As a mother to a little girl whom I’d like to prepare for life in this grand ole Union of ours, I’ve devised a simple set of rules for myself. They include the following:
- Never disparage mathematics or speak ill of science
- Never let her see me put on make-up (chapstick is OK)
- Never say anything negative about my body in front of her
- Never act like Daddy has all the answers
- Never accept sexist treatment in front of her
- Never ever mention the name Miley Cyrus in her presence
- Never compliment her (or any other little girl’s) appearance
- Never scold her for being bossy
- Never discourage the use of power tools
- Never make sexist assumptions in her presence
Cheery little list huh? (Note: That’s only the top 10) Guess what I am doing to that list today? Giving it the finger because I am tired of trying to clean up a big mess that I didn’t make. Don’t I do that enough as a mother?
I have been working so hard to reverse some of the cultural assumptions about women that I am (1) taking all of the fun out of parenting my daughter and (2) not being myself.
Like last night. I was dying to tell Jeff how I feel about my latest work project. I have to do lots of math I sneered under my breath, then worried for ten minutes that Sadie heard me. Because if she learns that math and I aren’t BFFs, then she won’t want to do math either and then it will be part of that larger problem around girls and math. And it will be all my fault because I didn’t enjoy the process of computation in a legal case back in 2013.
Right? I mean, everyone blames the mom so I am hosed no matter what.
So, I am done. I won’t buy a neon pink poster and jumbo Sharpie so I can make a giant poster that says, “Math can suck it,” but maybe I can stop acting like it’s my job to make up for every gender divide in our culture. Some of the “rules” I am good at because they’re vitally important to me. I’m pretty good about the body image stuff. I don’t run around telling her how I feel about my weight, but at some point she may ask me honestly and I’ll tell her the truth– “Sometimes Mommy gets bummed out and has negative thoughts about her body, but I try to get busy with the rest of my life until the shame passes.”
As for the rest of my stupid rules: the charade is over. I can’t pretend to love Home Depot more than Anthropologie, or that caulking the bathroom is more thrilling than giving myself a pedicure. I didn’t create the damn gender biases/problems/divisions so I’m not going to single-handedly fix them.
On this theme, I wrote a post about the time I tried to act like a hammer-enthusiast in front of my daughter. To find out how that went, check out my piece, “How I put down the hammer and stopped being such a tool.” It’s free for anyone to read here.