I fell in love with a picture on Pinterest and decided that no other kitchen would do, despite the fact that for the same amount of money (and less time), I could have ordered one off Amazon. I’m kinda stubborn that way.
The kitchen I picked was classed as an ‘IKEA hack’ – which basically means using parts and components from the blue and yellow flatpack giant for something other than their intended purpose (such as the base of this kitchen being a simple pine bedside table).
As I excitedly shared the progress of my building project, I encountered a fair share of gendered remarks about my daughter getting a kitchen, as though exposure to a simple toy was going to teach her to expect, and accept, a life of domestic servitude.
Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely appreciate these types of comments (well, maybe not initially) because they prompt me to think and explore how I feel about something.
So my first question is:
What makes a kitchen so gendered anyway?
I mean, there are plenty of male celebrity chefs and cooking show hosts – they must have gotten started somewhere! Many of my mummy friends have husbands who cook (I should be so lucky!). In a lot of households, the kitchen is where families spend a considerable amount of time. It certainly seems to be the most popular room for representatives of both genders to hang out at parties.
Equally, my mummy tribe confirmed that play kitchens are the most popular toy at playdates for kids of any gender. Part of the reason I became interested in a kitchen for Lilly was observing her playing with the one belonging to one of her playmates. HE, in fact, has two kitchens, and I don’t think anyone is making an issue out of that.
I will also point out that Lilly had great fun helping me hammer and screw her kitchen together. I know it was meant to be a birthday surprise but hey, it’s kinda hard to hide DIY projects in a small apartment. I am sure at some point (space permitting), she will also be in possession of a workbench, although I might defer to the shop-bought version on that one. Equally, she quite happily plays with Duplo blocks – in gender-neutral colours – and anything and everything that has wheels.
Overall, I tend to be on the ‘both/and’ vs. the ‘either/or’ side of the argument.
Besides, I don’t need to ‘teach’ Lilly anything. She doesn’t even know these dreadful gender stereotypes exist yet… and long may that last!
All I need to do is provide her with an environment where she can play and explore and decide what she likes best for herself in that moment. Ok, and shield her from really OTT gendered toys like Barbies, pink Lego and macho action figures for as long as possible.
As for me, I don’t think I ever had a play kitchen when I was little, and I still learned to love to cook and have a life. Mind you, from a scarily young age, basically tall enough to reach the cooker on a stool, I was allowed to do real things on a real stove. Simple things, like scrambled and fried eggs, under strict supervision, of course. Guess that was a different era!
Anyway, kitchen or not, I actually want my daughter to honour her girlyness, in whatever shape it comes. After all, she isn’t a boy, and trying to make her one by exposing her to certain toys while denying others would only serve to reinforce the notion that she isn’t already enough exactly as she is.
For a long time, I actually completely disowned the sensitive, playful, feminine part of me in order to be successful in a ‘man’s’ (corporate) world, and in hindsight, the act of pretending was a lot more work that the jobs ever were. But that’s a different story.
Personally, I feel that every time we continue to make an issue out of this gender stuff, we simply reinforce it. We neither live in a Victorian age nor in the 60s, so let’s drop it.
On that note, I’d better be taking my own advice.
Swiftly signing off…
Images: shutterdaddy.com, author's own