You know what’s the one thing that gets on my nerves. Kinderjoy eggs! A big kick in the rear to Gender Neutral Parenting. Firstly, the chocolate is abominable. Secondly, these eggs hold useless toys, which only add to clutter in the house. But wait, I’m not done yet. I mostly hate that they have eggs for boys and eggs for girls. Major eye roll. In a world which is getting increasingly complex and where it’s citizens should be making attempts to blend, a kid’s toy is making children believe in a two-toned world.
But what exactly do chocolate eggs have to do with this?
Humankind has evolved over centuries of social conditioning. These norms dictated that men and women must dress, behave, walk, talk, do jobs, fulfil roles in a certain way determined by the tools in their underpants – i.e. the gender they have been assigned at birth.
Today we are in a place where human beings have challenged possibly every single expectation of them. Women do the same jobs men do. Men fulfil the same roles that women did. But the social pressures to behave otherwise have not ended.
Girls in pink and boys in blue is still a stark reality today. Of course, if the girl or boy does choose these colours for themselves it is a different matter. But products, concepts and ideas still them that a girl should choose pink and boy blue. Herein lies the rub!
What do toys really have to do with gender? Why must a child not play with a doll, just because he is a boy? Or why can’t a girl wear a T-shirt with a picture of a car on it? And I have seen some really absurd products for kids – pink building blocks for girls, plane/ bike/ bat shaped pasta for boys and star/ teddybear/ heart shaped pasta for girls. That one I just cannot get my head around. And of course the pink and blue chocolate eggs with girl-boy toys surprise!! These products continue to drum the notion into the minds of our children that some things are not for them just because they are born a particular way.
But some families are trying to do away with these norms. Enter Gender Neutral Parenting.
What does Gender Neutral Parenting mean?
When babyT arrived in our world, someone remarked that our house will now be filled with balls, cars and toy guns. I knew I most definitely did not want guns.
But why could my child not have a kitchen set and a doll?
Gender neutral meanings are many. There are many scales of parenting the gender-neutral way.
A really fun way of gender neutral parenting is choosing gender neutral names for your child. But largely it implies not using restrictive norms when it comes to the clothes kids wear, or the toys they play with or how they choose to express themselves. To dig deeper it means filling their lives with the multihued beauty that we are bestowed with and not just limiting their vision to pink/ blue coloured glasses.
It implies encouraging children to pursue their natural interests and not telling them “You cannot do this because you are a boy.” or a girl.
Last week babyT was playing around with my long, dangly earrings. He attempted to put them on… someone jumped on him and said “No, no its not for boys.” I glared and how!
I then proceeded to tell babyT that those earrings are for people who have pierced their ears. And his weren’t.
He then wanted to go to the shop and buy a hole for the ears.
We shall cross that bridge when we get to it.
Gender neutral parenting also allows children to dress in any manner they choose. This means boys will choose to have long hair and wear skirts and dresses (they are comfy and airy after all) and girls will cut their hair short and wear shorts & sneakers (no, you cannot call her a tom-boy for that.) Look at this heartwarming happy family here.
My son #babyT has until now been dressed in a T-shirt and a colourful cloth diaper. The only times he wears pants is when we go out of the home. I have often wondered, that if I had a girl child would I have not dressed her the same way? I suppose I could have gotten away with that. But if I choose to dress my boy in a dress or a frock it surely would have raised eyebrows. Some may have even judged me to be a sadist for confusing the boy.
Some extreme cases of gender neutral parenting also have been recorded where the birth parents chose not to tell the child or friends and family what gender the child was. Instead, they waited till the child chose a gender he or she could self-identify with. This would have required a lot of consciousness on part of the parents and keeping society at bay. (If you’d like to read this story go here.)
Sweden, that wonderful country with the awesome maternity and paternity leave, became the first gender neutral country (in 2012) when it chose to adopt the pronoun hen for people who identify themselves as neither male or female.
How does this impact children’s upbringing?
It is more than just the toys or books the child reads. It is about the mindset and expectations alignment that we are doing with our children. It is about not telling your boys that men don’t cry. It is about teaching them that it is ok to cry if it hurts. Crying is fine and we acknowledge that something hurts you. Rather than being afraid that you are not raising a “tough” son, such behaviour modification on our parts shows empathy and this is a quality which the world could see more of today.
Years and years of conditioning ain’t going to go away so fast. Gender Neutral Parenting aims to become conscious of all things that are restrictive in a child’s environment and work to present a balanced view to a child. So this means that the parents are also conscious of the things they say and do in front of the child. It is no longer just the mom’s job to cook and clear up. It is no longer the dads who will change the light bulbs. No Princesses are waiting for their Prince Charming to come rescue them.
But is Gender Neutral Parenting healthy?
There are some weird notions that say that raising boys in this manner leads to them becoming too soft or feminine or worse gay. Frankly, some of the best people I have met in life have been gay. And as for soft or feminine? Is that a bad quality to be bestowed with? The world could do with becoming a softer and nicer place to live in.
Science has shown that homosexuality is the outcome of genetics and biology, and not the way a child is raised. And to give further relief to eager parents, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics, 85 percent of youth who were raised in the gender neutral way identified as heterosexual in adulthood. (Source: Parents.com)
Gender neutral parenting if anything gives your child the scope to live life to the fullest and truly be happy and healthy – in the body as well as in the mind. Living under a cross of “do this” and “don’t do this” only restricts natural growth and development of a young mind. This can lead to them becoming confused about what makes them happy and prevents them from making the right choices in life to be happy either in relationships or choice of careers/ professions.
Gender neutral parenting opens children’s lives to a palette full of colours and experiences which only makes their lives more enriching. It gives them the power of choice to truly be who they are.
Leaving you with some light-hearted humour…
In our house, daddy gets rid of the spiders and I get rid of the flying insects. Under the sutble guise of Gender Neutral Parenting, we continue to live by our phobias.
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018