Saturday, April 2, 2016

B is for Brothers--or lack thereof

My sisters and I, but no brothers.
I grew up in a family of four girls and no boys in the 1960's and 1970's--a time when gender roles were changing. The country was going from the traditional roles of women running the household and men bringing in the money to support it to Women's Lib which questioned every male/female role from the past.

So I often wonder if I had had brothers, would they have been treated any differently than the girls in our family. I saw differences in some of my friends' families. In some, the boys didn't have to do any work inside the house including babysitting younger siblings. But the boys had to mow the lawn because it was too "dangerous" for the girls.  In another family, the girls were only expected to get two-year college degrees while the sky was the limit for the boys. While I was used to the indoor/outdoor gender roles, the college difference always bothered me even at the time.

In our family, hard work and education was stressed more than anything else. My parent's hard work and education had allowed them to come from poverty to build a decent lifestyle for us. One of the things I remember that was said to me many times was that I had to have enough education to get a job that could support myself, a husband, and a family because you never knew what would happen.

My parents were a mix in the examples that they set for us in household roles. My mother stayed at home when we were little and went to work full-time when the last one us started school. My father always had a job outside the home, but did cooking and grocery shopping when needed.

How did that translate into what we kids (girls) did? We learned to cook, to sew, to iron, and to babysit. We learned to be caregivers for our grandmother and other elderly in the neighborhood. We also learned to wallpaper and lash a table. My mother would take us to Sunday school and my father would take us fishing and hunting. A little bit of a mix of everything.

Wally and Theo have no sisters.
I just don't know how my "brothers" would have been treated. I'd like to believe that we would have been treated equally (as equally as you can treat different people with different personalities) but I don't know. While I think my brothers would have had to cook, I don't know if they would have had to iron. And while I was ironing, I think they would have been doing more yard work, but I'm not sure.

I only had boys, so I don't really have any experience with a mixed gender family. We tried to raise Wally and Theodore with a set of skills they would need take care of themselves when they were adults. This included jobs across all traditional roles. Would we have treated daughters the same way? Probably, but I don't really know. (Okay, if I'm being honest, I was always envious of how cute little girls clothes were while little boy clothes were just stripes and solids. A girl may have had more clothes.)

So what's your experience? If you had both boys and girls in your family growing up, were they treated differently? Did you or are you seeing differences in the way you treat the boys and girls in your family?