"The work begins with me... I am on a journey toward becoming a woman who not only speaks up for myself but also advocates on behalf of others.
TINA ON RAISING HER SON (6) AND DAUGHTER (3)
BOSTON | USA
In my own family, where my parents are progressive in certain ways but traditional in other ways, I grew up with an acceptance that males are the head of household. My parents modeled this dynamic, and even though Mom managed the day-to-day details of running a household and was the “neck that turned the head,” when it came to the big picture direction of what happened in our family, Dad often had the final say. Mom is highly gifted in many areas, has an advanced degree, and has worked at various points throughout her life, yet she has largely chosen to exercise her talents in the domestic sphere or in a volunteering capacity. Part of this was due to her personal choice of wanting to spend time at home with me during my formative years, yet part of it was also due to a lack of opportunity to exercise her calling to the fullest because of what was deemed acceptable or unacceptable for her to do in the eyes of her community.
My husband and I have chosen a different path in our marriage. We try to be as egalitarian as possible, in that while we recognize that men and women are created differently, we believe that the roles we play in our marriage and as parents can be equally shared. During the first year of parenting, my husband and I scaled back to part-time work so we both could do this crazy schedule of working part of the day and being home for the other part, five days a week. In retrospect, this arrangement made both of us a nutty during the first year of being parents, but we both appreciated the opportunity to get to know our son really well (blood, sweat, tears and all).
When our daughter was born, I decided to stay home full time, albeit reluctantly at first because I find work to be quite enjoyable and meaningful. For a career-minded woman, being a full-time parent was never something I had longed for or wanted, yet I am grateful for those 2.5 years, which taught me tremendously about what it means to be a woman, a mother, a daughter, and a wife.
Right now, my husband is a stay-at-home dad, which is something he has always wanted to ever since he was young. He willingly chose to give up a high-paying job for something that's traditionally a woman's role, and even though our society has become more accepting of fathers being the lead parent at home, he is still in the minority and swims against the current. I have since gone back to work and we are both in our elements. I love that our kids see how it can be perfectly normal for either Mom or Dad to be the lead parent. This is not something we explicitly did to foster feminist children, and my husband, while he strongly believes in gender equality, would be hesitant to label himself a feminist. We did this because we wanted an equal role in parenting, both in shouldering the responsibility but also in sharing the joys.
For me, it's really important to raise kids who are emphatic. How do I raise my son to understand a woman's value? How can I teach them to be an advocate for others? I want my children to understand that their actions affect others.
My children are polar opposites. My son is rambunctious, animated, and outgoing. My daughter is by nature more reserved and level headed. We work on different things with them. In light of the #Metoo movement (and also because this is just what good parents are supposed to do), our biggest thing right now is to help our son become more sensitive and aware of others and to respect people’s personal space and boundaries. Given my daughter’s personality, which tends toward being reserved and introspective, we are trying to find ways for her voice to be elevated and empowered. Having a brother is actually helping her exercise her voice everyday, yet we also have to help her brother become more aware of when his voice overpowers or disrespect others and to acknowledge his responsibility over that.
Fighting my own narrative
The work begins with me. As someone who likes to keep the peace and not rock the boat, I am on a journey toward becoming a woman who not only speaks up for myself but also advocates on behalf of others. I need to be mindful of my perception of myself first. For example, as an Asian-American woman, who is accustomed to thinking more highly of others than I do of myself, I have become more sensitive and conscious of my self-perception, and I actively rewrite the narrative in my own head. Instead of thinking that I can’t do something, or that someone else is more deserving or can do a better job, I am now telling myself that I can do it, and I deserve a place at the table just as much as any other person.
People don't know what they don't know, right? So I have been trying to speak up more and to make that conscious choice to use my voice to educate others and give them opportunities to learn and grow. At work, for example, I have been leading efforts to bring in a consultant to work with our staff around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Leading this effort has been fulfilling, as I am leaning into tough, complicated, and oftentimes messy conversations, yet I no longer feel like I have to be scared of what other people think. What drives me is the knowledge that everyone’s voice deserves to be heard, and in particular, I want to make sure that voices that have been historically marginalized, no longer stay on the sidelines and are brought to the forefront.