It’s pretty safe to say that we all want our kids to grow up in a loving and nurturing environment, and that they are able to do anything they want when they grow up. But how do gender stereotypes affect our children? Do gender biases mean we treat boys and girls differently, or push them towards a certain kind of future? Don’t worry, we’re here with Catherine Bailey, founder of Think or Blue and feminist parenting expert, to find the answer to all these questions.

In this episode we’re really looking into what gender biases are, how to prevent them, and also looking at the lasting impacts they can have on our kids. When it comes to everyday life we’re aware of gender biases – who hasn’t been impacted by the wage gap or trying to work out proper maternity leave? They play a huge part in most of our experiences, and especially in our own upbringings. But what about our kids?

While we’re going to do everything to tell our kids to shoot for the moon, a lot of us don’t think about how our household life impacts our kids. If your kids see mom carrying the brunt of the mental load, that’s going to become their normal for their adult life. Looking at how gender impacts our kids is so important for reasons like this, and we can’t wait to explore gender bias with you in this episode!

Want to learn more? Join the UM Club and check out our other episodes! Every week brings us new topics and awesome speakers, and right now you can join for as little as $6!

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Guest Expert

Catherine Bailey is the founder of Think or Blue, a community of parents, teachers, and family who believe that children thrive best in a world free from gender stereotypes. She coaches caregivers to use feminist parenting strategies to tackle tough topics like body image, consent, gender roles, and media literacy, to raise children who are free to be themselves and ready to change the world! Catherine is a former lawyer, mom to a cool 6 year-old, gender equity expert, and chocolate lover living in Connecticut.

In This Episode We Talk About

00:50 – Who is Catherine?
04:01 – The impact gender stereotypes can have on our kids.
09:26 – Incorporating feminist values into our parenting.
15:42 – Body image and how gender stereotypes affect it.
24:49 – Unlearning gender roles as adults.
33:49 – Sharing the mental load and how to balance it.
43:33 – Talking to our kids about gender roles and gender stereotyping.
49:51 – Where to find Catherine and final thoughts!

Watch the Video

Listen to the Audio

Resource Links

Join the UM Club!
UM Club Facebook page
Think or Blue
Man Enough by Justin Baldoni
Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
Instagram: @ThinkOrBlue 

Read the Full Conversation 

Hello and welcome to another episode inside the Unapologetic Moms Club. Today I am very happy to have Catherine Bailey here from Think or Blue to talk all about feminism and equality and busting gender stereotypes in our parenting. So welcome, Catherine.

Thank you Jannine, thanks so much for having me here.

I’m very excited to dig into this topic of gender stereotypes. Gender and sexuality in general are very hot topics and can be tricky for parents to navigate. So I’m really interested to get your insight and some different tips and tools for me. 

Oh, absolutely. It is a huge topic. There’s so many areas we can go into. And yeah, I’m excited to dig into it with you.

Yeah, sounds great. So let’s kick it off. Who are you? What do you do? And why are you so passionate about it? 

Sure, yeah. So I’m Catherine and I live in the US. I don’t know if everybody in your community is from Canada, is it global?

We have a mix from everywhere. Canada, States, Australia, China, everywhere.

Amazing. So I’m from Connecticut. And for people who are global, I like to say that’s halfway between Boston and New York. Much easier way to understand it, because we’re a teeny tiny state. And, yeah, I live here with my husband and my six-year-old daughter. 

And I got into this work – so I started Think or Blue as a blog about five years ago, when my kid was about one or so, one or two. And it really started out as a place for me to kind of just vent all my feelings, because I noticed very early people’s desire to put gender stereotypes on not just my child, but like all children, and it starts as early as in the womb, right? And people are asking all, you know, “do you know what it is? How are you going to prepare not knowing?” All those questions.

And they were so eager to assign traits and characteristics and personalities to this child, this not even yet a baby, you know, hasn’t even been born. And at first I was kind of fascinated by it. You know, I knew it would happen, because I’m a lifelong feminist. And so I was aware that this might be an issue, but it was really fascinating to see it play out. So I started this blog as just kind of a place to vent my feelings. And then over time, it became more of education and coaching for parents and educators and caregivers of all kinds who really care about justice, care about equity, and want to weave it into their parenting and caregiving in a more meaningful way. So I’m thrilled now to be a coach and to have this be my job. To me it’s the best job in the world.

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I love hearing how people’s curiosity and kind of inspiration helps fuel them into their passion, that they’re able to create jobs out of it and help other people. That’s so cool. 

Yeah absolutely. Thank you.

And I like how you touched on the stereotypes even within the womb, because that’s so true. Recently – I heard I’ve heard it so many times – but say different, upcoming parents or other family members be like, “oh, I hope it’s a girl first, because they’re nurturing and can help take care of their other kids.” And it’s like, wow, look at that load you are putting on that not even a baby yet, like that’s a massive load.

Right? Not even a baby yet to already be doing caregiving and emotional labor, and caregiving of another child who doesn’t exist yet. It’s a lot of assumptions that we make so so so early on.

04:01 Yeah. So what are the impacts these gender stereotypes can have on kids and even as they grow into adults?

Yeah, they’re pretty serious. And it’s funny because, you know, I’m sure a lot of people in your community care about this issue. But they may have family members and friends around them who are like, “why are you making such a big deal? Like, why do you have to be the wet blanket all the time? It’s just a shirt, or it’s just a book, it’s just a toy,” you know, like “why are you making such a big deal?” Because it seems like yeah, it’s just one toy, or one book, or one piece of clothing, but in reality, it’s an accumulation of all of those things. 

So children are impacted, you know, they’re exposed to stereotypes from birth, even earlier, as you said, and all throughout childhood. And there are a lot of studies that have found this has impacts on who they think they are, their personal self-worth, their career aspirations, you know, what they decide they want to be in the future, upon their mental health, on so many things. So, you know, there are things that we’ve – when we talk about sort of like health and bodies, you know, we’re raised to be petrified of sugar and getting the right nutrients in our children. And yet, a child is 242 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than type two diabetes. 

That’s an interesting fact.

It is. But yet, doctors don’t talk to you about that. They’re just going to talk to you about sugar and whatnot. Or made to be afraid of that. And then as far as like children go, they internalize these stereotypes, by the age of six girls think that boys are “more brilliant,” 74% of boys think that there are toys that are just for boys. And about 65% of girls believe that, too. So as much as we go around as parents saying, like, “oh, toys are for anybody,” like they’re still getting all these messages from the outside, that that’s not in fact the case. So the impacts are real.

Yeah, and it’s like hearing you say all of that, it’s like really clear the impact and kind of echo it can have, all these things building on top of each other, choosing what toys they’re playing with, what sports or activities they’re enrolling in, which attributes to their confidence and self-worth. And then career and their adult life, where they’re spending a ton of their time, the income they’re making, again, mental health, like, it really goes quite wide and it can start so so young.

Absolutely. And the way that we think about emotions in children, you know, like we sort of – I think a lot of women laugh at men being emotionally unavailable, or, you know, not able to understand their emotions. But then we’re raising these boys to essentially turn out the same way when we say things like, “don’t cry, you’re fine,” you know, or even there are worse things. They’ll be teased at school and called names for crying, you know. And then we’re surprised when they turn out to be men who don’t understand and can’t grapple with their emotions. 

I love that you touched on that.

And we joke about mansplainers, right? We’re like, “oh, my God, have you ever been mansplained like that?” And yet, our boys at a young age are already interrupting girls at a more frequent rate. And so like, how are we, you know, like we call ourselves feminists as adults, but oftentimes these principles just are not often translated into our child-rearing. And that’s not to shame anyone that’s just like, we’ve all been conditioned that way.

Absolutely. I recently did an episode with Nick Matiash, who is a men’s life and relationship coach, and in there we really dug into like the patriarchy and the effects it’s had on men. Because a lot of different episodes, it’s more so focused on the female, so I really wanted to hear his perspective. And it ties right into everything you just said, like, as adults, we may feel like male partners can be emotionally unavailable, a little bit detached. They tend to have kind of conditioning to provide and might like work more and do those chores, but not necessarily emotionally connect. But it starts out as kids with the don’t cry, stuff it down, don’t share your emotions, you’re weak, people prey on that. And so as they grow up, they don’t learn those skills as they become adults. 

And one thing he touched on that I liked is physically, your body just is going to change as you get older, like it’s inevitable, it’s going to happen, you’re going to grow and become like a physical adult human. But Emotionally, it doesn’t just happen like that. You need to be taught the different skills and have the different conversations and values instilled to you throughout your life. 

Absolutely. So important.

Such big impact. So how can we incorporate some more of these feminist and equality values into our parenting?

Yeah, well, I think it’s like a lot of people. There are a lot of misconceptions about feminist parenting, and sometimes I think it’s easy to embrace the fun stuff, you know, like, oh, I want to take my kid to a march or buy them like a smash the patriarchy t shirt, you know, get them these great books because that’s the fun stuff. And so like, yes, definitely do that, I mean, I like to do that too. It’s really fun. 

But then also like, so what are we doing as parents? And something that I come back to again and again, with my students and my community, is our internal biases and role modeling. So, a lot of times we want to say like, “okay, what’s the parenting technique that I put out there right away?” And really, a lot of it is working on ourselves. So, for example, when it comes to gender roles in the home, you know, this is very heteronormative. But if for hetero relationships, you know, what are the sort of the gender roles that we’re modeling for our children, who’s doing most of the housework, who’s doing most of the childcare, the mental load, the emotional labor, who’s earning money, who’s comforting the kids. All of these things, these are some of the gender roles that we’re modeling for our kids. And they’re imbibing all of it. 

So we can tell them, like go out into the world, you can be anything, you can do everything you want, right? But then like, they see what’s happening in their household, they see something different. So that’s one example. And, you know, one thing I can give to your community is a really tangible way to think about your internal bias when it comes to raising children without gender stereotypes. I call it the three Ds. So down, dirty, and discipline, because then you can think about the three Ds, down, dirty, and discipline.

Down means like, if they fell down, they’ve been hurt in some way. What is your reaction, you know, just stop for a second and think when I do this differently, depending on the gender of my child. We are, as parents, four times more likely to say to a girl after she’s been hurt, “be careful, honey, watch out for that next time,” but we expect boys to fall and get hurt. So that’s another bias we can just check. So that’s down. 

Dirty, like, what’s your reaction when they’re getting dirty? Or when they’re messing around outside, oh, you need to keep your dress pretty, pull that dress down, we can see your underwear. Are you expecting them to go out in the mud puddles and get dirty? 

And the third is discipline. What do we expect from our child behavior wise? And we often have expectations for girls that they behave, that they listen to the rules, that they care for their siblings, right, from a young age like you said. And we kind of expect boys to just, you know, be rough and tumble and not follow the rules, etc. So that’s the time to think about it. You know, I had this incident with my daughter about a year ago, and she was jumping on the couch, maybe two years, I don’t know, years ago, she was jumping on the couch. My initial reaction was to be like, “get down off the couch. I don’t want you jumping on furniture.” 

But I paused for a second, I thought, “what would I do if she were a boy? Would I expect this?” Like, of course she jumps on the couch. You can’t stop boys from jumping on the couch. That’s just what they do. You know, so I caught myself for that very second. But would my reaction be different? And I decided maybe it would be so I let her jump on the couch. You know, we can all have – like that doesn’t mean you can’t have boundaries. We all have our own boundaries in the home of what we might want. Maybe you have a beautiful couch that you want to keep pristine, that’s fine. But it’s just another way when it comes to discipline. So that’s the three Ds about your biases.

Yeah, that’s a great example. And when you touched on the dirty, it reminded me of a moment when – I want to see my son was like six months old, quite young, barely sitting on his own. And I went for a walk with a friend. And so it was like more of a hike, ended up at a beach. And so we were both carrying them. And so I just like took out my son, plopped him on the ground, and started taking off my things and kind of doing what we’re doing. But my friend, to no fault of her own, like, it’s from all of the conditioning we’ve all been going through, like we’ve been talking about. But she’s like, I’m just gonna go over to this table. And so that’s where she brought her daughter so she could be more clean and not down in the dirt. And it’s just an example of those small little things that start are so so early on.

Yep. And they and they just pile up. They accumulate from everyone around us.

Yeah. And I think that actually ties in a good point that it’s never too late to start implementing some of these things and start the inner work. Because it does just layer on and layer on and layer on. It’s never too late.

It is never too late. You can always start now. We have these biases that we’ve been passed on from generations before us. But there’s still something that you can do about it now. Yeah, it’s never too late to start. Same goes with role modeling body image, you know, that’s another important area of role modeling is how we look at our bodies, how we treat our bodies, how we think about our bodies. And a lot of parents will be like, “oh, my gosh, I’ve said things that are horrible in front of my kids,” like, “gosh, look at my fat thighs,” or, “I look horrible in this bathing suit” or whatever. And they and they’re like, “ah I messed up my kids!” No. It’s not too late to start, you know, role modeling what it is to love yourself.

Absolutely. It’s great to show that we make mistakes and learn from them as well for our kids. I would love to circle back to that body image note. And having this conversation just gave me an aha, I’ve been so focused on body image with my girl, I haven’t actually considered it as much with my son. So I’m curious to hear your thoughts on body image and how it ties into all of this.

Absolutely. I’m so passionate about body image. And I recently went through the Embodied Rebel Academy to become a coach for body acceptance and food freedom, which is really exciting. I love that work. So it’s so funny you say that, because one of my good friends a couple of years ago said to me the same thing. She had a young son, and she was like, “oh, my gosh, I’m not envious of you. Like, I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about body image stuff,” you know, with my son, thinking that it kind of it wouldn’t touch him in any way. But it does. You know, it does. 

And I’m sure – I don’t know if you talked about this in your last conversation, you know, about masculinity and male issues, but it definitely impacts boys, too. They see it in a different way. So they see the superheroes with like huge bulging chests and rippling muscles. And they get messages too about what their body is supposed to look like, what is manly and what is not. And those continue through life. I loved – I thought the book Man Enough by Justin Baldoni was really interesting about body image. He talks about being a shirtless actor, often in Hollywood when he was on Jane the Virgin, and yet he was like, grappling with really difficult body image. And so it’s just really interesting when you think about it that way. 

The other reason we need to teach boys to be that positive and accepting of all body diversity is also for our future girls too, so who’s creating the standards in Hollywood about what we see on screen, who is sexualized and who is not? Like, there are lots of white men behind the cameras and behind the studios who are controlling things. We are raising those future men, we need them to not sexualize women, we need them to not objectify women, and not require women to be thin in order to be worthy. So it’s for them, it’s for boys own self-esteem. Like we want them to feel good about themselves. And we also want them to create a world that’s accepting.

Absolutely. So what are some different ways we can apply that with our boys? Because I think so much of the education that is out there right now is very female-focused. So what are some ways we can incorporate some of these things to help our boys both for themselves and for our future girls?

Yeah. So I always start with the caregiver, and say, first, you need to unpack your stuff – is cursing allowed?

Yeah, that’s what I was just saying. Unpack your shit, please speak freely.

Unpack your shit, we all have it. Like we were all given messages as children, whether your grandmother said something to you when you were eight years old, or the kid at school said something to you when you’re 12 years old, like we have those things that stick with us. So we need to do our own work of unpacking those, what is all the shit that you’re still carrying with you that you haven’t really dealt with yet. So that’s the first place to start

The second place is then continuing to develop your own positive relation to your body and to food because they see that, like if you’re hiding, you know, keto crackers in the cabinet and like weighing yourself and checking into your Fitbit every five minutes, they see that. So like we can say bodies are beautiful, body diversity, yay, right? But they see what you’re doing behind the scenes. So those two things, again, it’s sort of like – it’s not the tools, we’re not handing the script to our children yet. It’s doing that internal work. 

And then I would say, yeah, like, after that there are like talking to children about not just their own bodies, but all bodies. Weight stigma is still a really critical and important issue, you know, it still is. And we should be listening to people who are leading that movement on that issue. But weight stigma can stick with children all through adulthood, can prevent people from getting medical care, leading to the very health issues that we think are caused by weight. And so yeah, there’s a lot there. 

Yeah, it really ties into like the ongoing conversations as well, with so many of the things we’re teaching our kids, it’s never one kind of thing or strategy. It’s lifelong and listening to the conversations they’re having, or the people around them and different comments that they’re making and kind of circling back to it. How did that comment make you feel? What do you think about it?

Absolutely. And one thing I think that is helpful with parents is not looking at fat as a bad word. You know, fat when I was a child was really used as an insult. And I’m sure it is today as well. But when our kids come to us and say, I’m fat, we often rush to go, “no, you’re not honey, you’re beautiful.” And that tells them that fat cannot equal beautiful, that it’s the opposite. So don’t rush to say that, you know, if your kid comes home saying that I would pause for a minute. Which gives you time to kind of get your bearings and be like, okay, okay, yeah, I was like, ready for this, or I was not ready for this. Pause for a minute, listen, ask them like, “what do you mean by that?” You know, try to keep it a little bit light. Not feel like it’s a super heavy discussion, and start and talk about bodies with them really, factually. 

You know, my child is in first grade. And I think they’re starting to throw around the word chubby a lot at school. She came home saying – she happens to be a very slender child. But she came home and she was talking about like, “oh, like my thighs are chubby.” So rather than freaking out and being like, “no, they’re not, your legs are so thin,” right? I was just like, “oh, what do you mean?” Or like, “isn’t it interesting how we have this?” You can’t see me, but I’m like pulling my thigh. Isn’t it interesting how we have this flesh here? And we started talking about like, the muscles and the bones. And this is our flesh. And yeah, like, we have more in certain areas of our body than others then we start like talking about the rest of our body. You know, so it can seem super scary at first when your kid comes home saying something like that. But you know, it can help if you think about it in that way.

Yeah, that really brings it to a factual place and away from like, the good or bad, thin or fat, and it’s just your body and how it works and the different parts of it and how that can be different all around. Yeah, bringing it back to the facts.

And they can do it for you too. Like there was – I’m looking over there because oh actually I do have this book that I love. Can I grab it?

Grab it. Yeah, we love checking out different books and always have a big list that we link after these episodes.

Oh good. Yeah, I just got Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder. And it has the most amazing illustrations, like really every type of body that you could think about is presented in here. Like people with disabilities, people with like alopecia, all different sizes, all different skin tones. It’s really cool. So I would definitely recommend that book. And it’s like very friendly. It’s not working too hard to like teach the lesson, and it’s a thing that I think any kid would enjoy, no matter their gender.

Yeah, that looks like a fun book. And kids always love the big illustrations and things like that too. And it’s nice to see that it incorporates abilities and like alopecia, because that’s not touched on as often.

Right? Yes, absolutely.

Yeah. I would love to circle back to you had kind of spoke about gender roles within the home and how that has a big impact. And I find, again, doing that work as parents, and kind of unpacking some of that stuff, there can even be like a little bit of resistance and unpacking with our own relationship, trying to navigate those different gender roles. So I’d love to hear kind of your perspective on that, and any thoughts you might have.

Gosh, there’s so much there. I feel like I could go on for too long. It’s one of my favourite topics to talk about. Because it impacts so many people. And I’m sure, like, tell me if you feel this way too. But there’s so many areas of just like social circles, whether you’re at the bus stop, or like hanging out with friends, where people are complaining about having to do everything on their own, having a partner who isn’t very in tune with what’s going on in the house, or, like can’t take the kids for a full Saturday by themselves. 

And so I feel like there’s this common frustration, and an idea, this kind of hidden belief that it can’t be any different. And so sometimes I like to share – I used to feel very braggy about my relationship with my own partner, because I don’t know, it just felt like “well, why should I be bragging about how good things are,” like we all have our maritall or partnership issues, like no one’s perfect. But also, I think a lot of people don’t sometimes see what’s possible. 

Just last night, I was talking to a woman slightly younger, who does not have a partner. And we were talking about the things that sometimes men believe that they can’t even take part in, such as nursing. And it seems like there’s no role for me in that, you know, like I have nothing to do with that. But there is, there are roles that men can play and things like that, you know? 

When I was sort of a new parent, and I went back to work, my husband packed my pumping bag for me every morning. You know, like he washed all the bottles – there were like a million parts, because again, even six years ago, the pumping equipment was way worse than it is today, was just like, all the little bottles, the flanges, all this and that. And he knew how many I needed, he packed it all, it was ready for me when I needed to leave the house. Because I was spending like 45 minutes nursing her in the morning. And some people are like, “oh, I wouldn’t even think of something like that,” you know? So I think number one it’s nice to know like what’s possible? I mean, is this something that you hear people talking about, like complaining about a lot?

Yes. And I’d actually like to even hear like how you navigate the conversations amongst women and hearing the different complaints and stuff because I feel I tend to be a little bit more quiet because I don’t want to be braggy and make people feel bad for their situation. And I’m not quite sure how to kind of navigate that as much because I feel like from my personal experience, starting out like my first year of motherhood was like the roughest year of my life. Like sleep deprived, nursing, colicky mama’s boy who was attached to me for a year. 

And I bring this up frequently. I wrote in my journal, like during that time, like a really low point of just how terrible I felt about everything. I didn’t feel appreciated, I felt like everything was on me, I was doing it all. There wasn’t as much communication happening. I felt like there’s these big expectations of things that I needed to do while I was at home with our baby. But now when I look at that, like wow, it’s changed so much from that point. And it ties into what you said like there can be change. 

My husband came from a household where it’s very gender stereotype roles. Mom cooked, she refuses help in the kitchen. And so there’s still a lot of that going on. And so it took us a lot of unpacking, a lot of communication work, so many things. But now, our first is now almost four and a half. And our mental load is quite evened out. We found our own way of kind of balancing things out. We talked through things, figured out our support, and he carries so much of the mental load that I think a lot of people, as you touched on, don’t even know that that’s possible to share that mental load because it is so internalized. 

Yeah, it really is. And I know what you mean, I tend to be a little quieter in my like actual friend circles than I am on say Instagram, where I’m like very outspoken. Because yeah, I don’t want to be like, “oh my gosh, that sucks for you.” But yeah, what I think is helpful for people to realize too is sometimes it feels like a personal failing. And so again, I want to say, there are structural and institutional reasons for this, there are cultural reasons for it. It is not just you. This is not just a family and a household thing. 

We have, at least in the US, I will say, we have a system that does not value caregiving, we do not have a universal paid family and medical leave program. I’m proud to say we have one in Connecticut, that was actually the issue that I worked on before founding Think or Blue. But we do not have a universal system. Oftentimes men get like two weeks of time, if they’re lucky. It’s not normalized for a lot of penalties for caregiving, we don’t have universal pre-K, caregiving is just not valued. And so we need to remember like that is shaping all of our individual familial situations. 

And then there are cultural factors. Like I found – oh, I have another book over here! I have everything within arm’s reach. I found Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall. I don’t know if you’ve all read this, you can see how many times I have! So her perspective is really important because she talks about the cultural significance of this in black communities, and how oftentimes when there are gender roles that are kind of going with, you know, the old stereotypes and everything like that, she says a lot of it comes out of the problem that black men, their lives are not valued out in the world. They’re disproportionately incarcerated and impacted by violence. And so some of these traditional caregiving roles are a way for them to feel actually respected in their own homes. 

I always want to be cognizant of that when we’re talking about this issue, because I think it tends to be like – it can be a very super whitewashed privileged issue. So cultural factors play into it, too. And then our individual dynamics of what you just described. How did your partner grow up? You know, my mother-in-law, she’s a wonderful human being, I love her. She used to do some caregiving for us and there were several days where she would notice the things that my husband, her son, does in the house, and she’d be like, “oh, wow, he does a lot” and “oh, no one ever did that, you know, I had to do everything myself” kind of. She was almost surprised what a wonderful man she raised because she didn’t have that support. 

And in the beginning, I felt very guilty about it. Like, she thinks I don’t do enough, or she thinks I’m putting too much pressure on him. And I felt a little guilty until I was able to realize she’s not judging me. She’s unpacking her own history, and how gender roles impacted her. And so it’s not about me, it’s about her, you know, so we all come to this from different places.

Again, there’s so many layers to it. But it is possible to kind of unpack that and work through it. I’d love to hear some kind of tangible tips in regards to all this. For people that are really struggling, feeling like the load is so imbalanced, what are things that they can do to help share some more of the responsibilities and the mental load?

Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll give two kind of tangible steps. The first is thinking about your feelings if things are shared more equally. So do you have your own kind of personal barriers that are holding you back? You know, I know for me, like sometimes when things are really equal, you can start to feel guilty. 

Once my grandmother called – I like to give this anecdote – like my grandmother called several years ago and was like, “Catherine, I’d love to buy you some diapers at Costco. You know what size and what brand are you using right now?” And I was like, I don’t know because Andy is in charge of it. Like he orders all the diapers, I don’t even know what size she is right now. And for a minute, I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m a terrible mother, who doesn’t know the size of diapers of their child? I’ll tell you who doesn’t know, a parent in a relationship where things are shared equally. It wasn’t my role in the household so there was no reason for me to know it. Right? 

But is that going to come up for you if things are shared equally? Are you going to feel guilty? Are you going to sit in a social circle with friends and feel like, “oh my gosh, they’re all complaining about like, their husband doesn’t know how to do bedtime. And I feel kind of left out of a conversation because I leave mine with bedtime all the time.” You know, it can feel like otherings, suddenly you’re not part of this community. Or does it make you feel out of control? You feel like, “oh my gosh, I need to know what is happening at every doctor’s appointment, I need to know every single thing that the doctor said. And if you’re not taking notes, then I need to be there myself. Like you can’t do it.” You know? 

And I hesitate with that, because maternal gatekeeping has been used kind of, I think, almost as a backlash against women, like, “oh, you just demand too much, like you want the counters to be ridiculously clean. And so it’s your fault that he’s not helping.” When in reality, it’s like, okay, it seems there’s not a common agreement about what constitutes clean counters. Right? We both have different standards of care. So that’s the first part is just like unpacking, again, all the shit, like all the emotions that you’re going to feel if things are equal, or the emotions you feel right now about it. 

And then the second is thinking about ownership. So a lot of times in households where things feel really disparate and uneven, a lot of the tasks are split up. So people might say like, “oh, yeah, like, you know, maybe your partner will cook dinner once or twice a week.” And so they’re kind of like lauded and praised for doing that, like, “oh, he’s amazing, he cooks dinner half the time.” Okay, but who’s planning the meals? Who is creating the grocery list? Who’s planning when you go food shopping and making sure that you have the fresh produce and whatever is needed for that meal to make it happen? And who’s planning when the kids are going to be home, which night they need a fast snack on their way to soccer as opposed to having, you know, dinner at the table. 

So see, this is one task, dinner, but it has all these different requirements to get there. So it’s not just the making of the dinner. So I’d say if you want to – and this is just one example. It could be anything, it could be like cleaning the toilets, it could be school forms, doctor’s appointments, vacuuming, anything, one person should be responsible for noticing that the problem is there, planning for it, and then doing it. 

And if you’re – you know, this is something like I coach people with. And also, there’s some really helpful books, I don’t know if they’re within arms reach this time, they were before. But there’s a concept that Eve Rodsky has denoted CPE, which is kind of just what I said, like conception, planning, and execution. So if a person feels fully responsible for it, then they’re fully responsible. But too often the planning is done. Again, super heteronormative. Planning is done by women so much of the time. And any execution that happens, you know, some execution, maybe. But if you’re delegating tasks, and you’re checking back to make sure if it’s done, that task has not been lifted from your plate, you’re still dealing with it. It’s still on you if you’re delegating,

Absolutely, I love how you frame that. And that it’s not just the task, but like the whole role that takes up the full stages, with the planning and the execution and the concept of it. That’s such a great way to frame it. And when you’re kind of making those changes to be aware of that, and to slowly pass that over. 

And then another thing that came to mind when you brought up the diapers example, which I think is important to note, too, with kind of the comparisons we can get caught up in and that oh, we don’t do that thing, is something wrong? Or like that’s different in our house, I do that maybe he should be doing that too. And there’s no right or wrong for any of this stuff, it’s just what works for you and your household and your personalities and your lifestyle and everything you have going on.

Absolutely, it does. And there’s so much there, there’s also the daily – some people have come to me and said, like, “well, when I think about what my husband does, like, it’s actually a lot, you know, he does like all the landscaping and everything sort of outside.” And that’s fine. But then when you think about who’s doing the daily tasks, like emptying the dishwasher, getting breakfast ready, packing the backpacks, you know, getting things ready for school, those are the things that happen every day, like mowing the lawn is once a week, you know, shoveling snow is a few times depending on where you live, it can be a lot, you know, but so that’s something to keep in mind too.

Yeah, that’s another great thing to think of with like the full tasks and the concept, and then also the frequency of it, and how that evens out that mental load.

Yeah. If I could add one more thing, I’m sure you want to move on to something different. But I just want to say too, what are the consequences when that task is not completed, is something important for people to consider. So oftentimes we end up and – this is fine, if you’re in a partnership that feels super equal, and you’re kind of like, pitching it or like, “oh, I think she forgot that I’m gonna grab it for her.” Like, that’s great. 

But if you’re kind of switching to a more, you know, things are very unequal for you now, are you going to jump in if that task isn’t completed? You know, if little Sally like doesn’t have her form, or her lunch, you know, or whatever it was for school. Are you going to be the one who drives over and saves the day? Or are you going to let the natural consequences of it happen? Like we talked about natural consequences in parenting, you know, if you’re into gentle parenting or respectful parenting, we talked about natural consequences. You seem to be sort of okay with those for kids. But like, are we okay with them when it’s our families and it’s us?

Yes. And I think also tying into that being okay with it being done differently, and not our way. And maybe not perfect, but different, right? 

Right. Yeah, definitely.

This has been so great. I do want to touch on, as I’d mentioned, kind of the conversations we might have with our kids. The example I brought up to you before, and it can be applied in so many different situations. But say, for example with a boy, we’re painting our nails all together, they have the fun colours, and they go to school. And something is said to them that makes them feel bad. “This isn’t for boys, I shouldn’t be doing this”, they come home upset. But how can we navigate conversations with our kids about these things?

Yeah. Well, you’ve raised such an important question. And with boys specifically, I think that as parents, we all have this desire to protect our children. And we don’t want them to go through any unnecessary stress or harm or sadness, right? Like this is just normal. But they will, right? And so I think a lot of that is some of the reason that we don’t often want our boys doing anything that’s “too feminine.” It’s not because we think that painting nails or wearing a skirt is so bad in itself, we’re just so worried about them getting teased. And that often prevents us from letting our children fully express themselves and their individuality, the way that they really are. 

So like, first, I just acknowledge that, you know, that’s okay if you feel that way, that just means you’re a normal parent who wants to protect your child, it’s totally normal. And also, we want them to be fully who they are. And so I like to use an analogy of like, if your child went to school and decided they were going to play the clarinet. And people made fun of them for playing the clarinet. Like, would you tell them to change to a different instrument? Probably not. You’d be like, you picked the clarinet, you like the clarinet. Like, who cares if people don’t want you to play the clarinet it’s a fine instrument, whatever, just, you know, do it. 

So I like to think about those very benign examples. When you’re thinking about like, oh my gosh, should I tell him not to paint his nails anymore or prepare him for the bullying that might happen, you know, all those thoughts run through your head. So, hopefully, you’re in a space, like if your son is painting his nails and like going to school, like you’ve probably already had conversations about gender stereotypes in your house, right? Like maybe you’ve said like, “this is for everybody” or like, you know, “colours are for everyone,” that kind of stuff. Those mantras are fantastic, and I would save those for the end of the conversation. 

First I would just listen to them, you know, let them tell you about what happened. How did it make you feel? You know, kind of pause, let them talk. I think we’re really eager to rush in and be like, “no, no, they don’t know what they’re talking about. You’re fine, nail polish is for everyone,” and like cut straight to them. But if you leave a little room for discussion, you can ask like, “why do you think they said that?” Give them a minute – and this might be different depending on age development, developmental status, etc. But give them a minute to try to process it themselves. And they might legitimately not know. And you can like offer a couple of possibilities. “Oh, do you think maybe they’ve never seen it before on a boy? Why do you think that is? Hmm. I don’t know. Like, how many boys do you see painting their nails? Do you see men doing it?” You know, lyou can start having a conversation about it. 

And then I like to like come back to who they are as a person. You know, their expression is wonderful. Like, who are they as a person and, you know, remind them of their amazing qualities, and that they are safe with you. Like I think so often our children need to feel that we’re okay with their expression, first and foremost, so that they can be okay with their expression.

Absolutely. And I like the slowing down and really talking about it. Because when we’re so quick to rush in, save the day, go to those mantras, it can be a little bit dismissive, even if we’re not intending on it. Because regardless – and this has come up in another episode about talking to kids about death and illness, and it applies to so many things. Regardless of kind of our response, if it’s like, “oh, you don’t need to worry about that,” or just kind of quickly saying that last little lesson, they’re still going to have those thoughts. 

And so when we as parents can step in there, have that conversation, give them that space to process. We’re able to teach them how to process through that, how to go through that strategy for all different things and really help build our connection with our kids. So we are that safe space for them to come to for all different things. And it helps prevent them from being alone, worrying about these things, going through those thoughts spirals themselves, or doing that with friends or other people where you’re not sure what messages are being shared.

Absolutely, absolutely. And you can kind of prepare for it earlier with different things, like things that don’t have a big gender question mark. And you can use yourself as an example. Like, if you’re wearing a t-shirt or a hat or something like that, you can be like, “you know, some people don’t like these kind of straw hats, but I like them. You know, I’m gonna wear it anyway.” And you could ask them about their hat and be like, “do you like the hat you’re wearing today?” Your sunhat or whatever. “Oh, yeah, I do.” “Okay, what if somebody else said they didn’t like it? Would that change your mind?” You know, and they’d be like, “No, I love this hat.” Hopefully, you know. Or if they said yes then you talk about it. Right? But you can prepare a little bit with something totally different.

Absolutely. Yeah. That, again, kind of similar to the death and illness, is like we’re not necessarily having these big conversations about death and things all the time. But, “oh, there’s a dead bug on the window sill.” That’s just a little conversation right there. And it’s just all of those layers added on. And when you’re looking for it and open to it, there’s so many possibilities for having all these different kinds of conversations and everyday life, like you said, just with that hats going out to play in the backyard, that’s a great moment right there.

Yeah. And it’s easy. There are no outsiders at that moment. It’s just, you know, the two of you talking, it feels a lot more easy and not pressure filled.

Yeah. And then those little moments kind of add up. So when the bigger moment happens that’s more specific to them, that more emotions are brought up, they kind of have that preparation from those tiny things with us.

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Love it. Well, this has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you. Where can people go to connect with you amd find out more than you have going on?

Yeah, absolutely. So they can find me on Instagram @ThinkOrBlue, I’m probably most active on there. And another easy way to find me is I have a free guide for parents for like seven ways they can ease out the gender stereotypes from their parenting so they can feel free to grab that as well.

Fantastic. Yeah, we’ll have that linked as well in the show notes. Before we sign off, do you have any last thoughts or anything that you would like to share?

I mean, I would just say like to everyone that you’re doing a great job. I think sometimes I worry that when, you know, like experts like me come in, people are like, “oh my gosh, I’ve like failed in some way.” And that’s not the case at all. Like you’re all doing an amazing job. But the fact that you’re here in this community with Jannine just shows how much you care about your own development and about your children. I think that’s really amazing. And I applaud you for it.

I love that. What a great note to end on. So thank you so much.

Yeah, thanks for having me! 

Yeah. Thanks for being here. Thanks for everyone listening in. You can go ahead and head on over to our Facebook group or group chat and we can chat about these things a little bit more. I’d love to hear kind of different challenges you’ve been having in regards to gender stereotypes and all of this. So till next time, take care


Thanks for listening this week! If you want to chat about this episode with me and other moms, check out the exclusive UM Club Facebook page! Thanks again, and we’ll see you next week!

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