I often say that I don’t care what my kids do when they grow up as long as they’re good people. This is mostly true, but I will confess that I worry more about my boys in this respect than I do my girls. I want to raise good husbands, amazing fathers, respectful men. You’d think this would be easy, but I’m finding as they get older it’s not at all.
Pressure from Society
Recently I was shopping for some t-shirts for Eli. I had some time to kill while I was sitting at a therapy appointment (#momlife). The poor kid never gets anything new, part of the hazards of being the little brother just a few years behind your older brother.
I wandered over to The Children’s Place, one of my go tos for cheap clothes that I don’t care if they ruin with paint at school. I get about 4 emails a day from them about sales and coupon codes, did I mention they were cheap? As I was scrolling through the usual sports shirts, tv characters my kids don’t know because we don’t have cable, etc. I saw one that caught my eye. It said, “I never finish anything”.
It bothered me. A lot. I kept scrolling through the clearance adding some matchable shorts and plain color Ts to my cart as I went. Fine, whatever, don’t like it, don’t buy it. Then, I came across this one….
I started to get annoyed. What terrible messages we are sending our boys. They don’t have to clean up after themselves? Oh right, that’s women’s work. I kept scrolling, but I was grumbling the whole time. Until I got to these……
That was the straw. I emptied my cart. Absolutely not. I will not be shopping there anymore. I sent pictures to Mark, with a rant about how we are setting our boys up for failure. I stewed about it on the drive home, and through dinner. Then I took to my Facebook page after bedtime because I was still stewing. I was just going to post on my personal page, but after some encouragement (it didn’t take much, honestly) I decided I was going to post on The Children’s Place’s Facebook page and Twitter. I’m still waiting for a response, by the way. It’s been weeks.
When we dress our boys (or any kid, really) in a shirt that says “I don’t care” we’re sending them a message that says “you don’t have to care”. I see it all the time in the media, little boys being portrayed as lazy, video game playing freeloaders. Fathers being portrayed as someone to be waited on by their wife with no responsibility for their own children. I will not stand for that with my boys.
This is just one example of a way we’re failing! And I know what people are thinking, girls, get it just as bad. And I totally agree that we’re also stereo typing our girls to be princesses and housewives. I’ll talk about that another time.
We hold those boys to the same standards we do Zoe (and eventually Bits). They’re responsible for cleaning up their own messes. Starting in Kindergarten they are folding and putting away their own laundry. (which eventually evolves to washing it) Oliver does dishes, cleans the bathroom when he pees all over it, they fix their own breakfasts, they sweep. We don’t limit the boy’s chores to stereotypical “man’s work”. They live here too, just because they have a penis doesn’t mean they can’t operate our vacuum.
I’ve said it before, it’s important to me that all of my kids are able to self-sufficient humans when they’re adults. I will not have a child that doesn’t know how to clean their house when they get older because mom did it for them. It’s absurd that right now, in 2017, there are moms doing laundry for their college aged boys. This needs to stop. Right now.
It Teaches Respect
I’m fairly certain that my boys have a lot more respect for “what I do all day” when they have to help out. They know that dinner doesn’t magically appear. They know that it takes work to have clean floors and it’s annoying when someone makes a mess. They also see their father taking his fair share of household duties. Mark does dishes, vacuums, and cooks, just like I do. There is no delusion for them that men “don’t have to” help around the house.
They also respect our space more when they are made to help maintain it. I love it when Bits comes barreling through a room and one of them yells “I just cleaned that up!” It’s vindication for all the times they’ve done it. They know how much work it takes. They also respect others peoples spaces, when they go to friends houses they help pickup no questions because it’s not optional here.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot of work. I get a lot of pushback, especially from the almost 8-year-old. And this is just one of the things that I worry about when it comes to the boys. As they grow I feel the need to pound certain things into their head, respect for women, consent, and that because they are middle-class white boys they are in no way better than ANY of their peers. Right now, with everything going on in the world, this is a hard job, and I worry all the time that we’re not doing a good enough.