What a Working Mom of Daughters Wants from a Working Mom of Sons

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Even though we’re both working moms, we have different conversations with our kids, on account of their genders—Nicole has girls and Meredith has boys. Still, we have the same goals in mind: the best for our children and better lives for working mothers too. Here’s what we hope the other mom will impress upon her kids in five different areas where men currently hold the power.

WORK

Nicole: I want your son to know it’s OK to compliment my daughter at work. I am extremely proud of what the #metoo movement has accomplished in holding sexual harassers accountable for their actions. But I don’t want your son to be so afraid of his actions being misinterpreted that he completely avoids giving any praise at all. Compliments and acknowledgment are welcome and needed, just as long as he would give the same praise to a man.

Meredith: I want your daughter to turn my son into an ally. I don’t want her to think she has to put up with anything—from harassment to unequal pay—just because she’s a woman. In fact, I want my son to be open about his salary so women have the data they need to ensure they’re being compensated fairly. And if male co-workers, vendors or clients are dismissing your daughter because of her gender, I want her to confide in my son—and I want my son to help solve the problem.

DATING

Nicole: I want your son to know that chivalry is a two-way street. The onus of being courteous and respectful while on a date shouldn’t lie just with your son. I will teach my daughter to open doors and pay for meals for her dates, since courtship niceties shouldn’t be expected of just the men. Women deserve equality in the workplace, but men deserve equality in the dating scene.

Meredith: I want your daughter to know I’m teaching my son not to play games. He owes it to any woman he meets to be upfront about his feelings. I’ll feel terrible if my son doesn’t want to stay involved with your daughter, but he’s as entitled to end things as she is, as long as he does so kindly.

SEX

Nicole: I want your son to know my daughter isn’t defined by when she has sex. If my daughter waits to have sex with your son, she isn’t necessarily a goody-goody or prude. And if she consents quicker than your son is expecting, she’s not a slut. If she’s jumping into bed with your son, then he’s is jumping into bed with her just as fast!

Meredith: I want your daughter to speak up about sex to my son. She can stop doing anything she consented to at any time; my son will hear her, react immediately and not hold changing her mind against her.

MARRIAGE

Nicole: I want your son to know it’s not personal if my daughter doesn’t take his last name. Last names are so much a part of who we are and how the world identifies us, so your son shouldn’t feel offended or threatened if my daughter decides to keep hers. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him, but rather that she loves herself as well.

Meredith: I want your daughter to feel totally comfortable when it comes to her body. He’ll know all about body hair, periods, pregnancy and breastfeeding. I don’t want her to feel she has to hide those things from him.

PARENTING

Nicole: I want your son to know he is just as capable at parenting as my daughter is. Just because my daughter is a woman doesn’t mean she innately knows how to parent; your son can learn how to wipe butts and give baths just as my daughter can. My husband handles so many more parenting responsibilities than his father did, so I can only hope that it will improve in the future.

Meredith: I want your daughter to know I don’t do everything for my son, so my son won’t expect your daughter to do everything for him or their kids. But I still shoulder most of the mental load and I do more emotional labor than his dad. I’m hoping my son will do things without being asked and won’t say he “doesn’t know how to write thank-you cards.” But if he does, I hope your daughter will shut that down the first time it happens.

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