Oh Yes, The Kids

After becoming a parent, I started reading mom/parenting blogs and forums, where every child-related topic under the sun gets discussed and dissected.  I sort of expected discussions about staying at home or not but I was honestly surprised by the depth of discussion on giving birth itself, breastfeeding, making food, sleeping, and so forth.  Maybe that’s because when I was pregnant, I attended only one childcaring class and read one book.    (Note: Above I linked to Grumpy Rumblings which is more than a parenting blog but they had a good post about push presents, another parenting hot topic)

The strangest topic of discussion for me was the idea of creating a birth plan where everything from medication to music is written out for your doctor and nurses.  I hadn’t even thought of it.  I just thought they would wheel me in and help me deliver.  My doctor did play music during the procedure, which I honestly don’t remember well except it might have been a sort of upbeat pop/rock. As long as it wasn’t vulgar, that was good enough for me. 

Anyway, since I didn’t think that much about the nitty-gritty of childrearing, it’s not surprising that I didn’t even think about deeper issues like gender / equality.  Over at Blue Milk, there was a discussion about raising a daughter in a sexist culture. This is a big concern among parents/moms of daughters and rightly so.  While the U.S. makes strong claims about equality, there is still a “mainstream” attitude/culture that puts too much value on a women’s looks/sexuality and frowns upon girls who stray too far from the accepted norms.  There’s more to it than that but I really haven’t thought too much about it. 

Truthfully, it makes me a bit sad/angry that it’s even an issue.  I guess parents of boys don’t have to worry (as much) about the obstacles placed before them by mainstream culture.  No one will assume that boys are bad at math or science.  No one will assume that they can’t be both CEO and a parent.  At the same time, cultural expectations swing the other way, too.  I think that boys can easily feel stifled just because of their gender.    I do give my boys the option of playing with cuddly plush toys; it’s not my doing that they ignore it in favor of trucks, cars or noisier toys!

I think I may worry more about this issue if I stay home when they’re older and if I fall into more typical female roles within a household.  I have a feeling that I’ll always be working one way or another though!  Note: I’m not saying that you can’t stay home and be feminist but I just think it’s easier to set an example if I’m a working for money with fairly equal distribution of household work at home.   I would be a role model that is far more important than toys or stupid sexist t-shirts (see JCPenney controversy).

On a personal note, since I’m working on making this blog more honest, I’m enjoying my weekend down time as much as possible.  I like sitting on the floor watching my boys play.  They do a million funny things  — some destructive –and periodically come up to me for cuddling. So cute.

Does anyone raising boys have good tips on teaching them respect toward women and gender equality? Even more interesting, do you think that staying at home or working has a huge impact on your child’s gender perceptions?

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5 responses to “Oh Yes, The Kids

  1. I think it sounds like you already have the right idea….you and your close family/friends are the best role models.. I heard somewhere that one of the biggest influences to a child is their same sexed parent???…so for your sons, your hubby and how he treats women will be a huge factor. I was a stay at home mum until both children were at school and loved it…..but have worked since. I don’t know anyone lucky or wealthy enough to be full time mums right through their child’s life…dare I say most Aussie mums need to go back to work….actually we have a law here that once your children reach school age you must work at least 15 hours a week to get family payments. So I think most Aussie girls will think that they too have to work. Having said that….I think that most girls would think it is their role to tend to the children when that time in their life comes. I don’t think too many boys/men think that they will become full time stay at home dads? I suppose what is most important is that we all treat each other with kindness and respect and that we teach our children to be true to themselves, no matter what our gender…..

  2. (Disclaimer: the following is not based on any sort of empirical research.)

    For the partnered (in which one partner is male), the absolute best way to teach boys to respect women and gender and equality is to have a dad who does the same.

    One of my son’s first toys was a child-size broom that he wanted because daddy sweeps the house. He would follow DH around and sweep. (We have some video of him following me around talking on a pretend cell-phone… I guess that’s what I modeled.) He loved to vacuum because daddy vacuumed (again, adorable picks of him somewhere between ages one and two).

    In terms of working in the home and outside… my mom worked, her mom worked, her mom (widowed when my grandma was young) worked. I have a strong belief that successful children can be raised with both parents working outside the home. I have ZERO guilt about working because I think I turned out great, I think my mom turned out great (not to mention my aunts and cousins, who are also responsible people with either high powered or public service oriented jobs), and I think my grandma turned out great. I also think of the family as a team and not solely as a method to raise perfect children (so sometimes my needs come ahead of my kid’s wants, and I am fine with that.. it’s what I grew up with and I’m glad I learned I’m not the center of the universe but instead an important team player). I also don’t feel any sort of twinge about living in a messy and cluttered house. That’s not what is important to us. Whether or not a SAHP has an effect on gender perceptions, I can’t say because I didn’t have one.

  3. p.s. I had a birth plan. It was very short but covered the important stuff like my irrational fear of anesthesiologists and how to avoid nipple confusion with the newborn (no paci, no bottles).

  4. Michelle & Nicole & Maggie: Good point about the same-sexed gender being the prime influence! I haven’t thought of that.

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