My Mom Raised Me a Feminist

“I don’t want to give the world a guy that can’t iron his own shirt,” she said.  

“I won’t give your future wife a husband who won’t do the dishes,” she said.

My mom took extreme pride in raising my sister and me to be independent. We grew up unaware of traditional gender roles that exist, and our independence surely shaped both of us as we grew older, not only in our individual lives but in our lives as partners to our significant others. My mom was raised with a father who was a modern-day renaissance man, not paying attention to the social norms that existed and still exist. He didn’t hesitate to be an incredibly resourceful man – an expert in cooking and cleaning; he could have taught my high school ‘home economics’ class.  

I owe a lot to my mom, as she showed me that traditional gender roles were not only archaic, but not tolerated or endorsed in our family, and I was raised not knowing any other way. I was raised in an equal opportunity household where everyone had to pull their own weight to help our family of four, and the various responsibilities knew no gender or age. My dad is a master in scrubbing floors and makes some of the best omelets on the planet. In my childhood home, whoever prepared the meal, never cleaned after said meal, and it was an unspoken rule that the house was to stay immaculate, you know… as you never know who might just drop by.  

Enter- my own marriage.
Enter- wife that is a self-confessed workaholic.    
Enter- child.

Fact: Kate and I both work a lot. At the present moment, it’s Saturday night, and she’s in our office. August has been asleep since seven, we ate dinner around seven thirty, and as my family tradition dictated, once she was done with dinner, we both knew that I would have that kitchen cleaner than it’s ever looked within the hour.  It’s how it works around here. I take specific pride in my cleaning and detailing skills as I believe I can clean our kitchen better than the ‘professionals’ that visits our house from time to time. I test my performance as I test theirs and plain and simple, I’m better, and dammit that means something to me because if the whole marketing for the footwear brand thing fails, I know I can be one of the top house cleaners in the Twin Cities.  

Fact: When I’m not traveling, I wake up with August every morning so Kate can sleep. On a normal night, I’m fast asleep by 10 pm, while Kate’s creative flow is found anywhere from 11 pm – 4 am, so it’s logical that I’m the morning guy. I rub my eyes, walk into our son’s bedroom, am greeted with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, and we go about our routine. August is fed, Winnie is fed, Winnie is let out, August is bathed, and if our incredible Nanny isn’t on-site, August is laid next to Kate so I can shower, eat, and run out the door for the hour commute to my office.  

Fact: The Arends-Peters household is an equal opportunity establishment that like my own upbringing doesn’t recognize or have time for traditional gender roles. Kate is a parent, I am a parent and there is no discrimination in who does what, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We do our best to keep a manageable calendar so our nanny knows the logistics of who will be home so she can go home, but it’s a far cry from organized. We get by with a LOT of help from our sisters, moms, and a roster of incredible females that inspire us both.

See, I don’t feel emasculated when I do work around the house, because it’s ours, and the idea of one of us having ownership of it seems futile. Moreover, I’m proud of what I accomplish via the vehicle that is my profession, but if I’m honest, I don’t think I could do anything at ‘work’ that would come close to the things that I do for our family. August will be raised by a diverse village where the only thing that we all have in common is love for that little boy.  

It was fitting to post this near International Women’s Day because while I will never know what it’s like to live in the world my mother, wife, and sister live in, I can do my part to acknowledge that gender “roles” exist outside the walls of our house. So, let’s forget whatever anyone told you about what your ‘role’ in this whole thing should be and let’s just be the best parents, children, bosses, and humans we can be. 

Images provided by 2ndTruth

Joe Peters lives in Saint Paul, MN with his wife Kate, son August, and trusted Labrador, Winnie. In his spare time, he’s the head of marketing for Vasque Footwear.