Updated: Jun 27
Story by Stuti Agarwal
Question 1 : What is gender neutral parenting according to you?
Creating a gender-neutral environment for my children means giving them the space to grow up as independent individuals, not limited by gender based stereotypes or skills. I raise my son and daughter the same way, giving them the same duties, educating them in the same way and giving them both the freedom of choice and expression. It also means being a role-model along with my husband in sharing all kinds of responsibilities and chores.
Question 2 : What inspired you to grow your children in a gender neutral environment?
I have two main reasons that influenced my decision. One is the realisation that individuals brought up in an environment that constantly defines who they are and what they are expected to do based on their gender will be limited in their life skills. This, I understood from all the experience I had while travelling and seeing the world as a journalist.
The second, is my own upbringing. I was brought up in a gender neutral environment. My sister and I were expected to take up jobs, stay back late at nights for work if needed and share the responsibilities of home. This taught us to be self-reliant, be it in financial matters, running errands or taking care of each other, so I wanted to create a similar environment for my children.
Question 3 : What measures have you taken for a gender neutral upbringing?
My son is now three years old. I try to raise him as a responsible individual. If he spills water, he is the one responsible for cleaning it. When I do laundry, he participates in small ways like by giving me clothes. He helps me in cooking by peeling peas, rolling dough for rotis and other non-fire cooking. I make sure to show him the results and appreciate him. Sometimes, he wears my one-year old daughter’s hair band and I do not stop him and even in the future I do not plan on curbing his forms of expression or interests.
I have built such relationships with my children wherein they can have open conversations with me. My son asks me about the “stereotypes” he comes across, he asks me if boys are allowed to do or use certain things like a rose soap, and I always respond by saying that both boys and girls can do everything.
I breastfeed my one year old daughter in front of him so that in future he knows that breasts have functions and are not merely sexual objects. I have also tried to educate him about male and female intimate parts so he grows up to be a responsible and sensible human. One of the biggest lessons I try to teach him is that he should respect everyone.
Question 4 : What are the other practices that you have adopted in your house? Did you face any opposition or resistance while doing this? I grew up watching my parents share all the responsibilities. My husband and I follow the same, sharing the household and family responsibilities. I believe this will also significantly influence my children.
I have not faced much opposition from anyone. For me, this is not an alien or novel environment. I make sure that my children have a safe place in our home to discuss and overcome the challenges they may face. I have also taken care that the school they go to also follows my values and can meet my expectations.
Question 5 : What are the most homophobic and misogynistic things that you have been told?
My neighbour once told my son that boys should not cry. It is a very prevalent belief in our society. At home, later that day, I told him that he is allowed to feel things and express them. If he wants to cry or have a breakdown, he is free to do so. Question 6: What would you like to tell the people reading this?
A society that dictates what boys can do and what girls can do eventually creates adults who are limited and dependent on others. Gender stereotypes are everywhere around the family, but giving space for questions and discussions will make a difference. We now have a generation with limited skills and emotional quotient, I hope we can change this pattern in the coming generations.