To a degree, I believe that we should be bringing our kids up the same, regardless of their sex. We want them all to be kind and honest and we also want them to nail key life skills, like crossing the road, cooking pasta and navigating the internet safely. But as the mum of a son, I think that it’s especially important that I teach my boy to treat people equally.
However we dress it up, there is still a gender bias in our society. Women doing everything in the home still seems to be the expectation in some quarters.
We are trying to defy that preconception in our household. So we split the load equally, according to our skillsets.
Some of those jobs do fit with gender stereotypes. In our house, mum does the bulk of the cooking, whilst dad does the car repairs. But that isn’t because one is a woman’s work, whilst the other is a man’s job. It’s about our individual strengths. I’m more organised, so I cook tea more often, whilst my partner is practically minded and is good with cars, so he fixes them when a problem occurs.
Our hope is that when our son is older, he will view women as equals and build a happy home with his chosen partner (or alone if that’s what he chooses!). We will do our best to enforce that by working together, as a team and by showing him that we are proud parents.
You can’t change culture without making changes to upbringings. My son sees that both of his parents equally contributing and we hope that that influences his future views and opinions.
Why is this important?
Sadly, sexism is still commonplace in the workplace. I have experienced this directly on countless occasions. I have challenged it and I’ve tried to educate. But the reality is, a grown man probably isn’t going to change his views because I called him out. Not that that will stop me from speaking up. But if that man is taught to respect women equally when he’s a boy, then perhaps he wouldn’t be making derogatory comments in the workplace.
I don’t have a daughter, so bringing up girls isn’t something that I feel comfortable exploring without giving it plenty of thought and listening to advice. However, I’d like to think that I’d take a similar approach with a girl. I’d want my daughter to see that her parents are equals. I’d like her to know that if she wants, she can be more than a mother and homemaker.
That said, a woman is not a failure if she does decide to stay at home. But it’s about having options and making decisions based on what’s right for your family. Rather than doing what society tells us we should do.
As a white man, my son will have privilege. He will be advantaged in life, based on his gender and his skin colour. That isn’t right, but it’s a sad reality and I see it as my job to help him recognise that privilege.
I want him to teach him how to treat others equally and fairly. If we are all mindful of the things we do when we’re raising our sons and our daughters, then hopefully we can change this word. One child at a time.
Letting kids be kids
Although I strongly believe that it’s important to bring boys up with an awareness of these issues. It is, of course, important to just let kids be kids.
Regardless of gender; laughing, playing, spending quality time together doing things like gardening and enjoying family days out are all things that are essential if you want your child to enjoy a rounded, happy childhood. You also need to keep your eye on their mental health, regardless of their sex.
It will change
Things, do, however, change when the teenage years hit and parenting a four year old is very different from parenting a 14 year old. But that is parenting generally. You think you’ve got it nailed and then something happens to change the situation.