**Warning: The below post contains spoilers about the new Barbie movie.**
“We mothers stand still so that our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.”
I think my whole body sighed when I heard this line.
The line that had me snotty and blotchy with tears streaming down my cheeks.
The new Barbie movie addresses so many different themes: the objectification of women, the contradictions of consumerism, gender roles, the unattainability of perfection, individuality and identity, the complexity of human emotion, the beauty of aging, the unpredictability of change, the inevitability of death, the power of choice . . .
There were too many amazing and clever and powerful lines to count. America Ferrera’s brilliant performance of her monologue on the cognitive dissonance required to be a woman was absolutely Oscar-worthy.
But it was this one simple line from Ruth Handler, the creator of Barbie, at the very end of the movie that just absolutely gutted me.
As Barbie wrestles with the decision to stay in “Barbieland” or become human in the “Real World” and accept everything that entails, Ruth gently reminds her that it is she who gets to decide who she is and what she wants to do.
Even as her creator, Ruth says she cannot control her any more than she could control her own daughter, who we learn Barbie is named after—
“I always hoped for you like I hoped for her,” she says. “We mothers stand still so that our daughters can look back and see how far they’ve come.”
And that’s just it.
That is everything.
Barbie was always meant to embody our hopes and dreams so we little girls could see ourselves as whatever we wanted to be.
But once we grow up and have little girls of our own, we realize something about the inherent sacrifice and selflessness of motherhood.
It’s not just about our dreams anymore. It’s not just about us.
As mothers we are called to stand still—we defer our dreams or put them aside for a little while—in the hopes our daughters will be able to realize their own.
In the hopes they will be happy, in the hopes they will find fulfillment, in the hopes they won’t have to struggle with the same things we did.
In the hopes they will know their own worth, in the hopes they will be better off than we are, in the hopes they will take the torches we helped light and run far, far ahead with them.
So we stand still. And we hope.
And we worry.
We worry—how far will they be able to get? Will they be ahead of us at all? Will our sacrifice be enough?
But we do it willingly. Fervently. Endlessly. For all of time, this is what mothers have done—what our grandmothers did for our mothers and what our mothers did for us.
What we will do for our daughters.
Even if they aren’t yet able to appreciate it. Even as they start to grow up and pull away from us. Even if they won’t understand, maybe not until they become mothers themselves.
Because it comes from the most pure, most unconditional love we will ever know.
Thank you, Ruth and Barbie, for reminding us.
That as mothers, we stand still.
We watch and our chests swell with pride and fear and worry as our daughters pave the way forward.
And we hope one day they will turn around from way, far up ahead . . .
And understand the depth of the love we feel for them.
The love of a mother.