Gender Roles in Parenting….AKA don’t raise a sexist monster!

I was recently looking up gender roles in parenting and there is so much out there (as there always is) on the internet about the evolving role of the male figures in the co-parenting journey. 

Simply put, dads are changing diapers, and singing bed time songs and feeding their babies and playing with them. They want to take on their share of parenting responsibilities and value family time over money, which does not mean they don’t work or they don’t strive to work hard, but just that they acknowledge and invest equally in quality time with their babies, totally dreamy! 

All this sounds so great, but can we do a quick reality check?

A book on Fathering in India argues that while expectations around the fathers’ roles are fast changing in urban India, a lot may not have changed. While women have joined the workforce, the ground reality is that young boys grow up in a male dominant society and young girls grow up with increased restrictions, increased expectations and enter a world that subjects them to unequal gender attitudes. When does this happen? Is it when they are toddlers? Is it through childhood? Or does this happen during adolescence. 

Interestingly, it begins with the parents, and the subtle or not so subtle cues that they provide right from the time the child is in a highchair! Children are very perceptive and it doesn’t help when they begin to see patterns such as 

  1. Dads’ behaving like solid oaks who don’t cry, emote or show any sort of emotional reaction whatsoever
  2. Unequal division of labor – Moms’ doing all the household chores from cleaning to cooking without any assistance
  3. Dads’ being the primary breadwinner and moms (if they choose to work) being subjected to a LOT of guilt for choosing a career over family

Sounds familiar? Wait, there is more! 

I’m just going to leave that picture there. 

Bazinga.

I wonder why I never hear this applause considering I cook a meal like that every single day! Is it because I am a woman and I know how to cook, I’m expected to cook well and it is my “job” regardless of my occupation, my interest or disinterest in this daily activity. 

Today, about 28% of women are part of the Indian workforce and there are many of them who hold positions of power in the corporate sector. The media every now and then writes about these super achievers who have broken the glass ceiling and are doing tremendous work in what was traditionally a man’s domain. But these women are portrayed as people who do it all- they are great bosses, power houses, spend time dropping the kids to school, they squeeze in early morning yoga classes, they cook insta-worthy food, go on vacations with families, throw parties, travel and are great moms and wives and daughters and daughters in law. 

Now let’s take a look at the man who is in a position of power in the corporate sector, he is a top boss, he sure as hell has to put his kids in a top school, take them on exotic vacations but beyond that he does not have the need to be involved in family, parent teacher meetings, cooking, dropping children at school, changing diapers, taking them to a hobby class or even sitting with them for a meal. That’s not his “job”, he has a REAL job to do after all!

Ring a bell? I bet! 

So, what can we do? 

Men – Stop valuing your needs and comforts over that of women. What you do passes on to the next gen! 

Women – Stop enabling them to continue with this inequality! YOU matter! And what you do passes on to the next gen. 

Remember the child you are raising needs to be a great deal more accomplished than you, and by that we don’t mean a higher degree, better education, a better paying job, a better spouse, more kids, more cars. NADA.

What we mean is: 

  • He/she needs to be sensitive and free of gender bias 
  • He/she needs to be aware and kind
  • Grow up in a world where boys can play with unicorns and barbies and girls can play with LEGO and trucks (IF THEY SO WISH)
  • Boys CAN cry! Men CAN cry! 
  • Girls CAN be assertive! Women CAN call the shots! 

Children don’t need an external role model, they need their parents to lead by example!  Let’s bid adieu to unwarranted traditions of the past and get with the times!

Here is one last meme before we go! 

Swati & Gita

References:

Sriram R. (2019) Men as Fathers: An Indian Perspective. In: Sriram R. (eds) Fathering in India. Springer, Singapore

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