I’m well excited to be bringing you a series; How to be a _____ Parent. (A series, like I have put loads of thought and planning in to things, check me out!) Some of my favourite bloggers and pals are contributing with either the parenting style that defines them, or the passions that form a key part of their family ways. There will be tips, reasoning and stories covering eco parenting to free range parenting. Today we have the might Lyndsay from Our Feminist Playschool with How to be a Feminist Parent.
Earlier this year, I wrote about ‘raising a feminist child’ for Natural Parents Network, but this invitation to consider ‘How-to be a Feminist Parent’ begs for a slight paradigm shift. In considering how to be a feminist parent, in offering that advice, those packets of suggestion, the attention moves gently away from my child, and focuses more on me and who I am – not only as a parent, but as a human.
I wrote about my personal feminist mothering back in May after it came under attack, but what can I tell you about how to be a feminist parent?
Feminist parenting comes from a desire to care for our children outside of patriarchal definitions of childrearing. Acknowledging the many different entries into feminism as a ‘philosophy,’ one must accept that there are multiple ways to ‘be’ a feminist parent. However, I would argue that there are some basic keystones in most approaches to feminist parenting.
If raising a family in a hetereonormative couple, strive toward egalitarian models of parenting. This can be difficult within conventional society, where at least one parent is required to be away from the home, and pay gaps lend themselves to men earning salary and women caring for children. In families where mothers are focused on caring for their children, there are multiple ways to enhance the role of dads that help disrupt the contemporary notions of family construction. Allow your children to see both parents authentically engaged in parenting, allowing them to see parenting as something humans do – not something exclusive to women.
Love your full self. In allowing my child to see me in the active state of being more than his mother, I help him understand that women are more than caregivers. By loving all aspects of myself, my child learns to honour himself as a fully actualized person, making it easier for him to offer the same respect to any and all women in his life – both now and in the future. Equally, by continuing to hone and nuture all aspects of myself, I continue to grow and develop as a person. I continue to reach, to learn, to connect and develop. Selfcare is important to all feminists, including feminist-parentings, and investing in yourself is perhaps the greatest and most productive form of selfcare.
Consider what you bring into your kid’s world especially when it comes to their books, clothes, and toys. Defy gender and sex roles that are ever-present in media and marketing. Play and modes of learning should be free of conscripted gender expectations, especially in the earliest years. Of course, many boys are going to love trucks and many girls are going to love dolls – I would suggest that it is about always giving them choices. Equally, disrupting stereotypes within ‘traditional’ play is great too. For example, if a male child is playing with trucks suggest that the driver is female or If you and your kids are playing house, bring LGBT elements into the conversation or have dolls that represent other cultures or ethnicities.
Teach consent. From the earliest age let’s teach our children – both girls and boys – about consent. Sadly, a result of misogyny is the lack of knowledge and internalized awareness around consent – in both males and females. By honouring my son’s body and teaching him how to respect mine, I am front-loading his ability to always look for consent in his future relationships. Our girl-children need to learn about consent and that they are not required to give it, and that they are “allowed” to shut-down any behaviour that they feel uncomfortable with.
This is all theory. This is all rather academic. The most important aspect of feminist parenting is loving your child unconditionally and teaching them to love and respect themselves. By gently parenting our children through play, laughter and ‘the everyday’ we can teach our children to love and respect everyone. We can teach them to see their privilege; feminist parenting is about teaching love and living love – for everyone, for always.