My husband made me a great cup of filter ‘kaapi’ this morning. Today is March 8, also known as International Women’s Day!
While I have written the two statements one after the other, in reality, they have nothing in common. My husband has been making me coffee every morning for nine years now.
Each year on International Women’s Day there are discussions and seminars held to commemorate women achievers, to find ways to break the glass ceiling and to march forward. Honestly, all that is great but something far more important to me is ensuring that there is equality at home.
As little drops make the ocean, big ideas can be better achieved by small incremental, seemingly inconsequential changes. It is these little things that aggregate at a societal level and can drive big changes.
How does one do that?
1. Begin by re-drafting some of the “ground rules.”
There are no tasks around the house that the boys cannot do. Whether it is picking up their plate after a meal or helping lay the table. Whether it is helping around the kitchen or sorting out clothes after they are washed. It is essential to establish that everyone who inhabits the house must perform these tasks. Isn’t that a simple thing to do?
Something as simple as meal planning can be something that the boys are a part of as well.
It need not always be the woman who decides what is made for each meal. After all, everyone is consuming the food, aren’t they?
2. Actively practise ‘feminist parenting’ – Yes, it is a thing!
Even though it reads as ‘feminist parenting’, it essentially means to respect one’s feelings without attaching a gender tag to it. If my son is feeling frustrated or sad and cries, I do not immediately attribute it to him being weak or call him a sissy.
Explain and reiterate that allowing oneself to feel a myriad of emotions is absolutely normal.
Empower the boys to develop a sense of empathy and compassion. Just by being born a male one doesn’t necessarily have to be tough and aggressive. Who has defined these characteristics anyway?
3. Have age appropriate conversations about gender stereotyping
Last year I remember my son coming home and asking me why his friend’s father stays at home while the mother works. To this, we chose to sit down and understand why he thought it to be odd. We figured out that my son, all of 4.5 years then, had already somehow understood that it is the father’s job to go to an office and the mother’s to stay at home.
With the help of many real-life examples we explained to him that it may not always be that way. You will be amazed at how well he understood this. All it took was a logical conversation with him. So do not shy away from answering such questions, sit down and talk!
4. Respect the choices that the children make
Very often because of our predisposed beliefs that boys play with cars and guns, while girls play with cooking sets and dolls; we transfer that on to the children.
Another active decision is to let the children decide what they want to play with.
For the longest time, my son enjoyed watching Barbie cartoons.
While many elders raised eyebrows on the choice, as parents we let him watch it without attaching any connotation to it.
5. Stop using gender as an excuse for anything
“Boys will be boys,” how many times have you heard that? I have lost count. Boys are not predisposed to violence or aggression. If you find a child displaying these traits then ensure that you get the child the help that is needed to break free of that trait. By saying boys will be boys we often normalise that behaviour.
6. Talk to them about both male and female role models
Steer your dinner table conversations and bedtime tales towards men and women who are achievers in their field. Talk to them about women fire-fighters and male chefs.
Explain to them how no job is gender specific. Also remember that you are the biggest role model for your kids, so while you are talking to them about all of this ensure that you practise it as well.
While all these points mentioned above may sound rather trivial you will see how practising them leads us to achieve gender parity and perhaps even gender neutrality.
The change needs to begin at home, and as parents, we have a massive role in bringing that change about. So let’s start today!