When most people say you should watch your language in front of your daughter, they usually mean you shouldn't use the "f" word. I don't give a damn about modeling so-called "ladylike" behavior, though. I'll substitute "fudge" for "f*ck" when I remember to, sure, but in the big scheme of things a swear word here or there isn't the end of my world. I do, however, definitely think there are things you should never say to your husband in front of your daughter. After all, not only do kids have a habit of hearing everything you don't want them to hear, but they internalize the unsaid messages behind your words, too.
For example, when you ask, "Does this make me look fat?" your daughter hears, "Fat is bad, and I don't want to be bad." I accept that I have body image issues and a crises of confidence about whether or not I am good enough. Those are my demons, though. I don't want my daughter to think that calories are anything other than energy in food. I don't want her to believe that "fat" is an insult and not just a substance in our bodies. So by changing the way I talk to my husband about food and my body, especially when we're in front of our daughter, I have the chance to make a difference for her and me. I want her to be proud of being a woman and to grow up with feminist values. I would not be reinforcing those values if I insulted myself or other women in front of her, or reduced what it means to be a woman to a stereotype.
Also, I take my responsibility as a role model for my daughter extremely seriously. My relationship with my husband is one of her first examples of a romantic, adult relationship. As much as my husband pisses me off sometimes, I don't want my daughter to hear us fight or hear me insult him, and I want us to present a united front in parenting decisions, even if we disagree later o and behind closed doors. There are so many ways we all should watch our language when talking to our partners in front of our daughters, and here are just a few:
"Does This Make Me Look Fat?"
I remember the first time my daughter said the words, "I don't want to look fat." She was 4-years-old. When I asked her what she meant, she thought that fat meant, "stupid or bad." I felt terrible, both because fat isn't a dirty word, and because I realized that she learned it from me. I have serious body image issues. When I asked my husband, "Does this make me look fat?" it was clear to her that fat was a bad thing.
Since then I've tried really hard to teach her that "fat" is not an insult, both directly, and indirectly, by what I say when she's in earshot. Besides, I don't want to inadvertently teach my daughter that she needs a man's approval when it comes to how she looks.
"No I'm Not"
I am terrible about taking compliments. So, when my husband tells me I'm beautiful, smart, or strong, I say "No I'm not" when I should just say "Thank you." I have to stop doing that. It teaches my daughter that I think his compliments are insincere, and also that I don't believe in myself.
"How Many Calories Does That Have?"
It doesn't matter if we make a concerted effort to tell our children there are no "bad" foods and that everything is OK in moderation if we count calories in front of them. I still remember the fad diets my mom was on for pretty much my whole childhood, and trust me, she is so much happier now that she isn't counting every calorie or carb. I want to teach my daughter that food is not the enemy.
"We Won't Let Her Date Until She's 30"
Ummm. No. We don't get to make the rules about our daughter dating, especially once she is an adult. Her body, her life, her rules. It's not OK to even joke about.
"Check Out That Woman's Slutty Outfit"
Slut shaming is not cool ever, but especially not in front of your daughter. Besides, what you wear doesn't make you a slut. And having lots of sex is not a bad thing (yes, even if you are woman). We have got to stop reinforcing these sexist stereotypes that praise men for being sexually active, but shame women when they do the same.
"I Hate My Boobs, Butt, & Tummy"
I am so guilty of this, and I know I need to stop. Yes, I may never wear a pair of size 2 jeans again, my boobs are small, my *ss is big, I currently have a pimple on my nose, and I hate my postpartum body. My daughter needs to learn that I am so much more than my body, though, and that I appreciate the things my body can do. I want her to love her amazing body.
"I Disagree With How You Parent"
It's totally OK to disagree with your partner. It's even OK to disagree with them about parenting. It happens, even in the best relationships. However, doing so in front of your kids teaches them that you are not a united front or that they can manipulate you by going to your partner after you give them a "no" when they want a "yes."
"I Can't Help It, I Have My Period"
Having a period sucks. If you have a daughter with a uterus, chances are they will have a period someday. The last thing you want is for them to be afraid or ashamed about it, or worse, to believe bullsh*t stereotypes about women being hormonal during their "time of the month."
"You Are Such A Jerk"
The same rules we have for our kids about name calling should definitely apply to us parents, especially when our kids are listening. My husband can definitely be a jerk sometimes, but calling people names is not OK. I don't want to send my daughter the message that it is perfectly fine to call your partner in life names, especially within a loving relationship.