Many of us voice out that female employees are often paid lesser, offer lesser promotions than our male counterparts. We fight and voice out on gender inequality in the workforce. In Ted talks, in social media, in the news but what I feel that we should start off with is gender education for our young ones.
In Asia, being a new mother to a nearly 1-year-old daughter, I was forced to voice out my displeasure whenever someone says something negative being a female in our world.
Like the time, one of my relatives chided me for letting my baby roam around the house naked with only her diaper. Her reasoning was she is a girl so she needs to wear clothes and she will grow up not liking to wear her clothes. Or the time someone went “shame shame” when I was changing her clothes. Body shaming starts when she is even barely 1!
Or the time, my mother casually mentioned that husbands play a crucial role in supporting the family financially. Or even someone said that I am crazy to hope that my daughter will grow up to be a marine biologist or a spokesperson for United Nation. His reasoning, when confronted, was Singapore is too small and such jobs are unrealistic for a female.
And that is how dreams are crushed.
These people are the role models in her life and yet, they started off by not believing in her, belittling her as a female. I know they have no evil intentions and they want the best for her. My stand is that we don’t know what future might bring so que sera sera – whatever will be, will be.
Being in Asia, she is going to grow up facing a lot of criticism. You see, typically in Asia, females are expected to be gentle, ladylike and feminine. Not sporty, not daring and definitely not voicing out your thoughts. From not acting like a lady (she’s very active and she likes to sit with her legs wide open) to voicing out her opinions (she is very opinionated on what she wants), a lot of people are going to be unhappy the way I bring her up.
My parents-in-law are in awe when I allow her to choose her own clothes daily and even when we go shopping for clothes. Instead of a fixed feeding routine, she will hand signal me when she wants to be fed. And instead of confining her in a specific play area, she is allowed to roam the whole house via crawling (kitchen and balcony are the only out-of-bounds areas for obvious reasons). Of course, we did our due diligence as parents to baby proof the whole house.
I introduce choices at a young age because I want her to know that she always have choices, she needs to be comfortable to choose what she wants and understand that I will respect her choices. She needs to learn that whatever choice she makes, she bears the consequences.
Won’t I spoil her rotten? The choices come with certain limitations. Like I won’t let her choose through her entire wardrobe (we’ll never go out!), but I’ll pick 2 outfits for her to choose. And if she chooses to deck in a blue tee and grey shorts instead of that pink dress, it is okay with me. Blue isn’t just for boys and pink isn’t just for girls. In fact, I have more blue dresses than I have pink ones.
She loves playing with her blocks than her dolls and that’s fine by me too. She will choose her books and toy piano over her teddy bears and I’m ain’t going to stop her. Someone asked would I mind if she is going to grow up like a tomboy. Not at all! In fact, I went through my teenage years as a tomboy as well. Whether she grows up as a dainty little missus or an active sporty girl, she’s still my precious little one.
I’m not going to say that fireman and astronaut are for boys, nor am I going to freak out if she starts playing with trucks or pretends to be the prince instead of the princess. I believe in her. And I hope that her role models do too. Grandparents, relatives and teachers play a huge role in showing her what’s right and what’s wrong.
Let her choose, I’ll say. Let her make her choices. At least if she makes mistakes, I’m her safety net. So let her make all the mistakes, challenge the norms, break the gender guidelines when I’m still her protector while I’m still alive.
What are your thoughts? Am I an extreme parent? Please share them with us in the comments below.
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