Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

 There’s no avoiding a little bit of gender bias in raising my kids. I mean, I guess we could have gone to the extremes of the Canadian couple who’ve chosen to raise their child genderless so that he/she can choose for him/her self. But let’s get real here. That’s just not going to happen for most of us. I want some gender difference. I don’t care if my girls end up being firemen and truck drivers and my boys end up being dancers and nurses (sorry, they were the most pop-culturally stereotypical examples I could think of) . It’s not that kind of gender stuff I’m worried about.

I want to have my girls be girls because they’re so much fun. My daughter loves to play dress up and go clothes shopping together and spend time picking out perfect outfits every morning. My son’s idea of putting together an outfit is to grab whatever pair of pants is at the top of the drawer and whatever t-shirt is at the top of the drawer and throw them on. If  I didn’t occasionally sneak upstairs and flip the stacks of shirts in the drawer, he’d never make it to the bottom because Dave does the laundry too often.

When it comes time to go school clothes shopping, Anika and I spend weeks scouring thrift shops and garage sales (yes, we’re frugal clothes hogs) finding the perfect pieces. Parker won’t even come with me to the store – he just wants me to buy the next bigger size of the exact same sports pants and “maybe a couple of shirts if they have any cool ones” – cool meaning from his favorite rock bands or shirts covered in guitars, drums, or skulls. But if my son wanted to go clothes shopping and have help putting together great outfits, I’d love to do that, too.

But clothes and girly shopping days aside, I want my daughter to be strong and feel capable of accomplishing anything. As parents, we help make her feel this way by telling her that she can, by encouraging her to try new things, by not saying she can’t do something her brother can do, by believing in her always, by never limiting her to stereotypically gendered roles. We don’t set up barriers or assume that she can’t do something because of her gender. She had better role models growing up than I did – Hannah Montana openly jokes about having facial hair and being imperfect. Women run companies, lead countries, and serve in war.

I talk openly with her about what’s really important: not weight, but health; not looks, but heart; not accomplishment but effort; not always being right but always trying to understand.

She sees a great example in breaking through gender barriers with her own parents. Her dad cooks, does the laundry, and works part-time as a teacher. He does all the baking. I’m self employed, run my own business, and handle the finances. I also fix things when they break around the house, including the toilet. (I do not, however, kill spiders. I scream. Like a girl).

Is it perfect? No. Escaping gender bias would require our own brains to be rewired. But it is getting better. And with more parents recognizing that their girls don’t have to be all sugar and spice to be perfect, we’ll keep making strides.