Recently, my daughter had a homework assignment that required her to draw a picture of a scientist. Without hesitation, she drew that picture — and do you know who her scientist looked like? Well, the scientist had blonde hair and blue eyes, and looked exactly like my daughter (at least how she draws herself).
You see, the thing about my humbly, confident, strong, princess of a girl, and the way that I have raised her, is that she believes she can do or be anything that she wants to be. And this includes those professions which are sometimes typically held by men.
This got me thinking…
Am I raising my son to believe that he can do and be anything that he wants to be as well? I sure want to be, but I am not sure that I have.
Without being prompted, would my son have drawn a picture of a man or a woman as a scientist? I bet he would have drawn a man. What if the assignment called for him to draw a nurse, what would that person look like? I do believe that he likely would have drawn a woman (or a girl, since he is only 3). I think that most boys would likely draw a girl, but maybe not?
Maybe the problem is, unacceptably, how I have been running my household and what he sees at home, and how I embarrassingly and unintentionally assign gender roles to myself, my husband, and my kids. Ugh. I’m disappointed in myself.
I began to ponder this more. What if the task was to draw a picture of a nanny or a professional athlete? How does my son picture people in those professions, and how does this compare to what most other boys would draw? Why does my son, and maybe some other boys, hold the belief that males are supposed to look and act a certain way, have certain responsibilities, and work in certain professions? Well, because sadly and unfortunately, we as a society have imposed those beliefs upon them — purposefully or not.
Here is where I have faltered as a mother. Well, not just here, but this is the fault we will discuss.
As their mother, it is my responsibility to teach my daughters and my son about life — how to live it and navigate this world — all while breaking down the conventional gender roles as laid out by old-school society, some of which is still adhered to by the general public today. What I really should do with my children is encourage them to learn and practice all life skills, regardless of their sex or incorrectly perceived “duty”. My husband and I should be, within our own household, mandating that we are all equals, he and I and the kids, to an extent of course.
In some households, including my own (embarrassingly), there seems to be a disconnect between our belief in the equality of men and women and how we actually run our homes and raise our children. Of course, I 100% believe that men and women are equal. Still, in my house here is the breakdown of typical chores & tasks:
Mommy: Laundry; Cooking; Cleaning; REPEAT
Daddy: Walk the dogs; Take out the trash; Yardwork; Inside Maintenance
Kids: Help when asked.
In my own home, I have sadly been illustrating to my children that there are “man roles” and “woman roles”. This shouldn’t be the case. This is the type of family model that so many are tirelessly and direly trying to get away from and now, I am too.
What should be the dynamic is the whole family participating in this life we have created together, tackling all of the responsibilities equally. This involves having the children become a part of the day-to-day tasks, taking the time to pause and teach them those tasks, and giving them plenty of opportunities to get to work. And, of course ensuring that no task is better suited for my son or for my daughter.
Our children learn everything from us, whether we want them to or not. I want my children to be proud of what they learn from me, and I want them to show it off. I want my daughter to walk the dog with her father and help with outside maintenance if that is what she enjoys. I want for my son to help me cook and clean if that is what he enjoys. But, more than anything what I want my children to know is that they can be absolutely anything that they want to be and that they can do absolutely anything that they want to do, without even a hint of consideration given to their gender.
It’s time that I remodel my household, and I’m not talking about the interior. It’s time that I make some changes to our responsibility and task structuring, and let’s be real — to myself — so that I may ensure that my children, and specifically my son, are learning from their time with me within our home.
It seems as though I have been hyper-focused on raising my oldest daughter to be self-sufficient, to not be a damsel in distress, and to have a smart mouth, that my son, my poor middle boy, may be getting lost in the mix. But, NO MORE.
The problem with my boy is not going to be that I am not raising him right. The problem with my boy is going to be all of the beautiful women he will eventually have to fend off because his mother raised him to be such a terrific man; one who whole-heartedly believes in gender equality, and one who has unwavering confidence in his ability to do and be anything he wants.
Nicole Merritt is the Owner and Founder of jthreeNMe, an imperfectly authentic peek at real-life marriage, parenting, and self-improvement. jthreeNMe is raw, honest, empowering, inspiring, and entertaining; it’s like chicken soup for those that are exhausted, over-stressed and under-inebriated, yet still utterly happy. Follow Nicole and jthreeNMe on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.