Chores in our home are divided according to age and skills, not gender.
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My boss asked me to write a few words about how I teach my children about equality. I thought I’d ask my six-year-old son, Stach for his opinion. Who knows, maybe he could come up with some brilliant idea for the beginning of the article. So, I tell him that more or less, I am writing about the fact that girls and boys are equal, and I ask:

“What do I always say? What should a boy and a grown man be able to do?”

“Pee standing up,” he replied instantly.

Well, that’s not fair.

Oops, I don’t even remember saying anything about peeing. So I give the lad hints that it’s about cleaning and about what it is like in many homes. I can tell from his expression that he’s thinking hard, the synapses are crackling under his scalp. Finally, he says: “It makes no sense that only girls and women should clean when boys...” He tilts his head back and sticks out his tongue, which is supposed to illustrate a sleeping guy, “are lying about”.

“Why?” I keep asking.

“Well, that’s not fair,” he says with an almost contemptuous matter-of-factness, as if I didn’t get something obvious.

Stach didn’t understand what I meant, because he simply doesn’t deal with the unequal treatment of men and women on a daily basis. For him, the fact that women work, are politicians, go into space, are entitled to the same pay is just as natural as the fact that men clean, wash and change babies' nappies. One thing I’ll give you is that it’s been a lot easier because of the divorce, however strange this may sound. Due to this and no other family situation, my children simply see their mother cleaning, washing and cooking in one house, and in the other – their dad cleaning, washing and... well, OK, heating up the dinner (but heating up is also work in the kitchen!).

I have always taught Stach that there are no girly and boyish activities, toys or colours. When he was three years old, he picked a pink backpack with Masha and the Bear and was walking around with it for at least two years.

Likewise, my three-year-old daughter Łucja never hears that something is wrong for a girl. Besides, I’d like to see the daredevil who’d try and impose something on my wild daughter or, goddess forbid, refuse her something. I think I would probably see a skeleton dumped by the side of the road.

Łucja loves to dress in Stach’s astronaut costume or, as she calls it, an astronautess costume, as she is an absolute supporter of gender equality in language. She calls herself a “huwoman” or “blaggeress”.

Using both forms is one of the methods I use. When I explain something to my children, I always say that the country is governed by a president or a presidentess, that we will be received by a doctor or a doctoress. I believe in research that shows that what’s unnamed, doesn’t exist.

I get the kids to work

Apart from that, quite frankly, I simply get the kids to work. Chores in our home are divided according to age and skills, not gender. When Stach was a year old, he would get a sheet of paper towel after a meal to wipe the top of his chair.

One-year-old Łucja was throwing her own nappies into the bin. Stach has been setting the table for dinner for two years now. Until recently, he had also been putting things back into the fridge, but some time ago Łucja, who always wants to do what her brother does, must have thought that it’s a very exciting activity, as she started intruding into that. Stach, who had previously been clearing the table rather sluggishly, suddenly saw that his sister wanted to compete with him and protested. As a result, almost every night my kids fight over who’s going to clear the table because they both want to do it. They also fight properly, i.e. they beat each other up equally, because – read the above – Łucja has never heard that it isn’t befitting of a girl and Stach has never heard that you can’t beat up girls. They are both told that generally you don’t beat people, but in this field, as you can see, I have no parenting success.

My children also know the phrase: “Mummy’s not a maid”. I explain to them that we’re a family and that’s why we do different things for the common good; each of us contributes, because we love each other and we don’t want to be unfair to the rest. When I face strong resistance, I say: “I can do everything by myself, but then I’ll probably be so tired that I won’t be able to play with you tonight”. It always works because the kids like when I play with them.

I’ve always simply wanted to raise self-dependent people. This means not only that they know how to do things by themselves but also that they don’t look for someone to seize onto and use. I’d die of shame if my son ever tried to take advantage of a woman. I have only told Stach once: “A man, like any human being, must know how to cook, clean and iron. You know what boys who can’t do that have to do? They have to ask girls for help. Embarrassing, innit, son?”

Since then Stach has been convinced that there is no greater shame than when a man uses a woman. And I hope it stays that way.

And his sister? I’m not worried.

“Tenderness and freedom. Let's build balanced relationships” is a campaign run by Kulczyk Foundation along with “Wysokie Obcasy” and “Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation”.

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