A Father’s Hope: An Equal World
As a father of two young boys, ages seven and five, I am filled with awe at their never-ending curiosity and zest for life. The novel coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of our routines, but it has not altered how I parent. It has created an opportunity for me to teach my sons how to work towards a more just and equal world.
I do miss the weekly outings, soccer practices and hearing their thoughts about the ancient, the modern world and everything in between during our morning commutes to school. As engaging as these conversations were, it often made me question my role as a parent to encourage them to think freely and discover their own place in this world.
Long gone are our drives to school; now, they attend Zoom classes from 8:00 am to noon. And our weekends are spent at home.
During this time of staying home, I’ve been wondering how I can ensure that my sons understand that gender roles are flexible and if I’m doing enough. If I had a daughter, would I have different expectations for her? Am I a consistent role model for my sons? Am I teaching them that my role in our family can be malleable and that a woman does not need to be the caretaker just because she is a woman?
I do not know if I have the answers to all of these questions, but I hope I am on the right track. My wife and I share child-rearing responsibilities. We also share household chores and cooking duties. We know our sons learn more by watching us than listening so we always try to set a good example at home.
Gender stereotypes limit the development of skills, educational opportunities and economic stability of women and girls. Violence against women and girls is also rooted in harmful social norms that gender roles create and reinforce. As a member of the Gender Initiatives team at Episcopal Relief & Development, I work to equip both women and men with tools and spaces to question and challenge these hurtful social customs, protect and support survivors of violence, and empower women and girls in general. I work to create lasting change, by stressing the importance of family. Childhood is when many beliefs are established. Children at a young age are able to pick up on differences in their mothers’ and fathers’ interactions.
This Father’s Day, I can’t help but ponder the pivotal role I play in the overall development and well-being of my sons. Knowing they look to me for guidance, I hope they learn that showing emotion, vulnerability and compassion are not signs of weakness. I hope my words and deeds can inspire my sons to become more compassionate and to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. I hope they grow up to believe in gender equality as much as I do so that they can do their bit to create a more peaceful and equal world. This would be the greatest Father’s Day gift of all.
Ernest Cajuste is a Program Officer for International Programs at Episcopal Relief & Development.
Image 1: Ernest pictured along with his wife and two sons; Second Image: Ernest’s sons running around playfully outdoors before COVID-19.