It was just another ordinary night when my son unknowingly crushed my feminist soul.
The family dynamic in our home, at the moment, is one in which I am home more often with the children than my husband. This means many mornings I am the one to get up with, feed and dress our children. My two sons see me do the majority of the laundry and housework. I am also the one in the evenings often cooking dinner, bathing babies and reading bedtime stories. It is not because this is what my husband demands, it is not because this is what we feel are our specific genders’ roles, it’s because of sheer logistics. We talk often about the roles we play as parents and spouses, and do our best to exhibit to our children both Mommy and Daddy perform many jobs and appreciate each other for the hard work we all put in.
We have a general rule in our house; the one who is home first starts dinner, and more often than not, I am the dinner-making person. When my husband arrives home, I delegate to him the entertaining of the children simply because it allows me to execute dinner faster than if a three-year-old is trying to raid the pantry for fruit snacks and a one-year-old is pulling at my pant leg to be picked up.
On any one of our ordinary days and dinners, my kids rush to greet their dad when he walks in the door. We all talk about our day, set the table, the kids play and then we eat. But on this specific (soul-crushing) day, my husband sensed it had been a frustrating one the moment he walked in. It could have been the two kids screaming over the same toy, his sweaty wife frantically running around trying to make spaghetti (in between checking work email), or the fact the dog was wildly barking at the Fed Ex man that gave it away, but anyway I digress as I’m sure you get the point. So he, being the good husband he is, quickly jumped in to cook the rest of the dinner moments after walking in the door.
My oldest son was crushed, mostly because he had missed his daddy and wanted to play, but also because our “routine” had been interrupted. He looked straight at us and said emphatically, “Mommy jobs are to make dinner and daddy jobs are to play! Daddy, put the spoon down and let Mommy do it like always!”
After an exhausting day, I was so frustrated and shocked I could feel my eyes filling with tears. The roles we have chosen to take on are not because they are deemed appropriate by society, but simply because we, as a couple, are trying to do the absolute best for our children. My immediate reaction was to want to lecture him on gender stereotypes and how they have no place in our home. This, of course, would have the same sticking power with an almost four-year-old boy as asking him to appreciate all of the green vegetables he emphatically refers to as “yucky foods.” He of course, has not an inkling of gender roles and stereotypes, for he is merely a toddler. He simply was referring to our norm and lashed out only to coerce his dad to play. I understood and empathized.
After taking a deep breath, I smiled at my son and then vowed (out loud in front of all the testosterone I live amongst) despite their limited understanding and young ages, the lessons on supporting and appreciating feminism would start NOW. I need them to grasp there are no “mommy jobs” and “daddy jobs” rather we are a team and family unit. My hope is this kind of understanding translates to bigger more profound lessons as they grow and mature.
The word, feminism, due to what I believe is historical perceptions and misunderstandings, has the tendency to propel visceral reactions. When I say I am vowing to raise feminist men, I am not demanding they abandon their masculinity or become sheep to a woman’s demands. Instead, I am vowing to demonstrate, along with my husband, what it means to be an aware, respectful human being. Feminism is meant to say we are equal, not better, and is a concept that transcends gender in to all aspects of racial, socioeconomic and cultural divides.
It is not a message for only boys, but for parents of daughters as well. Education on the issues that currently plague our generation is a step forward toward change. Thus, I am declaring to teach my boys and any other future children, these true lessons of feminism:
- Equality is the essence of feminism. Equal pay, equal appreciation, equal respect. Boys and men are capable of doing the same jobs as women. And in that same respect, women deserve and are capable of doing the same jobs as men. Both men and women are perfectly capable of raising children, cooking breakfast, making a bed, running for President and being the breadwinner. You are not defined by your gender nor the roles society may pretend exist.
- Everyone deserves a voice and to be heard.
- Often times, the word feminism is confused with being feminine or weak. It is quite the opposite. You are no more or less of a man based on your athletic ability or earning potential just as a woman is no less of one if she prefers to not wear makeup or have children. Standing up for what is right and fair takes courage and strength.
- Having and showing emotions does not exhibit weakness. Also, “I’m sorry” goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to say it when you know it is merited.
- No always means no. Not saying anything means no. Only yes means yes. If you have to question, it means no!
- When it’s time to raise your own family, exhibit to both your sons and daughters the meaning of a mutually respectful, loving marriage. Treat each other with kindness and admiration, because it is what you both deserve. Your children will then know and understand what to look for in a mate.
- Remember others are not as fortunate as you in many respects. Pay it forward, treat everyone with respect, work hard and stay humble. Fight for those who deserve more.
That sons, briefly summarizes feminism. If you remember these lessons and strive to do better than those before you, the word “feminism” will no longer need to exist.
I understand and identify the ordinary night where my feminine soul was crushed was innocent and pure from a little boy who simply wanted to play with his dad. Despite my overly dramatic reaction, I am immensely grateful it happened. It allowed me to stop, revel in the moment of innocence, and look forward to us learning and growing together.
I am already proud of the men you will become.