Friday, February 1, 2013

Parenting and the Holidays

A guest post by Mary Wilson

The gift-giving holiday season can be terrifying, especially for a feminist mother of two girls. There are so many opportunities for family to unknowingly offend my feminist sensibilities with pouty-lipped dolls or a toy purse... Last year they got a set of toys that were plastic pink cleaning supplies. And they loved it, so I couldn't say a damned thing.

My husband and I celebrate Christmas. We both identify as agnostic and were raised with Christian traditions. We do not attend church and do not plan on raising our kids with any particular religious traditions. We're not spiritual people.

Basically, we're in it for the presents. And the family time. And the booze. 

We were fortunate enough to be able to host my family this year. This means that we will not be seeing my in laws until the new year. That means that they made up for their absence with some pretty big gifts.

I have learned that it is better for everyone involved if I curb my feminist gift requests when my in-laws are concerned. It makes everyone much happier. I've also learned that my girls are growing up in a world with rigidly defined gender roles. It seems that no matter how hard I rail against it, my kids are still subject to these definitions. My youngest is in to pink princess dresses and my oldest is in to playing Mommy. They both love princess things and dancing. I have accepted all of these as useful skills that will help them grow as human beings. I try not to dwell on the gendered overtones and I try to supplement these activities with traditionally male activities (read: toy cars, playing ball).

The most I can do is expose them to as many women and girls in non-traditional roles as possible and hope they are able to form a well rounded concept of gender roles that aren't too rigidly defined. Most of the women in their lives are not too bogged down by gender roles. 

We escaped this holiday season without any sexualized baby dolls and their favorite gifts are their race track with a loop, Lego, and a set of plastic cupcakes. My oldest has a birthday coming up and has asked for a purple princess cake. I will try to balance that out with a less gendered gift.

I am terrified that my kids will grow up buying into rigid gender roles. I have no idea what to do if they are "girly" but I also don't want to stifle any part of them. There is such a fine line between guiding them and pushing them. I know I will cross it repeatedly as a mother and there are times when they will need that push but I try my best to be conscious of it. That way when I cross it it will be deliberate and I'll be prepared for the backlash from my strong-willed children.

Feminist parenting seems to be about picking my battles, both with society and with my children. I won't always come or unscathed but it is important to try to know which battles will be worth the wounds. Usually ill-conceived gifts from generous but clueless relatives are not worth it. Fake a grateful smile and bury those gifts at the bottom of the toy box.


Mary Wilson is a mom, wife, geek, and crafter, but not necessarily in that order. She is raising two preschool aged girls in small-town Nova Scotia with the help of a husband and a greyhound. She has an undergrad degree in philosophy and women's studies and currently works for an e-commerce site making how-to videos for YouTube. She has no idea how any of the above happened but has decided to roll with it.

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