This is such a brilliant article. Please read it, particularly if you’re a parent.
Over the years I’ve been driven mental by the difficulty in finding presents for my nieces that don’t fulfill the idea that all little girls love pink, sparkly stuff. Some girls do like it very much, but I suspect that many girls like it because it’s all that they’ve been given and because they have already been made to feel that they ‘should’ like it. I really applaud parents who let their kids develop their own preferences. My older sister Pip has five children: four girls and a boy. Two of the girls are twins and I think they demonstrate the value of child-led preferences very well – Jaime has always been a girly girl and a big fan of pink, and that’s fine – but her sister, Olivia, spent her childhood obsessed with Bob the Builder and with no real interest in stereotypically girl-friendly stuff.
A few years ago I fell out with a friend because of this kind of thing: he couldn’t get over the fact that I didn’t agree that it was ‘right’ for the mother of a child to be the primary child-rearer and the one who stayed at home. My view was that each couple should decide this for themselves and that, in many cases, it could be that the father is far better suited to the role. I don’t know why my former friend was so threatened by this concept, unless it was because he and his wife had a very traditional arrangement and he didn’t like the thought of it being questioned. I have little time for the argument that small children always prefer their mothers in times of strife – logic suggests to me that this may well be because they’re accustomed to their mothers being the first port of call, hence the preference. If the mother wasn’t there I’m sure that the father would be equally capable of providing comfort.
And I really, REALLY hate women who deride their husbands’ attempts to do child-related stuff: all the ‘oh, he’s hopeless and he can barely change a nappy’ comments. Such a load of rubbish, and usually the strategy employed by women who are a little defensive about ‘only’ being a mother (which is nonsense in itself – being a full-time stay-at-home parent must be flipping hard work and nobody should feel defensive about making that choice). Those comments are a great way to make a man feel like he is totally incompetent and shouldn’t get involved – and then the women in question complain because the parenting load isn’t shared.
I often think about gender issues (yeah, I’m a real bundle of laughs, me). For example, I would love to raise a daughter to believe that, despite popular opinion, a woman’s value isn’t calculated by judging her appearance. However, how would I reconcile that when I’m the one who wears makeup every day, and not Tristan? Perhaps I’d have to convince Tristan to wear makeup as well, or give it up myself? I don’t think Tristan will ever agree to that, although I’ve held suspicions about him being a secret eyebrow plucker for a very long time. Seriously, his eyebrows are perfect. It’s not natural. He must be ducking along to a beauty salon when I’m at work.
Anyway, I was not a very girly girl as a child. I had one big doll and one Barbie-type doll (and I insisted on the horse riding version), but my favourite toys (before I got a pony and everything else was left behind) were a wooden train set, a set of Lego (hospital Lego, which was awesome) and my teddy bear, Little William. And I have grown up to be a woman who is very feminine, so it’s clear that I didn’t need to be programmed from youth.
I’m rambling now. But this is interesting stuff, I think.