As parents, there are very few occasions where we can honestly say, ‘I got that right’. I’m not saying that to be down on myself, or other parents, it is simply the truth. We try our hardest to be the best for our children, yet, inevitably, we shall forget something, or be unable to get somewhere on time and the look on our child’s face causes that brief feeling at the pit of our stomach which makes us feel like the worst parent ever. Despite this, every now and then there is a moment, or minor incident, where we see that actually, we are not screwing it up as much as we thought we were.
Ever since I had children I have tried my utmost to put an end to gender stereotyping in our household. I don’t want my girls growing up believing they can’t do something because they are not male, or they can’t ask for a certain toy because it isn’t made for them. Despite my best efforts however, supermarkets and catalogues are still all for gender advertising to a point where sometimes it feels as though my determination is futile. Then came a simple moment which changed my mind.
Last week we popped into our local Aldi store, it was heaving with a bank holiday closure imminent so I kept my three year old strapped in to the trolley to avoid mayhem. As we unloaded our goods onto the conveyor belt she chatted away to an older couple awaiting their turn to pay. Little O prefers not to talk to people she doesn’t know, but was feeling unusually chatty, telling them about her holiday plans, when she spotted their ‘special buy’ advertising.
‘Mummy has one of those,’ she pointed to a sign.
‘Oh that’s nice, does she sew you lots of clothes?’ The elderly gentleman enquired.
Cue small girl looking very confused until the penny dropped.
‘Haha no, Mummy doesn’t sew!’ She laughed realising he thought she was pointing at the huge banner of the woman sat at the sewing machine (and she is right, I can’t sew for toffee!) ‘Mummy has one of those!’ Directing the gentleman’s gaze to the large cordless drill. The conversation continued in an unfortunate stereotypical way.
‘Is it not Daddy’s drill?’ He nodded at my husband busy packing shopping unaware of the conversation unfolding.
‘Haha, no Daddy doesn’t drill,’ she laughed, ‘that’s Mummy’s job’.
Inside my head a carnival was in full swing, a mini brass band played a fanfare as confetti rained down from the sky. Yes little girl, you tell him, down with stereotypes! I could have corrected her, it is actually Daddy’s drill, but yes it is only me that uses it because if I waited for my husband to hang a picture I may be waiting all year. As far as my preschooler sees, Mummy does the DIY and when it comes to household chores, there are no stereotypes, both my husband and I pull our weight with all tasks. In the grand scheme of things, Mummy using a drill, or Daddy doing the ironing are totally insignificant things and they should be considered completely normal. As the elderly gentleman showed though, that still isn’t always the case, but we need to make sure it becomes normality.
So yes, there may be miles to go where gender equality is concerned, I hope by the time they are working adults they will get the wage they are due according to their ability and not their sex. I hope to also see products sold to all sexes not just aimed at one or the other. Until that day though, this incident goes to show that by following our lead our children never have to believe that they can’t do something just because of their gender. Let’s continue to teach them that if they can put their mind to it they can do anything and let’s put those stereotypes to bed once and for all.