One of the natural perks of a single parent family is that we have the opportunity to live outside the box in terms of gender stereotypes. As the sole parent, we can take on both the “traditionally” masculine and feminine roles and we can encourage our children to develop beyond those stereotypes as well. The first step, however, is that we have to acknowledge how we may be clinging to stereotypes and figure out how to move beyond them.
I am proud to say that my version of a single parent family is pretty much stereotype-free. This is not to say that I have been able to shield my kids completely from gender stereotypes because they definitely get some “traditional” divisions of labor and such when they go to their other parent’s house, but in my house, by making a conscious effort, we have been able to bust down many of those traditional stereotype traps.
By seeing a single mom or dad do all the chores and jobs of running a household, as well as tend to the emotional needs of the children, the kids get to see that these stereotypes are constructed. Since they can be constructed, the can be deconstructed as well! Attitude makes a big difference—if you lament that you do not have a “man around the house” to fix things or take out the garbage, children will either try to figure out why the jobs are beyond you, or absorb the expectation that men take out the garbage and fix things and women cannot.
In addition to how you approach your own life and gender stereotypes, consider how you parent your children—are you pushing those expectations onto them? Are you assigning chores based on traditional gender roles (boys take out the garbage and girls wash the dishes) or making statements that share those stereotypical beliefs? Remember that life in a single parent household is an opportunity to explore and push beyond the limiting gender stereotypes.