My Little Woman of the Future
- 12 July, 2016
To my darling little woman of the future,
We have been learning about crossing roads, you and I. We are very particular – even if there isn’t a car in sight we will not go until there is a green man.
Yesterday we were waiting at the pedestrian crossing, your hot little hand in mine, and all was well with the world. “Green man means go!” we said in unison when the light changed. “Mummy?”, you said as we started walking. It was your thoughtful tone. The one that always tells me A Very Important Question is about to follow (like, “What colour are dragons?” or “Why doesn’t the sun melt the moon?”).
Then your three-year-old self said this: “Why is it never a green lady?”
Oh my little girl – how often you have the power to floor me with just a few words! Why indeed do we call it a green man when we could equally call it a green lady? I had honestly never, ever thought about that before.
This is a pattern I have noticed developing. A week ago you asked if girls can play basketball, or only boys? The week before, if girls can play with Spiderman, or only boys? A while before that you turned your nose up at your daddy’s pink shirt and said, “Why are you wearing girls’ clothes daddy?” It’s starting. At the tender age of three we need to start teaching you about shaking off the shackles of gender stereotyping.
Oh the responsibility of parenting, my little girl! The trouble is, from where you sit perhaps your little nuclear family looks like a walking, talking gender stereotype. Daddy goes out to work and Mummy stays home. Mummy cooks (not very well) and Daddy takes out the bins (when Mummy reminds him to). When something breaks you say, “I think Daddy can fix that.” A little echo of my own voice coming back to me. Have we unwittingly taught you, already, that your options are limited as a result of your gender? I fervently hope not.
I want you to know that, for you, both your daddy and I have become committed feminists. (And if you think men can’t be feminists just have a listen to this guy – when you’re a bit bigger!). To us, feminism means unreserved equality. It means you can be what ever you want to be, and no stereotype need ever hold you back. That doesn’t mean you have to rail against the so-called norm if you don’t want to. Feminism is for everyone, and you can wear it like an armour always. Play sword fights in your pirate costume and shimmy up a tree, but on the days you feel like donning your tiara and calling yourself a princess, go right ahead. There is nothing wrong with being a princess!
In your home you have an example of a “traditional” parenting set-up, but now that I can see you starting to take note of these things I plan to make absolutely sure you know this: I stay home with you because I really, really want to. It’s my choice; I sacrifice other things so that I can do it and, even on the most smarties-up-your-nose, toilet-paper-all-over-the-house of days, I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s my feminist prerogative, and the rewards I reap are summed up in you saying to me, “I think I want to be a mummy when I grow up.”
In mid-2016, our world is at the edge of something revolutionary. By the end of this year, the leaders of three of the world’s most powerful nations very well could be women. I pray that by the time you have daughters of your own this won’t be a progressive concept. I hope it will just be.
In raising you and the baby sister who comes behind you, my little women of the future, I vow to parent you as consciously as I can. I want to help pave the path to your destiny, whatever that may be, by teaching you to kick aside the preconceptions that will clutter it along the way. I promise to ensure that our conversations about what girls and boys “can be” are gently reframed in terms of what “girls and boys want to be”. As well as telling you how beautiful you are (because I can’t help it!) I will make sure you know your value far beyond the way you look. As my favourite literary character, Aibileen Clark (The Help), said: “You is kind, you is smart, you is important” – and that, my sweet girl, is all you need to know.
Oh, and also, from now on we will cross the road when we see the “green person” – and not the “green man”.
365daysofkindness12th Jul 2016 - 6:37 pm
fancypaperblog12th Jul 2016 - 6:46 pm
I just asked a room of people that question and they can’t answer them.
Vicki12th Jul 2016 - 6:56 pm
Fleur heyworth12th Jul 2016 - 7:52 pm
Beautifully written Cathy. As a feminist stay at home mum of 5 years who is determined to get back into work I agree it is all about choice, but it is also about equality of opportunity and valuing work in and outside the home. Society has a longer journey yet to travel on balancing the economic and social cost-benefit of childrearing. I also want my son who fancied painting his nails yesterday to be able to take time out for childrearing as much as my daughter, should he so wish 🙂
lovelillies&lace12th Jul 2016 - 8:51 pm
Love this!!! ????????
Claire13th Jul 2016 - 10:56 am
You is kind, you is smart, you is important… Amen!
shellybgr8fulme13th Jul 2016 - 12:53 pm
Love this! Not like! LOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Katerina Brown15th Jul 2016 - 7:24 am
Beautiful. Perceptive, witty, inciteful, yet as kind and gentle as the sweet mother you are.
Such delicious reading!
Evie Jaye16th Jul 2016 - 7:35 am
Thank you. Just because a mother chooses to go down a “traditional” stay at home road, does not mean she is less of a feminist than her “back to work” counterpart. The job of motherhood is so very important, the results of which effect everyone. I have worried over the years that me being a “stay at home” mum has given my 3 boys the wrong message, but when I see and hear how they respect women and girls as equals, I breathe a little easier. Keep up the good work lovely lady. EJ
Doing Good Together™12th Aug 2016 - 5:48 am
Nicely done. We just posted our August Newsletter on “girl power” and the balancing act required to raise girls who are confident and caring and who don’t feel daunted by the stereotypes that might limit her. We are raising the next generation of “powerful” women, and we do indeed get to model and discuss what that means with our girls – and boys.
ohjustmylittleblog17th Oct 2016 - 4:59 pm
So beautifully written. I like your description of feminism too. I would love to be a stay at home mum one day, but because I want to, not because its expected! I’m a reception teacher and I try to hard to dismiss any gender stereotypes, I want all my little people to know that they can do or be anything they want! x
Asbah Alaena28th Mar 2017 - 4:59 am
Its very interesting how toddlers have the perception about things we hardly notice. My almost 3yo is so aware of herself being a female and her 2yo being a brother.
I wrote about the dilemmas of SHM here: https://amuslimmama.com/2017/03/25/the-dialemmas-of-shm/
It indeed is about choice. The only difference is from ‘I have to’ to ‘I want to’.
We stay at home so that our children gets whats best for them. Their Mothers. because they can rest their cheeks on your chest and want to be picked up by you!
I recently remember that somewhere in the world they changed this sign to ‘green lady’. hmm!!
I write at amuslimmama.com