I have realized that there is a discussion going on about why the kitchen set gets gifted to the girls and the cricket set to the boys. Why Pink and Barbie are for the girls and Blue and Cars are for the boys? Why not the other way round or a different way altogether?
The objective of the discussion gets centred on keeping the child away from the gender stereotypes. A well-intentioned objective, I suppose. However, is the gender stereotypes limited to such obvious examples only?
I have heard the below statements quite a number of times in my own house-hold spoken by me / my wife:
I / Papa have / has come tired from office. Please do not bother me / him.
I / Papa have / has got a surprise gift for you. Say thank you to Papa.
I / Papa have / has a holiday today. Let me / him take some rest.
I / Papa am / is doing office work at home. Please do not disturb me / him.
I / Papa am / is taking an office call at home. Please do not disturb me / him.
I / Papa am / is working hard for your future. Remember this.
I / Papa will not eat your left-overs. Please give it to me.
I / Papa will play with you once you are fed and bathed.
I / Papa will decide what / where to shop and how much to spend.
I / Papa will not clean your poop. Please come over to me.
I suppose the above statements were regular fodder to the girls till the time I was working, one and a half-year back. Some of these statements were overtly said, some were understood by our twin daughters, even if not said explicitly. Once I left my job to become a full-time stay-at-home father to our twin daughters and my wife joined her organization www.facebook.com/Travelwithdirtyfeet, it was also an end to the above statements.
The girls, no longer, hear the above statements from their mother / me. I do not use any of the above statements for my wife even though I am fully aware that she slogs it out for the whole day running an experiential travel firm. I know that she used all the above statements for me even though I would have spent the whole day sitting on a chair, whiling away my time in meetings and breaks.
Even though my wife works and I do not any more, I cannot get myself to make above statements for her. Which, a mother is expected to keep making for her child’s father. To make matters worse, as a working mother (my wife), she cannot make any of the above statements herself, it does not occur to her. Rather, she keeps feeling guilty for leaving her children, which was an alien feeling to me, when I was working myself.
If I would have been still working, the girls would have continued hearing the above-mentioned statements. Their initiation in the Indian gender stereotypes between a man and a woman would have been over, by now.
What has got a kitchen set and cricket set / Blue and Pink / Barbie and Cars got to do with introducing gender stereotypes to the children?
I feel we do it all the time with each and every conversation, about our own perceived roles and responsibilities as parents. We need to get over our own gender stereotypes to start with, easier said than done.
What’s your say?