The dreams started again. Mouth wide open, gut tense, throat flexed, yet no sound is coming out. Sometimes I’m underwater. Sometimes I’m on the back of a motorcycle watching a car coming toward me. Other times I’m watching someone about to do something horribly wrong, and still nothing. My whole body shakes with cacophonies, yet no yell releases.
Lately, I have concerns with what I tell my almost-three-year-old daughter about being loud. Yes, we all want our daughters to express themselves, yet I am irritated with the whining.
I recently said to her, “Use your powerful voice. I can’t hear what you are saying when the pitch is so high. Speak from your gut.”
Did that make sense to her? I’m not sure yet.
But I decided to take my own advice. I love when I learn alongside my children.
In my divorce, every move or boundary I make is met with the “angry woman” marker. It’s infuriating and wildly comforting at the same time — just ask any woman running for office.
I have come to expect it. We all have.
It’s upsetting to some for women to operate in the world as a full human with a full spectrum of emotions.
The limits put on us women surrounding what emotions are acceptable, in what situations, and to what degree, are cages — a little pen to coop us up so they stay safe way over there from the other person’s accountability. I think my subconscious knows this.
I refrain from letting the constant fight with my ex over nanny fees, Covid protocols, or bedtime routines cause me to yell. Sometimes I succeed.
I have learned to recognize that freedom and calm are more important than the little fires he tries to light in me.
Now I’m learning to understand when I am burning myself with anger and when to take action with that anger, when that powerful voice is needed.
My definition of justice shape-shifts according to what voice I listen to.
How do we speak powerfully as women?
How do we engage in a commanding way while we know the backlash of the “angry woman” label is coming at us?
Is this how we prepare our daughters for battle — prepping them with all the defenses they will need to move in this world? Conversely, how do we teach them to find peace within?
Women are socialized to swallow our anger, to internalize it, to over-intellectualize it, to not step over that boundary in fear of the backlash of that label.
We read books. We self-diagnose. And we hold ourselves with the highest amount of personal responsibility. I want to scream to all of us: “Let it the fuck out.”
I am eager for the next time my baby girl yells or disagrees or has big emotions.
“Yes, my love, scream, let me hear it. Tell me, my love, tell me your hurts. Tell me your emotions. I will allow all of them here.”
Her wildness will be encouraged.
“Now what are we going to do with them?”
But let me teach her brazenness is not always required. She is a warrior and a peacekeeper.
There is silent stability that comes from knowing herself from within. There is a home she has to make for herself built from wisdom and personal truth — and from managing her emotions. With this stability, she can act with conviction.
She doesn’t need to always yell to have a powerful voice.
However, this requires us as mothers to deliberately cultivate that inner strength, to direct it with our observations, and to carve it into her soul as the foundation of her powerful voice. My words validate hers. When I recognize her sovereignty, she does as well.
I hope tonight in my dreams I gather up that steadiness and mail it to my awakened self.
I hope my daughter holds both values as she learns her way in the world.
And I hope we all understand when to scream till our throats hurt and our bellies implode, and then to recognize there is a time to hold our silence with a delicate embrace, harnessing our powerful voice for the right time.
*This post was originally published in the book “Her Voice: Motherhood,” by Wine, Women & Well-being Press, and is shared here with permission.