She's going to encourage her children to find other healthy avenues that provide them with a sense of appreciation and accomplishment, that do not rely on the affections of another human being.