I am their prototype for women.
I am a stay-at-home mom who has the propensity to do far more for my boys than I should, and in the back of my mind, I am aware that I want to teach them that women are strong, courageous, human. The old adage — “Actions speak louder than words” — well, I think it’s very true.
On an ordinary Saturday evening, my husband decided to cook dinner. When my oldest, who’s five, asked him to play instead my husband responded, “No, I’m making dinner right now.”
My son’s response: “What?! Mom does that.”
My fiery eyes met my husband’s while I inhaled a deep breath, and he, with a slightly amused smile, told my son that mom does not always make dinner. To further his enlightenment, he had my son join the ranks for dinner duty.
My son has never heard in our house that it is my sole responsibility to cook dinner, but he’s watching, and that’s what he sees. If I always cook dinner, he will believe that women always cook dinner, so I’m trying to stick my nose in a book and let dinner happen upon the table without my help a little more often.
My three-year-old is the kind of boy who would still live in my womb if I let him. Of course, at three he still needs some help, but he could get dressed by himself. He could put on his own shoes. He could pick up his own messes. Heck, he could even walk on his own two feet all of the time! Mostly, though, he’d rather just let me do everything for him.
He loves to respond to my requests with, “No, you do it.” I know he also says this to his dad from time-to-time, and I’m sure three-year-old girls also say such things to their parents, but when it comes to the dynamics between my boys and I, I know this habit can plant a seed. It won’t stop at mom does everything for me, it will morph into the expectation that women can be bossed around, that women are around to take care of them.
I have primarily been home day-in and day-out every day of my sons’ lives. I still remember telling my oldest one day that some moms go to work and their kids go to daycare. It felt weird to need to say that, to explain it. But I stay home, and most of the mom-kiddo combos that we spend time with are also home — similar schedules are magnetic.
If I never work, if my only responsibilities are to them and to our home, then they will more easily assume that all women should do this. So, I work. At home. I write. I photograph. I edit. And I call it work. I’m rarely making money, but money isn’t the measure for work. I want them to know that — that we all have jobs to do. We all have gifts and abilities and things that we offer outside of our own homes and families. It’s work raising them and taking care of our household, but that work is shared work. (Or at least, we think it should be.) My writing and my photography — it’s my work. It matters, and the whole family works together to make room for it.
I’m grateful for the ever-expanding presence of women in my sons’ lives. Teachers at school, who go to work everyday. Doctors, who give them checkups. Friends, who have different dynamics and norms and routines in their homes. Family members who do things differently. I may be their primary prototype, but other women in their lives will help dispel assumptions about what all women are like.
I have to be aware of the ways my actions and habits affect the way they see an entire gender. I’m grateful for a husband who also understands this and realizes that he is the primary example of how a man treats a woman. Thank God he treats me well.
I am the standard of women for them whether I want to be or not. Though they will hear that women are equal from my lips, it’s far more important that they see that reflected in the way our family functions, in the way I actually live.
We are honored to share this guest post today from our dear friend! Denise Lilly lives in Maine with her husband and two boys. She writes and photographs for clarity, hoping it will hone her sight. Read more on her blog, Eyes to See, and her self-published book, Cling: Faith Lessons from my Son’s Early Years, available on Amazon.
If you relate to this struggle of teaching your sons what to expect from the women in their lives, please share Denise’s post!