Parenting: I'm slightly floundering, and would welcome some thoughts(8 Posts)
Not really sure where to start with this, but after some extensive lurking on several threads recently, am pretty sure someone here will have some advice. Bear with me if this is long and confused - I'm not sure how well I can articulate my concern.
My husband walked out last year. The ins and outs of the situation aren't hugely relevant to my question, but I find myself a single parent to three small children - dd1 is 7, ds is 4 and dd2 is 2.
I had never given much thought to how I parent them. I worry about the usual stuff - their health, school, what they eat, keeping them safe etc, but I was probably horribly complacent about the bigger issues. Self esteem, respect for others, tolerance, compassion. If I thought about it at all, I would have said that they would pick those up from their parents, and from having a stable family unit.
That's been blown apart. Their father is, it turns out, no kind of role model and I worry hugely about the messages his behaviour is sending them in terms of relationships and commitment. And the woman he has moved is with is a dreadful example of girly hopelessness - no practical skills, lots of attention paid to her physical appearance, some quite severe body issues. So I feel I am on my own - he sees them, and he pays maintenance, but there is no way on earth I can talk to him about the things that worry me and I can't rely on him and his new partner to convey the right messages. And I feel a bit lost.
I want my children to grow up independent, and self-reliant. I don't want my daughters to think that they have to conform to traditional female stereotypes, or my son to think he has to be physical, rather than emotional. I don't want my daughters to base their self esteem on how they look, or my son to think he has to use aggression to get what he wants.
They are fairly typical in terms of how they play and behave - the girls like dolls, ds likes Lego. They play with each other's toys, and play a lot of imaginary games together, but there are definitely gender-specific behaviours in there. ds has started to pick up sticks and say he's going off to shoot baddies, and dd1 wants to "be a Mummy when she grows up". She's also obsessed by those dreadful Rainbow Fairy books despite my best efforts to introduce alternatives. That said, ds is a very sweet and very sensitive little boy who loves cuddles and wants to join in with the girls' games whenever possible. And dd1, in particular, is pretty feisty and knows how to stand up for herself.
I have wonderful parents, but had a very traditional upbringing in terms of gender roles. I've managed to get to this stage in life without ever really thinking about gender. I would describe myself as a feminist, but a pretty uneducated one, and I probably have all sorts of unconscious prejudices that don't help the situation. And I realise that what I do is only one small part - they are exposed to influences from all over the place.
So, I am trying to start from scratch, and turn the ship around - I want to really try to bring up children I can be proud of, informed by good feminist principles. How do I do this? What do other people do? Is it enough to set them a good example, and hope they pick it up by osmosis?
What's wrong with your DD saying she wants to be a mummy when she grows up? Doesn't that just mean you're a great mum yourself and she wants to be like you?
And I wouldn't worry too much about their stepmum... They have you as a good role model, and they may just see her as boring. She sounds quite one-dimensional.
Absolutely nothing wrong with being a mummy - an incredibly important job. But I want her to know it's not necessarily incompatible with being other things as well.
Their soon-to-be-step mother is vile. But one dimensional is much kinder. I might use that description when required to describe her
What can I say, I'm the queen of
lying through my teeth diplomacy
"She's also obsessed by those dreadful Rainbow Fairy books despite my best efforts to introduce alternatives."
i've found that when the dc have come up with undesirable-to-me likes, the best thing to do is let them get on with it rather than trying to introduce alternatives. ds1 got religion at 5 which was hideous for me. ds2 was obsessed with blimmin barbie princesses films (no gender stereotyping in this house ) and i found that the more i tried to steer them away, the more strongly they clung to their newfound like as a way of demonstrating their freedom to choose and personality.
also after 7 years of dealing with ds1's stepmother (who isn't vile, but is 15 years younger than me, has never read a book in her life, and thinks that donuts are a perfectly acceptable breakfast item for a 10 year old boy), i can honestly say that you will save yourself a lot of heartache if you can accept now that what happens when your dc are with their dad and stepmum is totally out of your control.... all you can do is keep reinforcing the 'right' messages at home and hope that you have a stronger influence, which is likely if you are the main carer.
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