I live right next to two primary schools so whenever I get out in the early mornings on any given school day, I would see lots of kids going to school with parents, grandparents or maids in tow.
It is already an old story and common-sight that you would see: the accompanying maid/parent/grandparent is carrying the kid’s schoolbag (and if it is raining, sheltering the kid with an umbrella).
Well, a new twist to an old familiar scene came my way not too long ago.
Amidst the sea of schoolbag toting parents/grandparents/maid and the occasional kid who did his or her own heavy lifting, a couple stood out for me as I stepped out onto the pavement and into the passing crowd one crisp morning.
A few steps ahead of me walked a couple with their daughter. The man and the woman were dressed in a way that would suggest they were going to work after sending their little one to school. Whilst the man carried his laptop bag in one hand and held his daughter’s hand in the other, he chatted animatedly with his daughter, who skipped along cheerfully. The woman walked silently two or three steps behind, carrying her laptop bag, her handbag and her daughter’s schoolbag.
Wow! I stand ready to be accused of being judgmental, but in that micro-moment, I felt like we’d taken 30 years’ step back on gender equality. What were the man and the woman unconsciously teaching their little girl through their behaviours? I hope it was a one-day glitch with a perfectly logical ad reasonable reason beneath the behaviours and that on other days, the picture would be a different one, with both the man and the woman participating as equals in that morning journey to their daughter’s school. I might never know because I have not seen that couple in the crowd since. But it bears a reminder to me that in little unconscious moments like these, how we role-model our gender roles will leave a legacy behind for our kids – will it be an inheritance of progress or of status quo?