“We've begun to raise daughters more like sons... but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.” Gloria Steinem
Patience. Endless patience. Everyone tells you before you have children that you'll need to learn patience. I worried I would not acquire patience quickly enough. It took about 3 1/2 years of being a parent to find a level of patience that allowed everyone in my house to find calm.... most days.
Courage. This took me by surprise. I didn't realize how much courage it would take to be a parent. I find myself struggling with this idea even more so than patience.
Having lunch with a friend we discussed gender norms among children and, specifically, how to teach daughters to hold onto the self esteem when there are so many imposing messages trying to strip it away. Obviously, I have no daughters to teach this to, but I don't take lightly my position as mother of two boys. Hence the Gloria Steinem quote above. I first heard that quote in college and it has never left me.
The strengthening of women in the fight for equality has produced an unnecessary burden on women to be more like men, while still being just as feminine. You must be super-mom, super-wife super-CEO, super-entrepreneur , oh, and super-skinny too. Every time I hear "Girl Power" I cringe. Does it ever feel like we're trying to emulate the gender that created all this oppression in the first place? I want all girls and women to be strong - emotionally, politically, professionally, physically - but I just as desperately want boys and men to be vulnerable, sensitive, empathetic, caring, compassionate, selfless, and nurturing. How else are we going to truly stop oppression, violence against women, and discrimination? I want gender freedom. Not blurred lines, and unisex bathrooms. I want boys to become nurses without be called a "Male Nurse" and women to be CEOs without being called a "Woman CEO". I want little girls to be girl scouts who build robots and boys to take classes to be babysitters - and I want all of this without any stigma attached. I want it to just be normal. I want people praised for being exceptional human beings based on achievements and contributions, not in spite of or because of their gender. While this goes way beyond parenting, that seems like a good place to start.
My wish for all parents:
Find time to stop and ask yourself, am I teaching my children how to "be a man" or to "be a woman" - if the answer is "yes" - stop. Then, find the courage to just teach them how to be human beings.
This song says it much better than I do...