How much does what we expect of children – and adults – affect what they actually do when it comes to sharing care equally?
I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations recently. Do we treat boys differently to girls, if not consciously then subconsciously? What are the expectations we create and how much do expectations influence reality?
For instance, if we expect little from men, if we overly congratulate them on dropping off their kids or arguing for flexible working as women have had to do, if we treat them as ‘superheroes’ or ‘champions’ for doing what women have been doing for years, are we not in effect undermining the whole issue of equality?
Are we not undermining our own argument?
Shouldn’t equality and fairness be its own justification?
I thought we’d got past this argument, but it appears that we haven’t because this stuff is so ingrained and what you imbibe as a child matters.
I think about my own family. We were brought up by a single mum.
Imagine having your own successful creative business that allowed you to work your own hours, take leave for ALL of the school holidays (if you wanted to) as well as providing you with a great income?
My brother had no direct role model to suggest that he could not take responsibility for stuff around the house [had he lived with my dad he would definitely have got that message]. He saw the impact on my mum of her doing everything. I’m not saying that he didn’t get more than slightly pampered by the combined force of his mum and his big sister – I have made a LOT of tea and toast for my brother in my time; we’ve helped him with job opportunities and a myriad of other things – but he very much does his share of the childcare now.
Partly, perhaps, because having lived through the impact of an absent father he is determined not to inflict that on his own children – or on himself, but it means he is there, hands on, an equal. I wouldn’t expect anything less of him. He doesn’t think he’s superman. He knows that what children need is love, not a series of heroic acts, just consistent, solid, human love.
There’s a two-way street when it comes to responsibility, of course. Do women stop men being more responsible? Throwing the blame on others is an easy defence for someone trying to evade responsibility, though. Children do it all the time.
At some point, though, we all have to get past the blame game and say I am an adult, not a small child. That surely boils down to being more self aware. That is not necessarily an easy process; it takes work, but it makes for better, more honest, more equal relationships all round.