Gender roles and parenting

I’m currently lost in the endless whirlwind of parenting young children. It’s life on sensory overload – constant activity, talking, moaning, fighting, laughter and cuteness. I love escaping to my quiet desk at work and focusing on something different, using other parts of my brain. But it all leaves me with little mental energy or actual time for blogging. Except when we visit the in-laws. Luckily for me (and you!), we’re visiting the in-laws right now, and I have mental space to reflect on parenting techniques for children.

Parenting as an atheist is extremely difficult. I don’t have a ready-made book of rules that tells me how children should be treated or, more specifically, how to treat my daughter and my son distinctly according to their respective genitals.

Luckily for me, I stumbled across this fantastic post full of handy hints about how to limit the development of my children as individuals by thrusting invented roles on them as early as possible in life.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. My partner should involve himself less with our daughter than our son because of the non-matching genitals.

2. I should encourage my daughter to bat her eyelids so she can practise manipulating men with her looks.

3. Based on their genitals, children should be prepared for a predetermined role in life.

So, let’s be honest, this stuff makes me furious. I can’t think of anything more mindless than deciding for your children what they will be before they have a chance to express themselves and discover what makes them comfortable in life. There’s enough about life and society already that will attempt to limit their experience.

Some will push through it, and some will remain uncomfortable with who they are and what they are ‘expected’ to be in this short life – instead of exploring the possibilities at their own rhythm and pace.

Life can be an amazing opportunity to explore a beautiful world filled with fascinating people and experiences.

But in some cultures, it’s not about the growth and experiences of the individual contributing to wider society, it’s about fulfilling invented ‘roles’ of little actual value, reaching meaningless goals in a pitiful attempt to impress other human beings. Drive a big car, live in a big house, compare yourself to similar ant-like neighbours to feel good.

Preconceived gender roles are part of this nonsense – telling people what life should be, as if we are all the same. Surely it is of more value and sense to let individual children decide what is meaningful to them in their life.

Naval gazing about what a wife should be and trying to squeeze your daughter into that role is absurd and harmful. Leave the child be – to play, to read, to climb trees, to imagine, and ultimately decide for herself what actually exciting opportunities she might pursue in her own life.

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