A few weeks ago, I was standing in the playground of Ben's school, and the women next to me were having a conversation that went something like this:
Navy Coat Mum: They've got a lot of good after school clubs here, so much choice! (They do, it's really good.)
Bobble Hat Mum: Oh yes, they've always had lots on for them to get involved with.
Navy Coat Mum: My youngest has just gone into year one, and he came home wanting to join the dance club.
Bobble Hat Mum: Oh right. Is he enjoying it?
Navy Coat Mum: *Laughs* Oh, he didn't go for it in the end. His Dad said, 'there's no way he's doing dance. He can just do football or something, like the other boys.'
Me: *Shakes Navy Coat Mum by the shoulders* WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? CAN YOU EVEN HEAR WHAT YOU'RE SAYING?
OK, so the last bit only happened in my head, but in all seriousness, it was a real struggle not to say something. How, in 2016, when we've explored outer space, mastered organ replacement and have pottered about with cloning, are we still so behind with equality? Why are women being paid so much less? Why do we still have gender divisons with toys, clothes, jobs, hobbies and books?
Our house is, I suspect, pretty different to Navy Coat Mum's house. This is the division of labour at Accordion Towers:
Vicky: Laundry, cleaning, general tidying and organisation. Cooking. Some DIY. Working from home as a freelancer, as many hours as I can fit in.The school run, homework and reading during the week.
Ali: Ironing, cleaning the bathroom, grocery shopping (I make the list, he goes to buy it. I am a liability and have been known to double our food bill with impulse purchases, so he forbids me from going with him). Most DIY. Cooking. Working from an office, 37 hours a week. Reading at the weekends.
Ben: Playing Minecraft. (In all seriousness, both children are expected to take their dishes out to the kitchen, pick their clothes and toys up, that sort of thing - I'm big on independence!)
Equality is absolute in our house; no job is dished out due to its gender connotations - Ali does the bins because I hate it, I do the hoovering (mostly) because he hates it. He is better at ironing than me, because he is more patient, and I am better at organising than him because he has the planning skills of a gnat. Neither of us can navigate particularly well, although Ali comes out slightly worse after he programmed the SatNav to take us to Stratford in London. We needed to go to Stratford-upon-Avon. In the West Midlands.
Raising my children in a house where men and women are seen as equal is probably one of the most important rules of parenting for me (that, and 'don't eat your own poo'); I want them both to grow up to respect themselves, and other people regardless of their gender. I want them to feel free to enjoy the colours and toys, hobbies, games and activities they choose without feeling the pressure from the media / society / shops / their friends to choose something more 'approprate'. I want Daisy to forever be the little girl in the Tinkerbell dress, digging in the mud and wrestling her brother. I never want Ben to stop loving My Little Pony and talking my ears off about Minecraft. I want them to have lives filled with colour and adventure, opportunities and wonderful experiences, regardless of what people expect from them.
Navy Coat Mum, this post is for you - let your son try out dance club. He might love it, or he might hate it, but you'll be teaching him one of the most important lessons there is - that parity begins at home.
This is a post written to celebrate Internation Women's Day - the theme this year is Pledge for Parity, and I'm linking up with the ever fabulous Lulastic over here.