I have a wish.

My husband and I decided to wait to find out the gender of our baby. We wanted that old school moment in the delivery room. And while deciding to be surprised has been an adventure filled with mostly fun impatience, wonder, and excitement, it has also been downright annoying.

As I plunged into my journey of impending mama-hood, I was flooded with more information, research, well-meaning advice/opinions than ever. As I tried to satisfy my never-ending to-do list, I found something very troubling. It seems we have accepted the arbitrary gender specific designations that manufacturers took the liberty of assigning to our kids for their own agendas.

If you go into a children’s store in the U.S., you will quickly notice either predominantly blue or pink sections. And within each section you will either see superhero or princess themed items. I am over-simplifying here to make a point but the general idea is true. (Fyi, there are also sports paraphernalia for the boys and cooking sets for the girls.) It seems we have decided from a very young age how we see boys and girls. The gender bias is unmistakable.

With all the regulations and standards we have in place for our children’s welfare and safety, I wonder why we don’t think of their social and developmental needs more critically. Yes, there are countless books/devices and ways to help your child ‘learn’ and ‘get ahead of the game,’ but I am talking about the simple gender divide we seem to be ok inflicting on our kids from day 1.

Interestingly enough, the more research I did, I found that young girls actually test higher than young boys across the board. When they are in elementary school, they seem to thrive and actually surpass most boys in all subjects. So then why are there so few women in positions of leadership and power? Why don’t we see as many women in the STEM fields? Why is it still very much an ‘ol boys club’ out there? It seems that when girls start hitting puberty and start thinking about boys liking them, things shift. They are subtly taught that it would be easier to get a boy if they weren’t smarter than them. ‘Guys don’t like opinionated girls.’ ‘Strong girls are bitches.’ ‘You need to find someone to take care of you.’ ‘No man will be ok with you being their boss.’ The messages are abundant and pervasive. And thus, the dumbing down and over-sexualization begins. Priorities shift. And I haven’t even touched on the media influences that compound the problem.

Moreover, we, ourselves, perpetuate it! I see and hear it incidentally. I often hear a parent say ‘oh, why don’t you let your brother do that?’ Or ‘that’s not a boys’ job; your sister will take care of it.’ Commonly used adjectives like ‘tomboy’ and ‘boycut.’ Pushing girls into home economic classes and making boys take shop. ‘Boys will be boys.’ Affectionately calling our girls ‘princess.’ Reading them fairytales where the woman has to be saved by a man to live happily ever after. The examples are countless. It’s embedded in our culture and socialization.

I am not saying that there isn’t an organic or appropriate place for where this may make sense. There is value to be placed in some of it, if introduced and discussed mindfully. I am just shocked that we accept it so readily as if it has to be the norm. Why don’t we demand better?

My husband and I heard it from every side. Doctors, friends, family. When we would tell people we didn’t know the gender of our baby, people wondered how we could properly prepare or get the nursery ready. And if we actually bought something that happened to be blue or pink, they thought we must secretly know the gender. As if dressing or surrounding our child in one of those colors had to mean that it was a boy or girl.

I have a friend who told me that when she had her son, she was sent all sorts of cute outfits that said ‘Next President of the United States.’ But when she had her daughter, none of that came. It was frilly, cute, ‘princess’ stuff. I have a male friend who expressed his annoyance that we have all these systems in place for ‘maternity leave’ but that it isn’t really fair in this day and age. Of course, a woman needs time to recover but after that time period, we should really be offering ‘parental leave.’ Assuming that the woman would be the one staying home is archaic and there are more and more men who would love that choice if given the opportunity. Let a family decide what works for them.

I am unsettled at what we are subliminally teaching our kids.

I don’t have the answers. I just rebuff the status quo. It’s an increasingly intricate and challenging world. Especially to raise kids in. And it’s hard enough to just be you. Figuring out who we are and what we want to impart in this world is intimidating enough, we don’t need to have all these gender expectations and limitations thrust upon us.

Can we just let children be who they are going to be? Whatever that is? With no reticence and hushed whispers.

I itch for the day when more men would be proud to declare, ‘these badass women lead and work beside me.’ And where more women support and raise each other up.

A world where we can be equal parts Hillary Clinton and Pharrell or Steve Jobs and Beyonce.

That’d be grand.

—Sheetal Sheth

*Sheetal and Neil welcomed a baby girl into the world on August 19.

29 Comments

  • Sarita says:

    Beautifully said!

    Congratulations and cheers to your new family.

  • Jamie says:

    If only more people had this mentality. In sociology I am constantly pushing people to critically view social norms and how we often accept them unconditionally without actually considering them and their consequences. Excellent post.

  • Ana says:

    Para empezar disculpad que escriba en español pero no tengo muy buen ingles. Desde siempre la mujer y el hombre han sido deparados por una barrera, para niños coches para niñas cocinitas, influenciados por que el hombre debe dominar y la mujer ser dominada, yo he vivido eso en casa, quería un coche radio control y tuve una cocina y una barbie…. Desde pequeñas nos enseñan a ser guapas y coquetas para gustarle a los chicos, nos enseñan que si somos fuertes e independientes no encontraremos un marido que ”nos cuide” a ningún hombre le gusta una mujer independiente que sabe cuidarse por si misma, ¿un niño que juega con muñecas? Gay seguro… Prejuicios absurdos de una sociedad machista, influenciada por el hecho de que el hombre es protector de la mujer. La educación puede cambiar. ¿Alguna vez oísteis la frase de… Los niños pueden llegar a ser muy crueles?. Los niños aprenden de lo que ven de los adultos que los rodean si en la tv y en sus padres ve que las muñecas son cosa de niñas nunca jugara con ellas, si cree que lo hará menos hombre. La gente necesita ponerle etiquetas a todo, señalar y comentarlo todo sobre todos, el día que tenga hijos los criare en igualdad de condiciones y si mi hija quiere un coche radio control tendrá su coche y mi hijo si la quisiera tendrá su barbie, a mi hace mucho dejaron de afectarme los prejuicios de los demás y deje de ser una marioneta del sistema.

  • Marivani Chacon says:

    I am always thrilled with you Sheetal, you have every special and consistent a way of thinking! I agree and think the same as you and your husband !! The world will be better and more fair when you stop this thinking man or woman and think of humans that can realiazar any task for a common good … God bless your family … that other families follow the same thought and ideas, so we can have a more just and happy society !! All the best and you live in my heart !! And Ember Arya also !! Kisses

  • Diane says:

    Love it, thanks for sharing!xo

  • Lisa Mezta-Lopez says:

    What an awesome blog. Such a beautiful family the 3 of you make. So happy for you. Much love to you all.

  • Joya Weinroth says:

    Well you have taken the first step towards changing all this. You brought a human into this world and now you can get to work. It is an awesome experience and sometimes scary responsibility. In our house my girls think Moms go to work and Dads stay home. At our house Dad joins the PTA and runs the school fundraisers. And they see lots of other families just like this (heck most of my friends have stay at home Dads and working Moms. Must be an LA thing!?!) You just do the best you can and arm them with love. xoxo

  • Jackie Brown says:

    Awesome read. Congrats on your new bundle of joy. I just had my first born 6 months ago and it's been an amazing ride. Bibs, bibs!! You can never have too many 🙂

  • Sha Leary says:

    You both have already made efforts to imprint on those old suffocating and suppressive views where we are expected to conform. Here’s to a hopeful shift through challenging the staus quo. I raise a glass you your efforts xx

  • Sofia Hart says:

    Bravo! I am proud to be friends with both of you, Joya and Sheetal!

  • Amber Dolle Field says:

    Just saw your blog on my fb page…we decided not to find out the sex of either of our kids as well. Was very frustrated how gender specific everything was too. I was also frustrated that little girl clothes (which was our first baby) was mostly pink. I mean, I like blue and green and brown clothes for girls too. As for the pigeon-holing society does to the boys and girls…that will be up to us to talk with them about. I want my daughter to do well at what ever she does so I hope to encourage her to clean the dinner dishes just as well as her partner cooked the meal and to run a business just as well as her husband changes their baby's diapers and vice verse:) Congratulations you two on your lovely new family addition!

  • From the day a girl is born, her parents must instill in her the security that she can be whatever she chooses as long as she prepares. No mountain is too high if she believes that she can. This is by default the male birthright.

  • Teresa Kay Carter says:

    Gender roles of male and female are learned in our country. Most of us have been socialized to act masculine or feminine and the media does a lot to add to that. I am praying that our future generations will be more free and open to all genders; that labels will disappear and we will all just be one people.

  • Sumola devi says:

    Its really worth to read..thank you for sharing such a beautiful ideas and thoughts..congratulation to your new family.

  • Joan Rosazza says:

    Once it became legal, my partner of 44 years, spouse for ten of those years, and I adopted two orphan infants from China. Your "baby blues" speaks so directly to our philosophy for raising them. How affirming it is to read! One turned out to be a "girly girl" as her sister calls her. Off to college this year to study pediatric nursing. Her sister, as a young child, played with legos, built towns with assorted blocks, and made a football team with her sister's barbies. Having finished her sophomore year of college, she just finished air force basic training, is in tech school learning how to fix and design structure for air planes, and loves history. I have admired you as a person after reading so much about you, who you are as a person, and how much you give back.

  • Lynn Anning says:

    Dear Sheetal, how lucky is she to have you as a Mum, and have her beautiful Dad who is thinking so well about these things? Good on you both. The World needs your points of view, as they will push us forward the right way.

  • Maureen says:

    well, yeah. welcome to the club ember!

  • Congratulations on your new baby. I have recently been introduced to your acting and you are awesome. I look forward to seeing more of you in the future. Thank you for being such a strong and beautiful role model. Keep up the great work.<3 Equality for all!

  • megz says:

    Congratulations Sheetal Sheth ! God bless to you’re angel. Good health and protection is always yours!

  • Your baby girl has your nose and mouth, she has your husband's eyes. Congratulations on your new journey, may God bless your paths into parenthood.

    There are many many questions this world can't answer. Nobody has all the Answers, except our God. We are surrounded by many mysteries and people should be who they want to be. And maybe when people deal with hard trials and mistreatment by ignorant people, strength and faith will make them survivors.

    GOD BLESS YOU.

    Connie

  • Congratulation and love to your new family <3

  • Incredibly well thought out and beautifully stated. Congratulations to you and your family.

  • Vrushali Bandiwadekar says:

    beautifully articulated blog.. worth reading!

  • Ritu Singh says:

    Thanks for sharing Vrushali Bandiwadekar. This blog spoke my mind Sheetal. Aap dono ko mubarakbaad!

  • Natasha Ali says:

    Congratulations 🙂
    enjoyed reading

  • Sandra says:

    You are amazing !!

  • Amanda says:

    Awesome! I absolutely will show it to my friends and family. We were discussing about that on the international woman’s day. It’s really important sharing positive ideas that can change people’s lifes.

  • Priya Jain says:

    Your thoughts are as beautiful as you are.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *