How to Model Gender Equality to Your Kids

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I’d like to think of myself as a feminist. I try, in my day to day life, to espouse feminist principles: I teach my three year old son about enthusiastic consent, I challenge everyday sexism when I encounter it, I maybe probably definitely talk my husband’s ear off about the sexism in the world.

I do have one teeny tiny problem though – my husband and I are both horrible horrible gender stereotypes. He likes comic books and superheroes, cars and bikes, mechanics, woodwork, sports, STEM subjects and steak. I like knitting, baking, sewing, frilly clothes, makeup, arts, writing, babies. My husband goes out to work and I stay at home.

How do you model gender equality  to your kids, when you live a gender stereotype?

I try really hard to stay engaged, to keep learning, to write my blog so my brain keeps working and I have set myself up as self-employed.  My work is important to me, even when it fails to make me rich, because it means that I’m not just relying on my husband, but am creating a stake in my own future, whether that’s building my own business further or just keeping my CV and brain ticking over.

It is dispiriting though, feeling like I’m a living example of gender inequality. I have a son and a daughter and I want them both to grow up thinking that women can do anything – that they can do anything.  My mum was a stay at home mum – she picked me up from school every day, made us costumes for every fancy-dress event, cooked every dinner from scratch, baked with us, made amazing novelty cakes for birthdays, was just there for us every day.

In my head, that is what a mother does – what a mother is. I feel like I have a lot to live up to and the voice in my head judges me if I buy a ready meal, don’t make a costume for World Book Day, have no homemade cake ready for visitors.  Does every woman feel this way? Completely torn between the dichotomy of the mother they feel they ought to be and the woman she feels she needs to be?

Resolving that dichotomy is one of the great problems in a world where women can, supposedly, ‘have it all’ (oh how I hate that phrase). We’re always going to miss out on something and, once children come into the equation, it’s generally a matter of prioritising.

So for now we (because it is a joint parental decision, isn’t it?) have decided to give our children the childhood that I was blessed with, hoping they learn to realise that being feminist is about having choices and that I have chosen this life, my hobbies and passions, my work-life balance and they can do likewise. Otherwise, working purely as an example for your children is just as restrictive as not being allowed to work because you have children.


Further Reading

The Line Must Be Drawn: Establishing Boundaries As A Mother, by Elizabeth Hall Magill

The conversation about overworked mothers is not new. But what we don’t discuss as often is where—and how—to draw the line. And that nothing will change until we do.

It Turns Out Millennials Are Pretty Retro Dads, by Erica Schwiegershausen

When fantasizing about having a family, millennial men are far more idealistic about the possibilities of egalitarian partnership than previous generations. Yet despite their enlightened attitudes, when they actually have kids, young men are turning out to be pretty traditional dads, serving as the primary breadwinner and shirking from the second shift.

I Have Boysy Boys – Should I Be Ashamed? by HurrahForGin

I have two boys and do you know what – they are ‘boysy’ boys. I’m not saying that because I think it’s right or cool. I’m saying that because it’s just the way it is.

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