How I Navigate Gender Equity As A Stay-At-Home Mom
By Rachael Watts
PHOTO © crystalmariesing/Twenty20
Feb 4, 2019
Every morning at 7:30 a.m., my husband heads off to the GO train. My kids wave and go on with their daily lives. His life is an exciting mystery to them, full of wonder and intrigue: daddy’s off to go and help people.
Then, there’s me.
I’ve happily chosen to stay home with my kids, but I’m also aware that our own home life tends to reinforce typical gender stereotypes.
I too will spend my day helping people (them!), but my day isn’t nearly as mysterious. I’m usually exhausted from waking up all night with the baby. I drink a coffee (or two) and kick it into gear. I pack snacks, the diaper bag and anything else we need, and get everyone dressed and out the door for a morning outing as soon as the baby wakes up from her first nap.
The caregiving, playing and household chores don’t stop until my husband walks through the door again at 6:45 p.m. — sometimes to happily playing children and a clean house, and sometimes to a hurricane of both toys and emotions.
I’ve happily chosen to stay home with my kids, but I’m also aware that our own home life tends to reinforce typical gender stereotypes. After listening to my five-year-old and three-year-old have a conversation that mommies stay home and daddies go to work (which is typical of the families we see at daytime activities), it became clear to me I wasn’t having enough meaningful conversation about the work I do, the choices I intentionally make and the division of duties in our house.
Now I make it clear.
I Look After The Kids, But I Do So Much More
Before we had our first child, my husband and I sat down, planned out a budget and decided together that having one of us home is what we wanted — it also made the most sense for us. I want my girls to know I value the often undervalued role of work inside the home, the things I do to make the house run smoothly and the time I get to spend with them.
When I go out on the weekend to work on writing, I make it known I’m going out to do work. I also make it clear that there are many things that have to happen for both a household to run and to care for other people. I pay bills in front of them, give them responsibilities in the house and let them help in the meal planning and grocery shopping process.
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There's A Division Of Household Responsibility
I want my kids to see my relationship with their dad as a partnership. When my husband and I sit down each week to talk about household duties and finances, our kids hear us. Division of labour in our house falls first to our interests (I like to pay bills, budget and meal plan whereas my husband likes to vacuum and fold the laundry), next to the things we prefer (I don’t mind cooking meals, but am not a fan of doing the dishes after), and then we split things no one wants to do (bathrooms, anyone?).
My Kids Know They Have The Power To Make Their Own Choices
It’s important that the kids know staying home with them is a choice that I was privileged to have. I want them to know they will have the power to make their own choices that are right for them and that they don’t have to choose or behave a certain way because of the gender they were born with.
As they get older we’ll be able to have more in-depth conversations about gender equality. But as long as they feel empowered to be who they are and make the choices that they want to make, I think we’ll have done alright.