A few months ago I shared a post with 10 ways to embrace being a mother of boys, and a very thoughtful reader pointed out that as a mother of boys I have a great opportunity (and responsibility!) to uphold equality through educating my sons. Although I did not mention this point in my article, I could not agree more!
Inside my home there are many ways I would like to empower my boys to develop true respect for women and uphold the equality of the sexes, ten of which I will share today. I hope these points will bring my sons fulfillment and joy in their relationships, as well as help them in their workplaces and in the community. To teach my children to respect and value all people regardless of if they are a male or female, or different in any other way, is one of my greatest hopes as a parent.
**Please note, this is written from my personal perspective as a stay-at-home-mom. I realize not all moms stay at home and that is a perfectly wonderful decision. But for the sake of brevity (it is hard to include all situations in one article!) I have not included as many examples about this. Thanks for understanding.
Here are 10 lessons for my sons to learn to respect women:
1) I want them to learn… it is important to value everyone’s contributions.
I want my boys to know that earning the money is just one part of contributing to the household. The person who makes money is no more important than the one who does other jobs, such as cleaning, organizing and caring for others.
Beyond the home, it’s not just the “boss” that matters either. Secretaries do important work that allow their bosses to succeed, and janitors allow everyone to work in a clean environment. Likewise I want my sons to see and recognize that everyone’s contributions are needed and worthy of high regard. I want them to appreciate every contribution, no matter how highly valued it is in the eyes of society.
Of course women are also in positions of power in the workforce – and they should be rightfully valued for this work, also!
2) I want them to learn… we should be thankful and say thank you, even for the little things.
I believe gratitude can make and break relationships. Specifically, when they are at home, I want my boys to appreciate the cooking and cleaning, as well as having a place to live and being raised in a loving home. Taking care of the food in a household (or in a dorm) and keeping it livable deserves deep respect and gratitude – just as much as being given money for music lessons or opportunities to go places. Being thankful can show up in their voices, in their faces, in what they say, and what they do. I hope they will carry over practices from childhood into future situations as well… whether that’s with housemates or a spouse.
3) I want them to learn… household work is real work – and it takes dedication, creativity, and skills just like any other job.
You don’t just wake up knowing how to clean a house… and by house, I don’t just mean wiping the counters and vacuuming the floors, there are TONS of other things to clean in a house. You have to learn how to clean – experiment and see what works, learn all the tricks and tools, find a routine that works, and actually do the work. It takes time, energy, selflessness, and should not be overlooked. I want my boys to appreciate a clean place by thanking and respecting the person who cleaned for them (and offering to help whenever they can)… and also truly valuing the real work that it took to have that clean place.
And likewise getting food on the table takes a lot of real work. I never want my boys to take advantage (or not recognize) the person who works hard to make sure they are fed and/or have food available. There’s making lists, shopping, unloading groceries, preparing food, cooking, adjusting to tastes and dietary requirements, trying new recipes, and keeping up-to-date on health and healthy foods. Mamas and wives do not *just* cook dinner either – there are three meals a day plus snacks, hosting others, special events, and more.
I don’t want them to think of it as just cleaning, or just cooking… it is work. (And yes I know that men sometimes do household work as well… I’m speaking to stereotypes here.)
I also want my boys to learn cleaning and cooking skills themselves… but that’s another topic altogether.
4) I want them to learn… that being stronger does not give you the right to yield power over someone.
In today’s world, “stronger” is often equated to “better,” and “better” is sometimes an assumption that you are allowed to take advantage of anyone who is *under* you. These are not the rules I want my boys to live by. I want by sons to know that every single person – parent, child, grandparent, or baby – deserves respect and love, and should never ever be overlooked or, worse, abused — even if you are more powerful. Actually, if you are more powerful or more strong, you have the responsibility to protect those who are weaker than you.
I want my boys to know that “no” means “no,” and never play games with strength or power that disrespect someone else… in any big or small way.
5) I want them to learn… that speaking often and speaking kindly creates loving relationships.
Our words have great power. And we also have a choice to use them or not. I want my boys to learn the power of their words, and also learn about the healing they can foster by using them in the right way, at the right time. I want them to learn the power of listening – which is the partner to talking in communication. I do not want them to shield themselves from pain by refusing to acknowledge or discuss something that is difficult to address, or be afraid to cry and feel (and express) emotion. I want my boys to be comfortable talking and also be willing to talk, even if they don’t really feel like it, if it helps someone they love.
6) I want them to learn… it is vital to find worth inside.
Status will not make you happy; money will not make you happy; other peoples’ opinions will not make you happy. Sometimes the most influential of people are the least recognized. You wont necessarily get a badge or medal for being a nice person, but the act of being nice will make you happy. I want my sons to know how to find their inner worth instead of relying on the world to tell them if they are worthy. I want them to find true happiness from within.
7) I want them to learn… we should look for others peoples’ inner worth, as well.
Related to the above, a person’s worth is not in their outward appearance. Media does not depict reality; “pretty girls” are not the prize to seek out or the aim of life. I want my sons to see the worth of any person they are in a relationship with for their true value – not their popularity or their physical qualities. I want them to value the people around them for their kindness, their insight, their creativity, their true selves… not for superficial reasons.
8) I want them to learn… it is important to understand that commitment in marriage (or any relationship) shows up on the outside and on the inside.
Being loyal means trying to understand, working out problems, and not giving up. It’s as much on the inside (truly being present and caring about the person enough to compromise and work on yourself) as on the outside (not cheating someone, bad mouthing them, or taking advantage of their selflessness or kindness). True friendship as well as partnership takes effort and it will not always be easy. If they make a commitment to someone, I want them to follow it through and not run away if they are faced with a challenge. I want my boys to be committed and loyal to their friends and future partner in word and in deed.
9) I want them to learn… to encourage their life partner to grow.
When my sons become husbands, I want them to support their wives in pursuing professional and personal development. I am incredibly thankful that my husband is supportive of me continuing my education and putting effort into my personal well-being, even though my “job” (being a full-time mom) does not “require” it. He encourages me to take online courses, read new books, watch and listen to various resources, and even go to seminars (and he – as my main co-worker – will take time to listen and discuss them). He takes my growth and education seriously – and values my work inside the home as worthy of time and money. He believes that I deserve opportunities to grow, just as any other person in a “workplace” might receive. I want my boys to do that for their partner as well.
I want my sons to know that whether a mother should stay at home or not is each unique family’s personal decision, also, and that respecting women in the workforce as professionals is just as important.
10) I want them to learn… that being unified is more important than being “right.”
Coming to a compromise, even if it is neither party’s original choice – or deciding to “surrender” to your partner’s preference – is so much better than being resentful. There is a healthy balance to compromising – and it should never mean compromising your values – but I want my boys to learn the power of unity in a relationship. They may see things different than their friend or partner, but I hope that they will learn to respect and consider the opinions and perspectives of others… with openness and grace.
The bottom line…
I want my boys to lovingly work alongside women in their personal and professional lives… to live wholeheartedly, respect themselves and others, and make the world a better place through whatever life work they choose. There is so much I want them to learn about respecting women and upholding the equality of the sexes… and yet at the same time, I am learning and re-learning these lessons as well. I am a product of society, after all, and am still breaking through my own engrained stereotypes and perspectives… even after four years passionately dedicated to Women’s Studies 😉
What lessons do you want to teach your boys, specifically ones that can help them model respect for women?