Care and Feeding

My Daughter Isn’t Even Born Yet. I’m Already Frightened About Her Life in My Family.

My in-laws are praying my next child is a boy.

A pregnant woman holds her head.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Andrey Zhuravlev/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I are expecting a girl, and it’s triggering deep emotional turmoil in me. I mean, I’m thrilled to have a girl. (I’ll also be thrilled for her if she discovers later on that she’s not a girl.) But it’s triggered such a keen awareness of the injustices she’ll face in her life. At the systemic level, I feel worn out and exhausted thinking of navigating a daughter through environments (both religious and not) that say that girls are responsible for damaging boy’s desire, that deny female sexuality. The overt and subtle sexism and bias. That if she pursues certain interests or careers, she’ll be constantly defending her place.

At the individual level, I want to cry when my parents try to impress the importance of “two genders, each with proper behavior.” Or when my in-laws show implicit, but still visible, favoritism for their grandson over their six granddaughters or say that they’ll pray that our next child is a boy (something that my husband says to ignore, “It’s a cultural thing”). I’m at the point where I just want to ask my husband not to translate those comments during their visits. Our kid isn’t even born yet, and I feel worn out. I feel like I finally “get” that parental drive to protect that everyone talks about, but how do you even begin to do this against problems so pervasive and unsolvable? I can give her all the support, love, and resources possible, but that pales in comparison to … everything else.

-Getting Increasingly, Really Livid (GIRL)

Dear GIRL,

As a dad raising two girls of color, I have to deal with navigating the double-whammy of misogyny and racism, so trust me when I say that I feel your pain. I won’t sugarcoat it for you—it will often feel like you’re trying to empty the ocean with a spoon, and it will take a toll on your mental health to see your child suffer due to the injustices in society. However, I’ll give you some tips that have helped me to fight the good fight.

First off, you need to do something every day to create a world where your daughter can feel safe and happy. That can mean a lot of things based on what’s important to you, but a few examples could be to run for local political office or a school board position, write children’s books that empower young girls, or create an online parenting group that discusses how to raise feminist children. As an anti-racism facilitator for corporations, I would like to believe I do my part on a daily basis to create a safer world for people of color through my workshops, books, speeches, and advocacy work—and there’s no reason why you can’t do something similar for women and girls. Show up today and every day.

Secondly, keep reminding your future daughter of how amazing she is. Heck, you can do that right now by whispering to her while you’re pregnant. Not that I need to tell you this, but women and girls will always be told that they’re not good enough by unenlightened people, so building a strong foundation of confidence early on in her life will go a long way. Even if it’s for something mundane like making up their beds correctly, I tell my girls how proud I am of them every single day to serve as a buffer for the negativity they will experience from the outside world. Speaking of negativity, that also means you should have a zero-tolerance policy from your family whenever they make misogynistic comments about your daughter or around her from this point on. You can firmly say, “Those comments will not be allowed in my household” to put them on notice, and hopefully that will do the trick—but whatever you do, don’t let those harmful words slide.

Last, but not least—take care of your mental health. I can see you’re already becoming overwhelmed due to the state of the world, and I absolutely do not blame you. The main thing is you can’t become consumed by it or else you’ll lose your mind. When it becomes too much, be sure to turn off the news, put away your phone, talk to your therapist, enjoy nature, exercise, read a book, or take part in whatever activity calms you. You can’t save the world overnight, and you need to be the best version of yourself for your daughter.

—Doyin

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