My husband and I have three amazing daughters, all young women now who are seeking out life’s adventures and their place in the world. In my recent children’s book on gender equality ‘Pearl Fairweather Pirate Captain’ I wrote the following dedication to my husband:
“To my wonderful husband, Mark, because from the moment we met, equality was always a given.”
And there it is! Equality! The key word to how we have always and will continue to parent. And from that basis, I will endeavour to list all the things I believe my husband as a feminist father has given our daughters over their growing years and even now as adults. Feel free to comment and join in with more ideas.
1. Choice: Mark always encouraged our daughters to be part of their own decision making, e.g, asking them what they would like to wear, what food they would like for breakfast/lunch/dinner (healthy of course), outings for the family, etc. They had a voice in the family decision-making from the earliest of years. This taught our daughters that men don’t always make the decisions. Decision-making is equal between genders, and all people have the right to choice.
2. Encouragement: Mark encouraged our daughters to try anything and everything, to never give up, to be resilient when things went wrong, to be brave and to be bold, to invent and try things that seemed impossible, and to push themselves. This taught our daughters that women can do anything in any field of their choice; the sky is the limit. Glass ceilings can and must be broken.
3. Respect: Mark has always and still does listen respectfully to each daughter’s opinion (especially with sibling arguments). He also listens respectfully to all people’s opinions regardless of their gender or race. We have modelled this with each other. As a woman, I am treated with the same respect that I, in turn, give Mark. This has taught our daughters that everyone has a voice and we need to respect that voice even if we don’t always agree with it. They have learnt that everyone has a different take on the world and we should stop, take a breath, and try to see the argument from another’s point of view. They have also learnt that men should and must respect women and vice a versa.
4. Confidence: Mark has always made our daughters feel safe. He has as an amazing knack to make them feel lovely and loved. Simple words of encouragement either written or voiced have made them feel beautiful and secure. Every birthday (from around 3 years) they have been given flowers, chocolates and a hand-written card telling them why he is so proud of each one. This has taught our daughters that feeling good about yourself and knowing you are loved is empowering. Confidence is the solid base on which to build your life.
5. Body Autonomy: Mark’s conversations over the years with our daughters have always been open and honest; with nothing off the table. Our daughters knew their body was their body from a very early age and that ‘No’ actually meant no! This has taught our daughters to respect their body and to have the ability to stand up against coercion. It has also given them the strength of character to stand up for others.
6. Equality: Mark has always modelled equality of the genders and race within and beyond our family unit. This has taught our daughters to respect diversity in all its forms, and to embrace and learn from it.
7. Violence is Never the Answer: Our daughters have never seen violence in our home. They have seen dialogue to produce conflict resolution. This has taught our daughters that violence is never the answer and it is unacceptable. They know the importance of dialogue to resolve conflict.
8. Learn from Our Mistakes: Mark has always admitted when he was wrong both to our daughters and myself. His belief is we are learning from cradle to grave. This has taught our daughters that it is okay to make mistakes. We are, after all only human. To be human is to make mistakes. And to learn from such mistakes moves us forward.
9. Family: Family is being together; sharing, laughing, enjoying each other’s company, listening even when one is too busy and so much more! Mark has always been a major part of this; interacting and playing with our daughters over the years. He has always been available to listen or advise. This has taught our daughters they will never be alone when they have family and they are loved.
10. A Good Man: By growing up with Mark our daughters have learnt just what a ‘good man’ is. A good man shows kindness, empathy, treats all humans equally and respectfully irrespective of gender or race, is non-violent, is loving, is gentle, has time to listen, has time to help, is self-reflective and wise, respects other’s choice and is not afraid to show the spectrum of emotions. This has taught our daughters that they deserve nothing less than good men in their lives.
Authors’ note: This blog has been about the ‘male’ side of my family’s joint parenting. The ten points above we have done together. However, what our daughters have learnt about men has most often come from my husband’s role in our joint parenting.
Jayneen Sanders (aka Jay Dale) is a teacher, author, mother of three daughters and an active advocate for sexual abuse prevention education and respectful relationships to be taught both in the home and in schools.
For more information on this topic and Jay’s children's books 'Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept', 'Pearl Fairweather Pirate Captain', ‘No Means No!’and her parents’ guide ‘Body Safety Education — A parents’ guide to protecting kids from sexual abuse’ go to e2epublishing.info
All books are also available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Jayneen-Sanders/e/B00BDCGZ1W/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1