Today is the last day of March and thus the last day of Women’s History Month.

I am, of course, concerned with women’s history, but as someone who is raising two daughters, I am even more concerned with women’s future.

It can be easy to feel discouraged about those prospects sometimes, but I’m choosing to focus on what’s within my control, which is making sure that my daughters grow into strong, competent women.

After talking with a few other late-20s/early-30s female friends and coworkers, here is the list of what I want my girls to know by the time they’re grown. (Note: These are not things any of us is especially good at doing ourselves, which is pretty much the point.)


1. How to say no. And I don’t mean it in a Nancy Reagan “just say no” sense — although I hope they do that, too. I mean, how to say no to taking on that extra work that they don’t have time for or how to say no to attending that social function they have no desire to attend. How to say no to demands on their time for things that won’t give them joy. How to say no politely but still say no and stick to it.

2. How to do basic tasks without regard to gender: change a tire, change a diaper, plunge a toilet, cook a meal. (Wash your hands before cooking the meal, though, particularly if doing any of the other things prior.) Also, where to look (books, YouTube, whatever is relevant in the next decade) if you don’t know how to do something so that you can learn how to do it.

3. How to complain effectively. Let me preface this by saying that I never advocate rudeness — never be rude to anyone: customer service people, waitstaff, senators, your interns, your bosses. Just don’t be an asshole, period. That said, don’t eat a meal you didn’t order because you’re too polite or timid to send it back. (I have done this many times, and I regret almost all of them.)

4. How to apologize when warranted. It can be really hard to say you messed up or that you’re sorry. (My favorite not-at-all-safe-for-work clip from A Fish Called Wanda seems relevant here.) But a sincere and direct apology can clear the air, mend fences, and probably a few other metaphors, too. Know when you’re wrong, own up, and have a plan to do better in the future.

5. How to not apologize when you’re not in the wrong. Women are entirely too prone to say they’re sorry for everything under the sun. It’s almost a conversational filler in my own vocabulary, right up there with “um,” “like,” and “I mean …” Reflexive, compulsive apologies are not something I want my daughters to imitate.


What do you want to teach your children, daughters and sons?