There is no doubt that parents are role models for their children. One of the saddest thing I've heard recently involves pupils in a school in a deprived area of Kent. A friend of mine teaches there and he told me that if you ask children in his class what they want to be when they grow up, they tell you they want to be on benefits. They can aspire to nothing else if every adult they see makes claiming benefits their entire vocation.
Many feminists accuse stay at home mums of being bad role models for their daughters - will daughters aspire to anything other than homemaking if they don't see their mothers working? This argument may have its roots in the guilt of working mothers; a convenient excuse for their absence. The relationship between feminism and what it means to be a modern woman and mother are complex; issues I’ve written about before and will keep coming back to. I write about this today because at tea time my sons gave me a strong illustration of the power of role models and gender stereotypes.
I was bustling around in my usual way, fetching drinks and mopping up when T, the five year old, commented "it's hard being a mummy, that's why I'm glad I'm a boy". "We will go to work when we're daddies won't we" B, the three year old added. Baby J smiled at me from her chair. Although I was amused by their simplification of life - mummy mops up spilt milk, daddy goes to work, I hope, for my daughter's sake, they will learn that these roles can cross gender boundaries. A positive aspect of our complicated modern society is that women are no longer forced into roles by etiquette and expectation. As my children understand more about my life I hope they will appreciate that I have enjoyed a variety of vocations and have chosen to be a housewife. An important example I wish to teach them is that a worthy goal to work towards is the luxury of choice.