Planes, Trains and Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes

Loving a child changes you, but not always in the ways you anticipate.

I’m going to be honest with you, readers.  I’m going to put it out there.  You may not like what I’m about to tell you, but bear with me.  I’m a work in progress.

I don’t love flying.  I don’t have a paralyzing fear of it, but often find myself anxious when we have to do it.  And while there has always been something naturally terrifying about the fact that a crap-tonne piece of metal can take to the skies with the lives of the passengers trusting engineering that they don’t understand,  my fears, much to my frustration,  also stem from what happened on a September day in America 11 years ago.

Which leads me to my confession: when we go to board a plane to make that intrepid seat-bound trek across the Atlantic once a year, I want, I NEED to see a grey-haired man with years of flying experience under his belt, looking calm and commanding in the cockpit.   There.  It’s out there.  I prefer middle-aged male pilots.

Or at least I did.

When I was pregnant we were unable to find out the gender of The Duchess.  We had to wait 40+ weeks to know for certain what her name would be.  We would shop for clothes, blankets, and nursery decor and would repeatedly ask, “Is this too girly?  Is this too boyish?”  You’d find no pink in her drawers.  You’d see no dolls in the room that would welcome her.  You couldn’t spot a blue bodysuit, a truck or a tractor.

And even after she arrived and the gender-related gifts came in, I found it very difficult to finally put her in her first gender-specific outfit.  For so long, we’d tried to avoid that because of not knowing who she’d be and now that she had arrived it seemed foreign to box her in in that way.

I am so glad for that.

I don’t know what I would have done had we found out her gender at 20 weeks.  I completely understand why parents do.  I bounced up and down, wriggled my hips and took a trip to the toilet to try and shift her so we could see.  It is practical to know.  But for me, the not knowing did something.  It helped free me up not to jump into filling her wardrobe with pink or her nursery with trucks.  There is something about not knowing that allowed me just to let her be who she would be.

She will scream with glee about the purple dress her Grandpa picked out for her.  She likes cars, buses, trucks, and tractors and talks about them more than anything else .  She makes “dip dip” for me in her kitchen.  Her favourite pajamas are blue flannel with a Thomas the Tank Engine pattern.  She stands at my bedroom mirror, dons my bracelets and  pretends to put on make-up.  She has a very realistic Triceratops called “Graaaw!”

And every now and again she will pull herself into the chair at our desk and request to see videos of real planes taking the skies.  When she does I look at her, feel immensely proud and think, “Maybe she’ll be a pilot someday.”



3 thoughts on “Planes, Trains and Thoughts on Gender Stereotypes

  1. michelloui

    I don’t think your need to see a middle-aged man flying the plane has much to do with gender stereotyping in this instance–it’s more that as someone who is uncomfortable in that situation, you’ve created a list of things in your head that you know make you feel more comfortable and one of those is to see someone who represents (in your mind) control and skill. That could be for a load of personal reasons that aren’t about gender stereotyping!

    On another note, isn’t it cool watching our children and wondering what they’ll be when they grow up? The world is their oyster!!

    1. Living Life as an Expat Parent Post author

      Thanks for commenting, Michelle! I did ask myself those exact things before posting, but I actually do think that in this case I make certain assumptions about a man’s strength, experience and capability to face a crisis in the air versus a woman’s. Because women pilots seem quite abnormal to me, I somehow haven’t trusted that they are also just as capable. That is just me being honest, although I don’t like admitting it.

  2. Deborah

    Love this post. It reminds me of my daughter in a lot of ways. She is very girly and feminine (maybe partly because we did know she was going to be a girl and I did fill her closet with lots of girly things). However because of her brother’s influence she plays with trains and cars more than anything else, but she does love her kitchen and babies. She loves to linger in front of her closet and tell me what she wants to wear, yet she can rough house with the best of the boys. Its all so fun and I love it! 🙂


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