"It was important for me to show them that I have a whole life that has nothing to do with them that fulfills me as a person."
KATHARINE ON RAISING HER SON (12) AND DAUGHTER (10).
PORTLAND, OREGON | USA
I think the word feminism is definitely a loaded word. As a parent of kids, you really want to clarify your point of view clearly. So as a definition for the kids, feminism is the idea that women should be treated equally. Straightforward like that and not trying to attach too much baggage to it. So my mom thinks that feminism was a terrible idea, even though she herself was very strong woman who had always stood up for women’s rights but she has a lot baggage around that idea even though I would use that word to describe her. For my kids, it’s just the belief that women should be treated equally.
A whole person
I remember even when they were babies, I felt that it was really important to know that their mom works outside the home and has an important job and maybe not even just that. I remember hearing women referring to themselves as only somebody’s mom, like they gave up their identity, and I felt like that was really bad behavior to model. I don’t want them grow up and feel like parenting is an enslavement to your kids. You still get to be a whole person that is filled with lots of things in your life. I feel like even more as a woman, it was important for me to show them that I have a whole life that has nothing to do with them that fulfills me as a person and that’s because I want them to grow up and do the same thing.
Use your power
My son is in middle school and he has friends that don’t strongly identify with either gender. That’s normal for like 12 years old. I don’t think I knew that was a thing when I was 12. He is a big advocate for equality. Maybe a year ago he had this realization that he is a white straight man born in the richest country in the world. He’s the man. We had a conversation about this guilt he felt, which was weird coming from a ten year old. So we had a discussion about using your power. You have all this power, use it. So now he consciously tries to make sure that he helps people that don’t have the same rights as everyone else.
No restrictions... except cosmetics
Ellie went on this phase were she wore princess dresses everyday. From age two to four, she would only wear princess dresses. I feel like if I made a big deal out of it, then it would be a big deal. It wasn’t like I ever restricted or tried to say "you can’t wear that." The only things that I was really firm about was cosmetics. Society was trying to put that on my daughter from age three.
I think one of the biggest things that I could do as a parent to help them be aware of feminism and women’s rights is to model that behavior. Be the person that you want them to be. It has to be authentic, kids can smell bullshit. Be active, aware, and engaged.