When you have children, you become acutely aware of certain things that you most-likely rarely ever thought about.
Things like free time, silence, lie-ins, spontaneity, and responsibility. Things that you take for granted until you suddenly have to look after one or more little humans.
I’m not saying people without children don’t think about these things, but I certainly know that I think about them now more than ever; either because I never have them any more and miss them dearly (a lie in on a Sunday morning for instance), or they’re front of mind 24/7 – responsibility for their well-being.
Here are my two; Jake aged three and a half, and Millie, one and a half:
They’re absolutely amazing.
They’ve enriched my life in unimaginable and indescribable ways.
They constantly surprise me with their creativity, their humour and how smart they already are.
There is however one thing that I absolutely loathe about bringing up children, and that’s the mental conditioning that happens from such a young age, from things like their toys, their clothing, and the TV shows created for them – even the food that’s promoted to them.
I like to think that we’re bringing them up to know that boys and girls are equal and capable of achieving anything they put their minds to, but this is challenging when so much of what they’re exposed to from the moment they can think for themselves is geared towards making them think and behave in certain ways – purely based on gender.
The other day, Jake brought a toy car to me and went “this is for boys, Millie can’t have it”.
I know for a fact this isn’t something we would ever have taught him but at three and a half, he’s starting to think for himself a lot.
I quizzed him as to why he said this, to which he replied “only boys drive cars”. Now, he typically spends the majority of his time in a car with either his mum or his nanny driving so I knew this wasn’t his point of reference.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it was in fact the various shows he watches:
In the majority of children’s shows and films, the cars and/or the drivers are male.
It made me feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortable that in 2019, things that are created for children are still full of ridiculous stereotypes.
It’s an outdated view of the world and absolutely not representative of real life. For instance, in the UK, 46% of drivers are women.
It needs to change.
And whilst it’s the responsibility of us adults to recognise it and make the changes, the change they need to effect starts with children.
Children’s TV shows need to stop stereotyping based on gender.
Children’s food needs to stop stereotyping based on gender.
Children’s toys need to stop stereotyping based on gender.
Children need to be shown that whether you’re a girl or a boy, you are capable of doing and achieving anything. That whilst your gender might define who you are, it certainly doesn’t define what you can do.
Some of the best loved brands – like Nike, get it. They don’t just get it, they’re doing something about it. But when it comes to children and the brands aimed at them, based on what I’m seeing and experiencing, we’ve still got long way to go.
As Marie Wilson famously said; “You can’t be what you can’t see”.