Last week, Ruth wrote a great post on Threads about Egalitarian marriage: who wears the trousers? which is well worth the read. Here she shares some thoughts on parenting.
When I was pregnant was my first baby I remember being obsessed with trying to find out EVERYTHING about being a parent. Just like preparing for an exam I swotted for hours. I am a perfectionist – I like to get things right – and one of the hardest lessons I think I have learned is that parenting involves failure. I want to start this post with that absolute disclaimer – I am a parent who gets things wrong. I am a parent who sticks my children in front of the TV and lets them eat cake for breakfast (not always, but it has happened more than once). These are my thoughts on being the parent of a six year old daughter and a nearly 3 year old son and trying to model gender equality in all that!
I work as a youthworker and one of the things about my job that I love is enabling young people to see beyond their imposed horizons. Part of the role of youthworker is about widening opportunities with young people, helping them think outside of their ‘box’, shaping language together that helps them describe their world and the world they want to see. It is by this that aspirations can be grown, confidence built and character forged. And so as a parent it is these kinds of principles in parenting that I have sought to adopt with my children. I think that some of the gender stereotypes placed on children can be horizon limiters. They can restrict the views of what children believe are possible for them as girls or boys. As such my husband and I have been intentional in these areas of parenting – trying to broaden horizons, shake restrictions and hopefully banish the stranglehold of some stereotypes:
Reading: We try and read a range of books in order to give them a wide language – literally and emotionally. We try and find books which don’t perpetuate gender stereotypes.
Chatting: We have found talking to our children about stereotypes has been hugely helpful. Helping them see that adverts are there to sell them things, talking about whether all girls have to like fairies, or all boys have to like cars, means that we are hopefully challenging some thinking early on.
Toy Choice: We try and offer our children a range of toy choice which is available to them regardless of gender. They both play with trains, they both play with the dolls-house, they both play shops. We allow them to explore these things in play without judgement.
Creativity: We encourage our children to tell stories and be creative. I think too early on in life creativity is suffocated. In our stories and the stories our children tell / write / draw there are not limits because of gender.
Home: At home, we as parents, try to model gender equality. We both work, we both have spent time working part-time and being at home, we both cook, we both tidy, we both read to and play with the children.
I am not claiming we always get things spot on, who does? But we hope that by thinking about ways of navigating gender stereotypes in parenting, we can be enabling our children’s horizons to be grown not shrunk.
Ruth Wells is a youthworker living in Dorset and working in Poole.