Today my son started screaming for me from down the hall.
"MUMMMMMM," he yelled with urgency.
"I'm just here," I waved as he approached.
"Oh Mum, I've been looking for you," he said as he threw his arms around me with great strength.
What followed was a hug with such warmth, such love, that all the stresses I had felt just minutes earlier were washed away.
"Oh darling, that was lovely. What was that hug for?" I asked.
"Because Mum, because we're having such a good life together."
He is four-years-old. Four. His words well beyond that of his years.
He was right. We ARE having a good life.
It wasn't until he said these words that I was reminded about the sensitive little soul he really is. As a mother of sons, I forget this sometimes. I am ashamed to admit it but I forget.
I forget because I am bombarded with stories that ignore this. And they don't just ignore how my sons' feel, they ignore my sons altogether. Take a minute to search articles about children and emotion and the future and you will find endless content on young girls and teaching young girls to be sensitive and strong. Pieces that focus solely on teaching young women how to succeed.
As a woman, and a working woman with a career, I read these pieces and feel empowered.
As a mother, a mother of sons, I read these pieces and feel disheartened.
I read so much about how our daughters are forced to wear pink and play with Barbies, about how these girls, instead like to "get dirty" and "get rough just like the boys." The mothers speak smugly about their daughters, praising them for choosing a blue cup over a pink one. I get frustrated with the women (because for the most part it is women) for writing these pieces because they fail to see that by using these statements that they feel are breaking stereotypes are in fact simply enforcing them more.
One of my sons loves dirt and footy and kicking balls in my house. The other loves dolls and purple is his favourite colour. They are polar opposites. One is outgoing, charismatic but sensitive and the other is complex, intelligent and reserved.
At what point do we realise it isn't a gender that should fabricate your self-worth and your future successes? Or what colour cup you choose to drink from?
As I have sons many argue that they, by default, will have advantages in obtaining futures roles like CEO and high management roles. And most articles currently make a point of noting whether a CEO is male or female and placing particular importance on female CEOs. I, too, believe we should have more female CEOs but if my son wants to become a CEO or an entrepreneur then he is no less deserving.
Why should stories of success in reaching such heights focus on gender, instead of success, full stop? Male, female, tall, short etc. Because my sons will also need guidance and mentors in their future careers.
The incidences of male teen suicide are the highest of any age or gender group. When will we realise that young men need guidance as well. Where are the articles that say "yes, men deserve this too?"
Please don't confuse my words. I want equal pay for women. I AM a working woman in a modern world with career ambitions of climbing the ladder. I have goals and I plan to achieve those. And, while I don't openly discuss it, this makes me a feminist.
But does wanting success for my sons make me the opposite of this? I don't like the label feminist. I feel I am a people-ist. I want all people to have the opportunity to succeed. All people. No matter their gender, their race, their skin colour.
I also want all people to have a role model. Whether it be a father or a mother or a boss at a fast food joint or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Someone who they can look up and see is achieving their goals.
More than this though, more than anything, I want my sons to have a role model. A role model who tells them it's ok to cry, it's ok to fail and it's ok to ask for help. Because being a male doesn't make you innately strong and it doesn't make you instant CEO material. It just makes you male.
For many that role model will be in the home and this is why I plan to be the role model for my sons. I will have success and will show them that they, too, deserve success. I will show them that expressing emotions is ok. I will show them that women can succeed and will be their colleagues, of equal standing and equal worth. I will show them that we should not judge a person on an X or Y chromosome but on so much more.
When my son hugged me today and told me he is having a good life today, my heart melted.
I hope that he continues to have a good life; as a son, a brother, a friend, and one day (if he chooses) as a husband and as a father. I hope that he has a good career, a good family and a good future. Because he deserves it too, just as his brother does, just as I do.
When can we stop judging success based on a person's gender and simply judge our success on the person?
When can we do that?