I recently came across a blog post that talked about teaching gender equality to our sons from childhood. The blogger talked about dispelling some of the common stereotypes attached with gender, for instance colours like blue is for boys and pink is for girls, kitchen work is for girls and doing outside chores is a boy’s job. She talked about living a life where all these stereotypes could be broken either daily or on a weekly basis.
The post talked about how the writer (the mother) did all the odd jobs around the house and by odd jobs she meant repairing leaking faucet (the family stays abroad), changing the fused bulb, or repairing anything and everything that she found broken or in need of repair in her home. And the writer’s husband on his days off, gives his wife time off from the kitchen and takes it over completely. From doing all the small chores around the kitchen to preparing all the three meals and of course the in between snacks!
While reading the post I thought to myself, can I – mother of six year old living in a joint family in India – teach gender equality to my son? My inner voice answered why not? Maybe not as elaborately as that blogger friend but yes in a subtle manner I can make my son aware about gender equality. So this is what I started with:
- Dispelling the colour stereotype
This was easy thanks to his Play School, which for one of their school activity had asked the kids (boys and girls both) to wear a pink dress. Incidentally he didn’t have anything pink in his wardrobe so we went and bought him a pink jacket. And today that jacket is his favourite item of winter clothing.
- Making him do small chores around the kitchen
My MIL was the only lady in the house of three men and she belongs to the school of thought where men are to be pampered by picking up their plates, and serving their food on the plate to them. Also men (read sons) were not allowed to enter the kitchen for anything, not even for drinking water. So I ensured that things were different when my son came along and makes sure that he does things that he can do on his own around the kitchen. Also while serving the food I will ask him to lay the table thus helping me in the kitchen but also realising that this is not just a girl’s job and anyone and everyone can do it.
- Ensuring that he picks up his plate or bowl after his meal (it’s a big issue in the joint family of two sons)
I have seen my FIL getting up from his seat to wash his hands but not pick his plate up. That is kept at the table as it is either for us to pick up or for MIL to pick up. But to ensure peace at home it is better that either of the DILs pick up the plate because if MIL picks it up then there will be a huge hue and cry about how DILs are useless and don’t do any work around the house. So I have taught my son to pick his plate or bowl and keep it in the kitchen sink. Sometimes MIL feels that he is a kid but to that my answer is – if I teach him now then only he will learn and I will not have to say that you have changed with the coming of your wife.