The world is definitely changing, and for the better. People are pushing back against what should happen and are starting to challenge what society sees as the norm for behaviour. This includes gender roles. The world is slowly starting to realize that there are certain stereotypes when it comes to gender, and even though we are all more advanced, there is still a long way to go.
In order to fully change, many believe that society needs to start with children. Parents need to raise their babies as gender-neutral as possible in order to raise the next generation, who will hopefully have no stereotypes based on gender.
Unfortunately, a lot of the people having babies now were raised in a world that had these ideas about what it meant to be a man or a woman, so they have no idea how to raise a gender-neutral baby. They don’t know where to start, what to do, or how far to take it. A lot of the things that mom and dad need to do can be started as early as when mom is pregnant.
We have compiled a list of 20 ways to prepare to raise a gender-neutral baby starting from pregnancy and continuing into infancy and toddlerhood.
When we are talking about gender-neutral, we are not meaning that you do not know or recognize the biological gender that your child was born, nor are we saying this is to let them choose their own gender when they are older. Although that may happen, and it is OK. Gender-neutral is really about erasing the stereotypes that are placed on who you are based on your gender.
The first thing you can do is make it not important. We all wait anxiously for that anatomy scan where the technician will tell us the gender of our baby. Don’t focus on that, maybe even wait to find out until birth so that it is not the first thing on everyone’s mind when they are shopping or talking about the baby.
While it is important to not focus on gender or make it important it is still important to not forget why you are doing this. It is important as two people who are about to become parents to recognize the problems that are going on in the world they are about to bring their child in.
It is important to recognize that there are still ideals that a woman’s job is to take care of a home and raise children. It is also important to recognize that men are still not ‘allowed’ to show emotion or be seen as weak. By recognizing that these things exist and by paying attention them, mom and dad will be better able to tackle the issues with their child.
A lot of couples start buying things when they are pregnant, or they at least start thinking about what they want to buy for their little bundle of joy on the way. If you are trying to raise a gender-neutral child than it is important to remember that toys do not have a gender.
The world has been told for too long that girls play with dolls and boys play with trucks. This has always been taken at face value and is only recently being argued. There are no reason why little boys can’t play with dolls, and why little girls can’t go outside and throw the football around. It is important to keep all of this in mind when thinking of the kind of toys you want your little one to have.
In the world of gender-neutral parenting there is a term called the pink and blue tsunami, and how it is imperative to keep our children away from it. It is almost human nature to go to either pink or blue dependant on what you are about to give birth to, and this can be dangerous. When your little baby is born, their brain is still not finished developing. It will continue to grow throughout the years, and brains are easily wired when they are small.
If you want to raise your child gender-neutral it is important to make sure you don’t over do it with the colour associations. This may be teaching your child that boys can not like pink, and that little girls should be horrified by blue.
When someone is very passionate about something, it can be very easy to get caught up in your mission. There is such a thing as taking things too far, and when raising a gender-neutral child gets taken too far it can lead people to completely forget what the goal is of the whole thing to begin with. The goal of raising a gender-neutral child is not to erase gender. It is not to bring them up believing they do not have a gender.
The goal of raising a gender-neutral child is to eliminate the stereotypes. To allow them to live how they want and not feel pressured by society that they must act, feel and think a certain way based on the genitalia they were biologically born with.
This one may be difficult to do when mom is pregnant, but it is something that should be kept in mind until later. If possible, mom can try and join groups with other pregnant woman or moms with young children this will not only help mom avoid any loneliness when the baby comes, but it can help with gender-neutral parenting.
Mom will want to find a good mix of friends for her baby, that is she will want to make sure that her child gets to interact with all sorts of people. It is easy for moms to fall into the trap of making playdates with children of the same gender as their child, but this is not a good way to let them learn when trying to teach them gender-neutrality.
It is very important to think ahead when pregnant, especially when the idea is to raise a gender-neutral child. It is important that mom and dad allow their child to express themselves however they see fit, and that they feel safe doing so. We all want our children to open up to us and tell us everything that they are feeling. The only way to ensure this happens is to make sure that we do not hinder that relationship.
If mom has a son who loves to wear pink, take him shopping and let him express that. If you have done your job right, he won’t even realize that pink is a ‘girls colour.’ If you happen to have a little girl who loves playing soccer and rolling around in the dirt, go and play with her.
Now that you are about to become a parent, have you ever really sat down and thought about celebrities? That is probably the furthest thing from your mind at the moment, but it really shouldn’t be. These celebrities are going to be the kind that your child looks up to. It may not be something we like, but our children will one day idolize celebrities, and we need to make sure we are surrounding them with the right kind of role models.
If your aim is gender-neutrality, then you may want to think of celebrities who also display this same attitude towards life. Think Prince or David Bowie if you need some inspiration. Play their music, talk about them and have one heck of a dance party in the living room.
Probably the biggest rule when it comes to gender-neutral parenting is to remember that your child is an individual. They are their own person and they should be raised as such. What does that mean exactly? Well, we need to look at the vocabulary that we use when we refer to our children, especially when we are around them.
Parents can stop referring to their daughter’s as princesses, and their boys as tough little guys. These may seem innocent, and they are deep down, but they can be dangerous. Mom may be unintentionally labelling her child into a certain role that she should play.
The title of this sub-section is based on the fact that there may be more mom’s who are reading this article. However, it works for whatever your family dynamics are. It doesn’t matter whoever your partner is you want to make sure they are on board as well. Once two people become parents they also become a united front. Every decision must be made with both people on board and understanding of the common goal.
Trying to raise a gender-neutral child can be difficult if only one person is on board. If this is something that mom wants, but dad doesn’t it may be a battle when she wants to buy her son the doll he so desperately wants. Involve each other in all the discussions and shopping sprees.
Your partner may be the easy one when it comes to getting on board and discussing the idea of raising a gender-neutral child. Your family and friends may be another story. While it is only mom and dad who are making the decisions for their children, it is important that you make sure everyone who is going to play a role in your child’s life is understanding and on board with what you want.
It can be hard to have this conversation with family, because they are generally harder to ‘convince’ that this is a good idea. This doesn’t happen always, but it can. The older the generations go, the more rooted they are in gender roles. That does not make anyone horrible people, it is just the world they grew up in and all they know. It can be a great opportunity for everyone to learn, change and grow.
No one knows how to shop than a woman who is expecting a child. It is hard to resist shopping as soon as you see those two pink lines. It doesn’t help that items for babies are just so adorable. Mom-to-be will be browsing the aisles and throwing a while bunch of items in her cart. This can be dangerous when you are planning on raising a gender-neutral baby.
If you have decided to find out the sex of your baby, your mind may be automatically drawn to the colour of that sex, pink or blue. The clothes are marketing this way, and they are adorable. You want to be mindful of what you are buying. This doesn’t mean that you can only buy gender-neutral clothing, but you want there to be a good mix in there. This is another benefit to waiting until birth before you know if it is a girl or a boy.
Just as much as a woman loves to buy clothes and baby items, she equally loves to set up the nursing. Nesting is something that happens in pregnancy and it is very real. Nesting is this uncontrollable urge to get things ready for the baby, and this includes setting up the nursery. Even if the baby won’t be in there for a while, mom will still want it to be all ready.
If you are planning on raising a gender-neutral baby, you also want to make sure you be careful when you set up the nursery. You want to try and keep the nursery as gender neutral as possible. Grey is a very trendy colour right now and would be a perfect choice for a room that you want to be gender free. Add some greens or yellows and you have a pop of colour.
A lot of woman make a birthing plan as they near labour, and this normally includes things they would wish to happen during their childbirth. If they want pain relief, and who will cut the umbilical cord are the normal items you would find on a standard birthing plan. For a mom wanting to raise a gender-neutral baby she may want to include that in her birth plan.
The nurses won’t know that you are not placing too much emphasis on gender when your baby is born unless you let them know. If you let them know, then they could help in ways such as placing a gender neutral coloured hat on the baby, or by referring to the baby as its name and not he or she.
One of the hardest decisions expectant parents have to make is picking a name for their baby, let alone if they are planning on raising a gender-neutral child. A person’s name can become a way that they and the world around them define themselves. It is a big responsibility for any new parents to take on.
If you are planning on raising a gender-neutral child, you may want to pick a name that is unisex. A name that is not specifically geared towards a boy or a girl. This is especially helpful for parents who have decided not to find out the sex of the baby through an ultrasound. Then there are no preconceived notions based on the name your child bears.
Working on ourselves is something we do until the end. We are always looking for ways to improve ourselves and how to make the world a better place. If the intent is to raise a gender-neutral child, then we must look at ourselves. We are not perfect, and we may be holding on to gender stereotypes without even realizing it.
This doesn’t have to happen instantly, it can take time, which is why it is a good idea to start this in pregnancy. Take this time to do some research. Go on the internet and find some good reputable sources and learn about gender stereotypes and ways you can become more aware of any you may be holding on to, and more importantly, how to let them go.
We talked about making sure that you are paying attention to the clothes and toys that you are buying for your baby on the way, and we talked about how to make sure the nursery is as gender-neutral as it can be. However, the truth is the baby will spend a lot more time in the rest of the house than they will their room as they grow older.
This is why it is important to make sure your home is gender-neutral. This includes everything you find in the home, from the furniture to the baby toys. It can even mean what you are watching on TV. It is more about making sure your child is exposed to a variety of things, and that they are allowed the option to choose what interests them.
Every family has a different dynamic, or way of doing things and no way is wrong. We are just all different, and it is easy to fall into the stereotypical roles of a family. It is easy for it to be that dad goes to work and makes the money, while mom stays home and takes care of the house and children. If this works for your family, then this is great and wonderful. It may not be very helpful when you are trying to raise a gender-neutral child.
That’s not to say it has to change. If mom and dad are happy with the roles they play in the family, that is great, but it should be a part of conversation as your child grows that you do this because you are happy and not because you have to based on your gender.
When you become a parent, you have really just signed on to be a lifetime teacher. You will always be teaching your child, though most of this is done when they are young, and they are trying to learn their place in the world. This is the most crucial time in their life, and it is important that they are being taught lessons that will help them.
When mom is still pregnant it is important to come up with a teaching plan if they want to raise a gender-neutral child. Be more aware of your surroundings and notice wherever this is an opportunity to teach your child about gender stereotyping. Think about the different ways you notice it happening around you and how you can approach these topics with your child.
We mentioned earlier how we are usually defined by the name given to us at birth. This is not a bad thing and it actually could really come in handy when raising a gender-neutral child. Labels can often define a person, whether that be positive or negative and it is important to keep that in mind. Parents who want a child who doesn’t place much emphasis on gender will need to be mindful of how they refer to them.
Parents will want to make sure that they always call them or refer to them by their given name. It may be a good idea to avoid using ‘she’ and ‘he.’ This is not because you don’t want them to know and understand their biological gender, but because it is not important, and you don’t want to place emphasis on it.
References: forbes.com, quickanddirtytips.com