On the way home from dinner tonight, Aly was telling us how a classmate gave her candy in celebration of Polish Girl’s Day.
Isn’t it so fun that girls in Poland have their own day? But that got us wondering– is there a Polish Boy’s day too? And of course, since it is International Women’s Day, I was quick to tell them all about it and the kids were intrigued. Why did such a day exist? What about an International Men’s Day?
These kinds of conversations are some of my favorites to have with the kids. I love their natural curiosity and how unhindered they are in talking about the world as they see it. I’m also curious as to how they perceive the world. I know the version of the world I’m trying to point out to them; but as we all know, it doesn’t always translate how we hope.
We talked about how, in general, history was taught through a set of glasses that viewed men as more important in history then women. So, as women became valued more outside of the home, we created special days like International Women’s Day to bring attention to the great women throughout history. We went on to explain that women haven’t always been treated the same ways as men. When we told Aly that girls were often expected to be at home, helping their moms instead of going to school, she was flabbergasted. She wondered why in the world only girls were expected to do that — why not boys?
Then these magical words came out of her mouth:
“But, Dad, you stay at home with us during the day sometimes while mom goes to work. And you help out with cleaning around the house too. See? Why did they think that only women could do that?”
My heart leapt with joy. This is exactly what we want the kids to see. We started out this parenting journey committed to raising our kids in such a way that we hoped for them to be able to feel like they could fully live into their passions and giftings. We hoped to create a culture in which they felt free to explore and figure out what they like, what they’re good at, and how God’s created them, regardless of traditional gender stereotypes.
And while we thought we were doing it mainly be providing a variety of toys and experiences, It dawned on me that we have taught this more through the way we lived than any toy or experience we’ve given them.
We’ve shared being the primary caregiver, taking turns being a stay at home parent.
We’ve shared the daily chores, dishes, cooking, laundry, straightening.
We’ve been open about our interests with them- whether that be crafting or sports or teaching or cooking.
We share decision-making. The kids have seen glimpses of Jake and I wrestling through decisions together (sometimes more than we intend for them to see and hear).
Sure, in some ways we fall into the traditional gender stereotypes.
Jake does a lot of the outside work and he takes kids out on more outdoor adventures than I do. He is the physically stronger of the two of us by far, and hence a lot of jobs in need of physical labor fall on him. And if we’re driving as a family, he is often our default driver.
I stayed at home and delayed my “career” so that Jake could be in school. I tend to be the one who does more than half of the housework and I’m certainly the organizational manager of our family.
And this has all been really clumsy.
There’s been quite a bit of disagreement and certainly some tensions as we’ve tried to figure out what it means to both give and take. How do we love and submit to one another? How do we serve and sacrifice for one another? Can we trust the other person to meet our needs as we’re giving in to meet theirs?
It’s been messy.
There have been seasons when one of us has been restless or unhappy with the stage we were in; it certainly hasn’t been all bows and unicorns. And it’s also tempting to feel a bit of resentment or guilt, depending on the day.
If I were content to be at home, then I could take over all of the at-home stuff and Jake would be able to focus more on his dissertation.
If I hadn’t pursued this never-ending degree and was content being a high school math teacher, then Tiffany would probably still be in campus ministry right now.
But, it’s conversations like the one tonight in the car, that make this clumsy pursuit of gender equality all worth it. I want my boy to see that he is perfectly and wonderfully made, and he’s free to pursue whatever calling God has put on his life- whether that be a sports broadcaster, a mathematician, a teacher, or a stay-at-home dad. I want my girls to see that they are perfectly and wonderfully made, and they are free to pursue whatever calling God has put on their lives- whether that be a writer, a scientist, a pastor, or a stay-at-home mom.
I don’t want them to discount something before they’ve even had a chance to explore it. I don’t want them to grow up being uncomfortable with who they are or what they love because it doesn’t fit with what they “should” be like. And I think this starts with Jake and I being willing to honestly pursue the opportunities and passions and gifts brewing inside of us.