When two people decide to start a family (and I’m talking about having a plan, trying to get pregnant and succeeding, not getting there by accident), one of the first things they need to be talking about is exactly what their parenting strategy is going to be. There are certain cases where the parenting style is so vastly different in the two people, it can actually end the relationship. This probably would have happened with me and my ex, if things hadn’t gone horribly awry before then.
Let me explain (we’ll use the ex as an example): I don’t believe in hitting children, under any circumstances. Spanking, flicking, smacks on the head… it doesn’t really matter to me. I don’t think it’s right, and I think there are other equally effective ways of dealing with problem behaviour. I wasn’t hit, at all, by either of my parents, and I happen to think I turned out just fine.
My ex, however, was a firm believer in spankings. His mom hit him. She even used kitchen utensils. He wrote an essay about it getting hit with a kitchen spoon because he wanted five more minutes on the computer. He thinks there was nothing wrong with it, and I might lean more to his way of thinking if he didn’t have a completely messed up relationship with his mother now. For this reason, I don’t think I ever would have wanted to raise children with him. I wouldn’t have trusted him not to lose his temper and resort to spanking. Both parents need to be united in how they are going to raise their spawn.
My husband had a very similar upbringing to what my brother and I did. We were both the elder sibling by two years, we never moved growing up and things were always very stable for both of us. We were also never hit, and this is something that we agree on. It was never even up for debate. (I know, this is a huge topic of contention for people on both sides of the issue, and that’s fine. Everyone has their own way of doing things, and I’m not going to give someone shit if they find that spanking is working for them. Just please, don’t ever tell me that I’m not going to have a happy, healthy child unless I hit them once in a while. That might cause me to hit you.)
So, what does this have to do with gender stereotyping? On the surface, not much, but it happens to be something that neither my husband or I want to enforce for our kids. I’m sitting outside on the deck as I write this. My dad is currently finishing putting the skirting on the thing, and I’m a little pissed that I was so sick this weekend and that I don’t feel up to helping him out. I love power tools. I love being outside, working with my hands and building things. It’s been this way all my life.
My parents never felt the need to restrict my activities to “girl things”. Yes, I took dance lessons, but I also did soccer and martial arts. I have a huge Barbie collection, but I also had Hot Wheels, action figures and a ton of video games. Guess what? I’m completely normal. So is my brother. He did martial arts for years, he still works out (he’s a personal trainer), but he loved Barbies as a kid too. I actually had to get a lock on my bedroom door when we were little to keep him out of my toys. He’s completely normal too.
When we were babies, our bedrooms were gender neutral (although back then, finding out the sex wasn’t an option until the baby came out, so that just made sense.) When I was born, I wore just as many sleepers and pants as I did dresses. I plan on finding out the sex of our baby, but that’s not going to change my decorating choices one bit. We’re still sticking with our gender-neutral forest theme: chinchilla grey walls, a few red accent walls and one chalkboard wall for fun. Boys do not need blue and girls do not need pink. Kids do not need to be influenced by their surroundings before they’re even old enough to sit up on their own.
Am I bashing people who choose to have a pink girls nursery? Not at all. My sister-in-law is having a girl at the end of September, and they chose to paint her room baby pink with a mint green accent wall. It’s definitely not to my taste, but it’s not my child or my room, and they are allowed to do whatever they want. Would I ever consider having a pink girls room if my daughter didn’t specifically ask for it? No, I would not. And that’s fine too.
I’m really lucky that Shawn feels the same way. If we have a daughter, she can have any kid of toys she wants. be they dolls, action figures, video games or pretend tools. The same thing goes if we have a son. If my little boy wants a baby doll, he can have one. If he wants cars and trucks, he can have those too. It’s not just about freedom of expression as a person, it’s about letting kids discover who they want to be on their own terms.
I’m going to use myself as an example again. I love makeup and dresses and pretty shoes. I have more shades of red lipstick than a department store makeup counter. I colour my hair and paint my toe nails. And yes, for the most part, I prefer skirt and dresses to pants. However, I also like to camp, in a tent, on the ground. I have a collection of clothes and shoes dedicated to camping and hiking. I love getting muddy and dirty when it rains, and ceramics is a favourite hobby because it allows me to get messy with a purpose.
I have a very large collection of 1/12th scale dolls’ houses. This would also be super girlie if I hadn’t made them all myself, right down to the working electrical systems. It’s a way to channel my building skills and my love of wood working in to something pretty, and I love doing it. I even have my own collection of tools for the purpose, including a pink hammer (although my favourite hammer is still the red one with the anti-vibe handle).
My shoes at our wedding were very tall. I think they were just over five inches, but I had them custom-made out of pages from one of my favourite Japanese comic books (or manga) about Japanese pirates. That way, I got to have my girlie shoes and my girl geek all out in the open.
I was never forced in to a traditional, female box, and I’m better off for it. If I had decided to be a girlie-girl all on my own, fine. If I had wanted to be strict tom-boy, that would have been fine too. One of my best friends is very similar to me (You know who you) and I think our kids are going to be better off for it.
I think what has really been bothering me lately are some of the reaction I’ve been getting when I tell people about our design scheme for the baby’s room, most notably, “So, you’re expecting a boy, then?” Excuse me? How is grey and red with a cute forest scene on the wall a boy’s room? What decade are we in? I’ve made it very clear to some of the key people in our lives that we are not gender stereotyping our baby before it even gets here. If we have a girl, I will buy it some dresses to go with my collection of nerdy onesies. If it’s a boy, it will have sweater vests and tiny fedoras. Other than that, the rest is up in the air.
I want our kids to be like us. Well, I want them to be themselves, but I want them to take the best of us and turn it in to something amazing. For example, if my daughter is looking at Lego castles in a toy store, I want her to be comfortable telling off a sales associate for trying to direct her to the girls Lego. I did, and I was about ten years old at the time. I also want my son to feel free to look at dolls without being called a fag. Every kid has that right.
What do you guys think? Does gender stereotyping from a young age impact how a child sees their role in life later on, or are they going to develop in to the person they become regardless? Who has any experience in the matter? As always, comments are welcome, but I feel the need to say keep it civil and don’t be a dick with this topic. It can be a touchy one.
Some unrelated thoughts:
My lovely, late twenties skin is gone. My pregnancy hormones and the fact that there are days when I’m too sick to shower, have ruined it. I feel like I’m back in high school right now, and it sucks! Thank you, fetus, for making me break out. I appreciate it.
My hair, on the other hand, is growing like crazy. I’m thinking my Bettie Page inspired pin-up bangs are not going to be practical for the next few months, so I need to make an appointment with my stylist to get her to work some magic. I need easy and easy to maintain, but still adorable and pin-up-esque. I also need the energy to actually make it to the salon. That would be a good thing.
My husband is the best. When I was sick and terrible looking this weekend, he kept telling me how pretty I am. Trust me, I was not, but he was telling the truth. Sometimes, spousal bias is awesome. I don’t think it hurts that he’s in love with my huge pregnant boobs. I can’t really blame him. I’m kind of in love with them too.
As someone with actual, doctor diagnosed illnesses, I hate hypochondriacs. You can’t just assume you have something because the internet said it’s a possibility. The internet didn’t go to medical school. The internet can’t perform diagnostic tests on you. Shut up and go away.
The same goes for sanctimommies. I don’t bash you for cloth diapering, don’t bash me because I’m not. Everyone has what works for them, and if you were so secure in your choices, you wouldn’t feel the need to push them on everyone else. I wish I still had the article my friend sent me on the subject. It was great (and if she wants to post it in the comments, I would love that.)