I have always been careful not to reinforce gender stereotypes with my girls. We have avoided the concept of boys' and girls' toys. My eldest had a train set for her second birthday and for a later Christmas asked for a Thomas the Tank electric train set. She has many male friends and is a fan of Star Wars. We help them to believe that they can do anything and they will not be constricted by their gender.
My husband is keen to encourage the girls to try out traditionally boys pursuits. My eldest has boxing gloves and an archery bow, but also enjoys ballet and drama.
My three year old says that blue is a boys' colour and sometimes refuses to wear colours that are for boys. Her friend (a boy) says similar things about pink. We are not sure where she has picked it up from, we assume pre-school. It doesn't worry me, as this is a developmental stage that coincides with children's awareness of gender identity, around the age of 2 and a half to 3. A recent post in the BPS Research Digest highlights this. We can easily teach her that it is ok for men to wear pink and women to wear blue (even though I do reinforce the stereotype a little with my pink car, pink ipad cover and pink kindle cover).
I was reading an interesting article in this month's Psychologist Magazine about the depiction of parents in young children's picture books. It stressed that very few books feature fathers and even when they do, they rarely display physical affection or involve themselves in domestic tasks.
When discussing this, my seven year old replied to my horror,
Dads don't do housework, they do proper work.
This made me so upset, to the point that I cried. I felt like all my hard work had been for nothing because I had forgotten the most important issue, parents as role models.
I haven't worked since my 3 year old was born, my husband works long hours. I don't expect him to do housework, he will occasionally cook a meal, tidy a bedroom or run the hoover around but she is right - her dad doesn't do housework. I raised this question,
Who would do the housework if mummy went back to work full time?
'Me', came the reply.
So I need to find a role model for my daughters. My dad could be a good example, he like my husband rarely did housework, my mum like me was a stay at home mum. When she died he had to learn to do all those things for himself. Now he is remarried, he works part-time and his wife full-time, he does the majority of the housework and cooking (although he confesses that he hates housework).
So if you are or know of a dad who does housework please comment so that I can show my daughter and begin to change her perception of what dads do.