Gender roles are often in the news but I wonder if we are talking about it enough with spouses and children.Back in May I discussed child discipline and child abuse with a fellow blogger in Scotland after my article Reporting My Husband to CPS Not Once— But Twice. He enjoyed the article so much that he reblogged it for others. He said he was against smacking a child but his wife thought smacking a child was alright. (FYI: Hitting a child in Scotland is illegal.)
Very curious, I asked him, “With yours and your wife’s difference in opinion on spanking, how would you resolve the issue?”
He replied, “I think we would resolve it by me not saying anything.”
In the last several years I have noticed several instances where fathers do seem to take a back seat to mothers but both genders can take part credit. From fathers (and childless fathers) I hear a myth repeated that makes the assumption that mothers “know” because, well, they are mothers.
While we wish all a person needed in order to be granted full knowledge about parenting would be the fertilization of an egg by a sperm, nothing could be farther from the truth. Some parents learned healthy parenting methods from their own parents but those are few. Parenting is something that requires thought and effort to learn; sometimes trial and error is the only way to find solutions. You could take the top ten parenting books and learn them by heart but still not encounter an answer to circumstances you experience with your own children. Simply giving birth does not magically bestow parenting wisdom.
Fathers, rise up! (Relax, this is not war!) Fathers have just as much knowledge as mothers but moms have probably been exposed more to parenting issues. Parenting is an equal opportunity activity in which you get out of it just as much as you put into it. It is never too late to become more involved.
I have heard well-intentioned mothers say they “do everything” because their spouses “don’t know how.” This is a myth: teaching fathers how to do tasks can help them to become more able and active in child rearing and can certainly lighten workloads. Doing this would also help reduce the feeling of being overworked and taken for granted.
Many years ago I was talking in my Parents Anonymous group before the meeting began about how annoying my husband’s cooking was. Having a short break from cooking was nice but I would end up having to spend much more time in the kitchen cleaning up after him. The facilitator quickly reminded me that it was his kitchen too; I hadn’t thought of it that way before. This illustrates how we fall into roles or fulfill expectations according to our gender and what we understand of it.
When my husband and I looked for houses, it was I who inquired about workshop spaces. My husband was never the “handy” person and I grew up seeing my mother do carpentry work and plumbing. Each time my husband was nudged toward the workshops it was he that smiled sheepishly and referred them to me.
Stereotypes are hard to put to rest in many instances: a southern accent does not mean you are not very bright, boys do not grow up knowing how to fix cars and girls are not born with instinctive knowledge to parent children. Can you think of stereotypes you have come across in your life?
As a final message to parents of I would like to ask you to think about gender and stereotypes as you bring up your children. Your daughters will own cars that need maintenance and repairs. Your sons will need to eat healthy, tasty foods every day. When you put a limit on a person because of gender, nationality, culture, or looks, you do a great disservice to your children.
I am interested in your thoughts on this subject; let me hear your ideas.
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her at her contact page.