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Fighting Against Gender Stereotypes

The other day, one of our relatives visited us. As she was family, I brought her to the kitchen to chit chat while preparing dinner for us. As soon as I entered the kitchen, my toddler ran to the kitchen and resumed his work as my ‘helper’. It is not that a two year old can help a lot but he did transfer the napkins to the table and shepherd everyone to the dining table.

It was our regular routine but my relative was in utter shock and she scolded me for letting my ‘ghar ka chirag’ work in the kitchen. I listened attentively but as soon as she was out of our home, I told my son to rearrange his things in place before he goes to bed.

Since the time my son was able to control his motor skills, I have always made sure that he does some of his jobs himself, like arranging his toys or his shoes. And lately he has started to act like he is doing the dishes with me. This habit has grown so much that I got him a plastic dinner set which he can wash with imaginary water and soap.

This step of mine was so scandalizing for people that they began to think that I have gone nuts, when I’m only teaching a boy basic household chores. This is the second time when my parenting skills are being questioned; the first time was when I refused to put the kala teeka on my child’s forehead. And it won’t be the last time when I will refuse to fall prey to stereotypes.

People post updates about gender equality in social media but fail miserably when it comes to teaching it at their home. This is the reason why we still have such an imbalanced sex ratio. It is the reason why girls are taught to ‘compromise’ since they are children. It is the reason why daughters are made to work even before their exams while the sons while away the time in video games ordering sisters and mothers around. If we really want equality between the genders, why can’t we start it from our own home? Why is my decision of letting my son play with dinner sets and letting him arrange his things still raising an eyebrow?

No task is reserved for women. If it was, most of the celebrity chefs wouldn’t be men. No work is reserved for men. If it was, we wouldn’t have had a Kalpana Chawla or P. T. Usha. Every human being is capable of doing everything that interests them and they should be left alone to do it. I want my son to understand that household chores or kitchen jobs have respect too.

He needs to know that his mummy is not a housemaid and it is his duty too to share the load. He needs to know that he is responsible for his things and I won’t always be with him to fuss over the things he misplaced. And if I can nurture his habit of managing things on his own from a tender age, it will be easy for him to follow it in his life.

I was raised by a rational woman who believed that her son should know that it takes equal hardship to get the kitchen work done. She still believes that if her son knows that wives are not housemaids, it will make him a better man, a compassionate man who understands his wife better. I can say it with utmost confidence that it did make a difference.

That’s why I want to make my son realize that each work has some importance and no task is reserved for a girl or boy or he can escape his share of work. If someone tries to tell me that I am making my son gharelu instead of preparing him for the outside world, let them. People’s remarks can’t stop me from preparing my son to be a better human being. I am ready to fight the prejudice to make my son a better son, a better brother, a better husband and a better father.

Puspanjalee is a blogger and book editor who juggles continously between her job and her two year old human offspring. Whenever she gets time, she loves to talk about babies & parenting, time management for working moms, photography and books. She muses regularly on