Being a mum of three boys, sometimes I get frustrated with all the focus on girls and empowering them, sometimes I want to shout “What about the boys??? Huh??? They don’t have it as easy as you think”. Then the left side of my brain kicks in and says ‘ hey, stop being so dramatic. It’s not about who has it worse. All children should be empowered and feel valued regardless of gender”. So how can we ensure that this happens.
When you have children gender stereotyping is almost impossible to avoid. It is so engrained into our culture and mind set. It is something we often do without even realising it. I like to think I am pretty liberal about what my boys ‘can and can’t do‘ and I have even heard myself mutter one of my most detested phrases used towards children, specifically boys. MAN UP. To be fair I have said it less than a handful of times in seven years I don’t think I am doing too bad.
When I started thinking about this post and what I wanted to say my first thought was that it’s my job to raise emotionally strong and open minded boys who will grow into well rounded young men. If my boys feel empowered, valued and respected, then they will have less reason to try and dominate, under value and disrespect women. Surely that is half the battle won? My boys are young at present 7.5yo 3.5yo and 18 months so I am starting to instill the beginnings of a firm foundation for them. Confidence is key! However, over-confidence can be detrimental. My eldest Oliver, knows he can try anything over the years we’ve had football, tennis, library club, ballroom dancing, cricket and swimming to name but a few. He knows that he can’t be good at all of them. When it comes to his reading and his expressive writing he knows that he is naturally talented, but that it is only through practice that he will continue to develop.
A snippet of Oliver’s writing:
” Mummy I would sacrifice myself for you, when I die my heart will still be beating, because I love you so much ” Oliver, Seven
Oliver has won a few awards at school for his poetry. Recently it was for his ‘silly’ poetry. Believe me this seven year old loves a good old poo, bum or toilet joke as much as the next. It’s all about confidence. That’s my first job, to raise them be confident in themselves and their strengths and abilities. The next thing is to raise them without the gender stereotype filtered glasses we were forced to wear for far too long! They need to be open to but more importantly EXPOSED to different genders working in different fields and career paths.
I want my boys to know that people do jobs based on their interests, abilities, qualifications and experience not based on their gender.
I want my boys to know that anyone can do the above jobs and instead of being separated by gender it should be Skill/Qualifications/Experience. In doing this I hope in the future it would lead to their females friends, Wives* and daughters* etc having an open and positive experience, where they are supported by my sons (and a whole generation of boys/men).
* should they choose to get married and have children.
The way that I try to instill this into my boys is to not say “girls can do this or boys can do that” but “anyone can do that if they choose to”. This is quite a hard subject to write about it is very emotive. I do not mean to cause offence with what I write, but this is just my two cents based on my experience, you can lump or leave it.
So that briefly talks about how I can have an impact through my boys. Ps, please don’t think we live in some gender neutral house where we don’t use the word ‘policeman’ or my boys are dressed in every colour but blue. No…. We are only human! My washing basket(s) often look like someone has drank blue Gatorade and then threw up. It’s fine. Honestly! It does make the washing easier when everything can be bungef in together… Anyway I digress.
So what about my wider influence? There is a rather famous Nigerian Proverb
“It takes a village to raise a child”
I love this and I love to see it in practice with the raising of my three boys. I am very lucky that the village that helps raise my boys is full of so many wonderful people. So who’s village am I a part of? Specifically little girls. I have some amazing little girls in my life M (7) who is soon to become a big sister to another little girl, N ( almost 3) and Z (almost 1). I am privileged to know and love these little ladies and I want to do everything I can to encourage and empower them. Here’s how I plan to do it.
- ACKNOWLEGE them, for who they are and individuals
- ENCOURAGE them, to celebrate their successes
- RECOGNISE their failures and help them to turn them into an opportunity for growth
- INSPIRE them, whether it be to read, to break dance, to sing, to draw. Inspire them by showing an interest in their activity.
- CONFIDENCE having confidence in their abilities
- RESPECT for their work and determination
- Being aware on my Language how I talk about myself
As parents and adults I feel that is one area we often neglect. We want strong, confident and resourceful children. Yet we are their role models, they look at us in Awe, with wonder in their eyes and hear when we say ” I wonder bother, I wouldn’t be any good anyway” or “this is too hard” ” I can’t do it” “I’m rubbish at running” or whatever negative stuff you say, and to that tiny fragile being, they begin to question “If Mum, Dad, Nan, Aunty P can’t do things then how can I?”
Let me tell you a story…
Once upon a time there was a little girl. She loved her Mummy dearly. Even when she grew to be an adult her Mum was still a huge part of her world. She grew up mainly with just her Mum, brothers and sister. Her Mum had many faults, as do all Mums, but she was still the best Mum in the world.
They never had had fancy things, but this little girl knew that her Mum loved her more than anything in the whole wide world. That love was the most precious thing her Mum ever gave her. Even though the Mum loved her daughter and her other children, she didn’t love herself the same way, unconditionally. Over the years the daughter saw her Mum cry many times, she saw how lonely she was. She often heard her talk about how unlovable she was, how she had nothing left to offer even that she didn’t deserve anyone.
The daughter grew and she couldn’t get the thoughts out of her head. Why doesn’t anyone love my Mum, she is beautiful, kind, caring, loving, much better than me. Those thoughts soon turned to if no one loves my Mum then no one will ever love me, I’m not even half the woman she is, I don’t deserve to be loved.
Thankfully a young man came along and he managed to get through the defence the girl had in place and get through to her heart, he said “you deserve to be loved and I will love you”. The story ended well, but the little girl wonders if the Mum ever truly knew the impact that the harsh words she said about herself really had. To that little girl, the Mum will always be the strongest, most beautiful, loveable person she has ever known.
As you may have guessed, I was that little girl.
I wanted to share that story to illustrate the power of our words. When we think tiny ears aren’t listening or are too small to understand. They are and they do. My plan to live the phrase
Is to start with me! To work on my own demons and to make sure I am living what I am preaching to my boys and the qualities I am trying to help instill in the girls in my village, that I am living them, using them, demonstrating them. I am trying to remind myself daily that even though I have 3 boys I am raising a strong woman ~ ME, I know I strong woman ~ ME, and I can be a strong woman.
Thank you for reading