Tova Leigh: We Need To Stop Lying To Our Daughters

Dieting doesn't lead to happiness and the perfect woman doesn't exist, so we shouldn't let young girls grow up believing these myths, says Tova Leigh.

lies-we-tell-our-daughters

by Grazia |

I try not to lie to my daughters.... there are plenty of things I still haven't told them - you don’t have to tell them everything RIGHT NOW. But I also do try to tell them the truth as much as I can. I learned my lesson after my five-year-old asked me, while she was sitting on the toilet, 'where do babies come from?' I mumbled something about mummy and daddy having a 'special hug', which freaked her out because she thought that she could get a baby if she hugged people. Santa is another story. To be honest, I wish I had never started that lie and dread the moment they realise that for so many years I had been lying to them about that.

I have such a vivid memory of when I hurt my foot as a child and needed to have stitches. My mum told me it wouldn’t hurt and I believed her. When it did, obviously, hurt A LOT it made me wonder what else she had sugar-coated. It’s a moment from my childhood I have never forgotten and one of the reasons I decided to be honest with my kids as much I can.

So what are the lies I think we shouldn’t tell our daughters?

Dieting leads to happiness

Watching my mum weigh herself every morning and listening to her discuss dieting with her friends sparked the beginning of my unhealthy relationship with food. That, along with all the messages I got as a girl, led me to believe that if I only lost weight or looked a certain way I would be happy.

In reality, I have been skinny and felt exactly the same about my body. Eventually, with time, I realised how looks – and any exterior factors for that matter – are not what makes any of us happier. We need to be honest with our daughters that looking perfect, having a flat stomach and long legs is not the answer - we shouldn’t feel guilt or shame about eating certain foods and contrary to popular belief we aren’t what we eat!

tova-leigh
Tova Leigh ©photo by Steve Ullathorne

Love is like the fairy tales

I dated the wrong type of men my whole life looking for a fairy tale romance. That idea of 'prince charming' gets so much validation in our society – from movies to pop songs and so much more – but it’s important to be honest with our daughters. Meeting the ‘perfect’ man doesn’t have to feel like meeting a prince and that’s okay!

My first date with my husband felt clumsy and awkward (he knocked over the bottle of wine, which by the way, I loved!). It’s not a whirlwind romance, at times it’s boring suburban bliss (and at times it’s suburban boredom). It will be real, not glam or perfect. It won’t be as simple as happily ever after - there will be ups and downs - but hopefully it would be good and you won’t want to change it for the world.

Perfect women exist

I ruin every single movie for my daughters by pausing it several times and explaining how in real life women don't walk in slow motion and no one's hair is that perfect. They literally hate watching movies with me. As girls we are brought up to strive for perfection – no wonder so many women are exhausted.

Sex is just how you make babies

One of the hardest things people find to talk about with kids in general is sex. But, personally, I don’t want them to get their education from the internet or porn. I would much rather tell them everything they need to know myself and I actually think that if a conversation starts early enough, it won't be weird. When it comes to girls the temptation when talking about sex is to focus on the dangers and risks – from unwanted pregnancies to bad reputations and STDs and, of course, on how sex is a way to make babies. But what about female pleasure? Why do we hide that part of it from our daughters? I think it's something we owe our daughters, so that they don't have to spend years figuring it out.

F*cked at 40: Life Beyond Suburbia, Monogamy and Stretch Marks by Tova Leigh is out now, published by Watkins Publishing, priced £10.99, available online and from all good bookstores

Read More: Can Mothers And Daughters Ever Be True Friends?

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