Since finding out I was pregnant with my first child I’ve taken my responsibility as a parent very seriously. I’m acutely aware that my decisions and actions or in-actions impact on my children and how they learn and grow.
As a mother of a girl and three boys I’ve tried to be very balanced in the way I raise them. I tell my children if they work hard they can be anything they want to be and that girls can do everything boys can do and vice versa.
We discuss gender stereotyping if it ever arises and tackle any challenging viewpoints head on.
I encourage my daughter to be strong and independent and compete with her peers. She believes she can do anything boys can do and has proven herself against her male peers in a range of sports. I have no doubt she will continue to follow this path.
I raise my boys to equally be confident and an independent and encourage them to follow the paths they feel are best suited to them. As a mother of three boys however I feel an added responsibility to encourage and support them to grow up to be loving and supportive boyfriends, partners and fathers.
I don’t want my boys to be men who view things as a woman’s role. I don’t want my boys to be men who don’t know how to work the washing machine, or iron clothes. I want my boys to know how to cook and enjoy preparing a meal for everyone. I want my boys to learn to bake so they too can bake with their children. I want my boys to understand that they can chose to break away from the male stereotype and that women LOVE men who do that. I believe that all my children should have these skills.
Something I’ve noticed over the years, is that whereas some girls will only have friends who are girls and some boys stick with boys – my children never have. The children are now 4, 5, 10 and 12 but one of the things they all share in common is that they are equally as popular with girls and boys. My feeling is that this comes from their balanced views of gender roles, which others pick up on.
To overhear my youngest boy challenging another boy at playgroup when he told one of the girls “you can’t play with trains” melted my heart. To hear him reply “girls can do anything boys can do” made me feel I was getting the message across. To hear my boys praise girls in their classes at school for being “faster than the boys” feels good, to hear them challenge their friends when they say girls can’t play football, feels good too. To know that gender doesn’t come into how they choose a team for something, or how they form their friendships also feels good.
My children don’t see a huge amount of balance at home in terms of gender roles, but what they do see is that I will have a go at pretty much anything. They rarely hear me say “I’ll have to get daddy to do that” and that is really important to me.
I have lots of hopes for my children as we all do, but as a mama who does the bulk of the parenting, I am on a mission to ensure that my boys do not become boyfriends, husbands and fathers who don’t share the role of family life. I hope to teach them to be supporting and caring partners and involved and attentive fathers, prepared to challenge traditional gender stereotypes.
How do you challenge traditional gender stereotypes?