My daughter is 3.5 years old now and has quite a strong opinion on several things. Earlier she would happily bade me goodbye when I leave for work but nowadays she frowns and says “Mumma don’t go to office”.
We would usually tell her that Mumma needs to go to office as we need money to lead a good life – to wear good clothes, study in good schools, go on vacations, watch movies. To do all of these you need money and that comes when you go and work in an office. But its not only for the money, Mumma goes to office as she likes to work. It makes her happy. Just like reading a book or watching Peppa Pig makes you feel good.
I wanted my daughter to understand that both things matter. Money is essential and it doesn’t come easy. Money cannot buy happiness we all know that but a life without comforts is not a happy one either. When I was young, we had some stressed financial times and I know the pain my brother and I went through. Being able to live a good lifestyle and give that to my family matters and I can do that because of my job. I want my daughter to realise as she grows up that financial independance is important for every individual – the feeling of walking into a shop and buying something with the money you earned is priceless.
But I also want her to know that I love what I do. I am passionate about my career and if I had a very comfortable position financially as well, I doubt I would be happy without working.
I try my best as a parent to give her a gender neutral upbringing. Though I have little control on the outside environment she is exposed to like her school and friends ,I do hope the transparent bond we share means we talk openly, free of any inhibitions and can clear any misconceptions. I do recall what a strong negative influence my external environment has had on me in my growing years but more on that in another post.
While I beam with happiness when my daughter talks something very innocently which makes me think “Hell she is a feminist , in fact isn’t every child one?” .For them everyone and everything is equal. Just black and white.
I was taken aback when one day, I saw a friend of hers, a boy play with her Barbie doll. He was gently combing her hair when my daughter rebuked him “Hey only girls play with dolls”. Now where did that come from?? On further prodding seems another girl, a 5 year old had told her that girls play with dolls and boys play with cars. I sighed- somethings never change, we are where we were 30 years ago when I was a kid.
I had to gently explain her and have to keep reminding her that any child can play with anything he/she likes. There are no toys for boys or girls specifically.
I like talking to these little kids- what leaves me in awe is the sheer innocence and the lens through which they see this world- unadulterated, where people are not fit into boxes. I often engage them In conversation as I am eager to understand what happens when they grow up? Why do they start believing that their gender is a limiting factor?
In one such conversation with a 5 year old, I asked her “what do you do after you go home in the evenings? What do Mumma and Papa do?”
“Mumma cooks food for us, takes my studies and Papa sits watching TV” was her response.
Should this shock me? Isn’t this the case in almost every household? Women, working or not have it the same way. We may talk a lot about gender gap, seats at the board for women, career comeback, raising strong girls and boys who are not stopped from crying but have we thought about the example we are setting before our kids? They are bound to emulate what they see in their growing years. This little girl will grow up one day, work, get married, have kids (if she chooses to) and then do the same thing her parents did. She will think this is what Mommies do, she will not question or challenge it for isn’t this what she saw all through her life?
Why cant the father be lending a helping hand to Mommy? Who said cooking is only for women? Why cant studies of the child be taken by any of the parents? Watching TV should be a family activity that all indulge in once they are done with the days work where they all chipped in.
We grew up seeing our Moms in the kitchen and Daddy’s go to work. I saw things differently in my family though with my grand mom being the career woman and granddad who took a bigger share of responsibility at home. In case of my parents , my mom gave tuitions from home but in terms of household responsibilities it was always my Mom who attended to everything. I too grew up thinking its a “woman’s job”.
For a woman, what takes precedence over everything is her family- husband and kids. Any sacrifice that she she needs to make, be it putting her own dreams at the alter should be done unflinchingly as family comes first. It took my many years to understand that there is no sin in thinking about myself, my own dreams and aspirations. Putting myself first. I would have thought that with changing times, more women working and being independent and so much of information on social media about equality with people openly sharing their views, the environment in which our kids grow up will be very different. They will not have to go through those confusing years and not have to fight the inner battles that we did.
But this conversation with the 5 year old make me feel that all our efforts are futile. The #MeToo, the equal pay, the talks about gender neutral upbringing. For its all about the mindset and unless that changes, we haven’t progressed.
I haven’t lost hope and I will continue my efforts as a parent, a working woman and a blogger to champion these causes that I am passionate about but I do hope my future conversations with kids don’t end up in the same way as this.
Image courtesy- www.breakingnews