sugar & spice

by mraynes

cross posted at the exponent

as i mentioned in my last post, i am expecting my third child, due right around christmas. by now we’re all starting to get excited to meet this little guy, all except my two year old daughter. she stubbornly insists that she is the baby and will barely acknowledge that another baby is coming. i’m not really worried about it, it seems completely normal to me but i would like to make the transition as easy as possible for her.

i was almost four when my younger sister was born and i remember that i was not thrilled about sharing my parents’ attention. but my parents did something smart, they got me a baby doll and cradle and some of my best memories from that difficult time are of me taking care of my baby just like my mommy was taking care of my baby sister. as we get closer to my due date i’ve been thinking about doing something similar for my daughter.

however, i feel a little torn about giving her a doll because we’ve stayed away from gendered toys up to this point. i admit to feeling a little relieved that my daughter has no concept of what a princess is. well, i guess she knows about The Paper Bag Princess but she tends to identify most with the dragon.

But i also wonder that if in trying to avoid the gender socialization of our children we have unintentionally created an androcentric environment, one where traditionally feminine pursuits are made invisible. i would hate for my children to ironically receive the message that somehow we think “women’s work” is less important.

mr. mraynes and i try to avoid this by not dividing domestic responsibilities on gender lines and i think we’re pretty good models. i have at times been the primary breadwinner, we both equally care for and nurture our children, mr. mraynes does the majority of the cooking and makes all of our bread, i take out the trash…we hope that by our example, our children will never think that any domestic work is beneath them.

trying to parent in a feminist way is complicated, filled with unexpected landmines. i suppose this is a relatively minor landmine, easily resolved by getting both my daughter and son a baby doll for when their baby brother arrives. but this situation has made me think about future difficulties on the horizon and the feminist and not-so feminist messages we send our children.

so dear readers, do you attempt feminist parenting? how do you navigate societal expectations for boys and girls? and seriously, is the doll a good idea?