Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My Teen Son's 'Ideal' Girlfriend

I enjoy going on a date with my teenage son. That's often the time when he is not distracted by his gadgets at home, nor by his chatty little brother. That's the time when he and I could sit across the table from each other, that we could have each other's attention, and talk as equals.

Last Friday was his school teacher's learning day, so he was off. I let him wake up 'naturally'. Well, I thought, kids need their sleep replenishment. He got off bed at 11 AM, and right after that, we started off to our favorite hotpot restaurant, and we have to be there at 11:30 am when they open, or else we have to wait. 

In our date on the previous Friday, he told me about his school essay on Sexism Against Boys. This subject seems to be his favorite research topic for the last two weeks. So this time, as soon as he sat down, he started telling me more about why men need to be laborers of the world taking on hard and dangerous jobs that make them suffer from 93% fatalities versus women spend 70% more than men in household spending. As a feminist, I gave him the example that women are usually given the responsibility to take care of the family, so they make purchases on behalf of the family, not just for themselves. I gave him examples that I do the household groceries most of the time, I book all the flights and hotels for our vacations, I buy him his books, his shirts, his phones etc; of course on the 'record' I make more spending! But I don't usually spend on myself, I spend on all of the family. So he needs to look deeper beyond the plain statistics.

With that said, I told him that's the reason why women-driven 'Family technology' forms the next segment of high tech that will take off! Women are the most appropriate people to define and design these solutions for the families because they are the ones who will spend money buying them! Yeah for Famtech.io.

He then asked me, "So why are guys always expected to pay while they go on dates?"

Interesting question. So I asked him back, "What would you do if you were to go on dates?"

He said, "I expect that we both will split the bill. That's how I can filter out the type of girls I will continue to date or not. I want a girl who can be my equal, not a girl who thinks that I am a walking wallet."

Oh my goodness. I was thinking to myself. "Walking wallet!" That's a very serious term to use. Very insulting to a 'feminist' like myself. I must educate my son to be respectful...but what's the right way to do that?

"Where did you learn the term walking wallet?". He answered: "I read in some article when I was doing research about this topic." 

"You understand that there is a big difference between splitting up family responsibility between a man and a woman right? The society started with men being the bread earner and women taking care of the kids and household, except that in recent years, more women are educated, so they also go out and work. Different families and people make different decisions about how they split the responsibility for what's best for their family. Families who decide that men go out to work and women stay home just mean that they think at a certain time, with their situation that's the best arrangement", I said.

I then asked him, "Well, assuming if there is this girl, you marry, and then you have kids. Who do you expect to take major responsibility of taking care of the kids?"

He gave me an unexpected answer, "We will share responsibility." How? "You are going to need to go to work. When you are both not there, who takes care of the kid?" He said "We work at different times. One person works in the morning, one person work in the afternoon."

Hmmm, I thought... "Flexible schedule. That's sounds good. But easier said than done. Your employers will most likely want to see you follow the regular 9-5 work schedule, and worse still 9am - 8pm work schedule, how do you cope? Somebody will have to make the sacrifice, and usually from social norm, women are often the ones to make the sacrifice to quit their job and take care of the kid."

He gave me a very different response: "If I ever get married and have kids, that's probably the time when I am quite established in my career and a very important contributor. My employer will need to accommodate my flexible schedule request for me to want to contribute to them."

"But your employer will think that you are home taking care of your kids rather than working.", I pondered.

"No, I just need to show them the result of my work.", he said.

"I like your self-confidence. It sounds like a good plan, but you got to work hard to achieve that."

What he said has really got me thinking. Is this an employment policy issue that there isn't a more flexible work arrangement, or most employees just haven't asked for it, or just more self-limiting expecting that employers just aren't that accommodating. Should employers spell it out? Or employers as part of wellness program, to offer more confidence to employees whose identity are parents?

I love to speak with more employer HR people to explore the possibilities. After all, that's could the the family/work life balance of our next generation.

But at this time, I became a lot more curious about what his 'ideal' girlfriend is like or rather whether he has thought about that at all since he is talking about dates.

"So what's the type of girl that you are looking for?"

"I want a girl who can be my equal, who does not expect me to do this or that for her. We share responsibility in everything we do. And someone who understands me, shares my interests so that we can talk about the topics in common. She does not need to be very pretty, I prefer her to be kind and understanding.", he answered.

"So you like a girl who is more independent?" 

"Why do you use the term independent? Boys who can do things you think that it is just their natural responsibility and girls who can do things you use the term more independent? No, it is just natural, normal."

"Okay. I like it that you have thought about this by yourself and have your own opinions of the type of girl you are looking for. And it sounds like pretty good qualities. I like it that you are discussing it with me. Have you been noticing such girls yet?"

He got a bit shy. "I just have been thinking of that while doing research for my essay. I don't think it is easy for me to find the girl whom I will like because most girls are not brought up to think that they should not rely on guys."

That I disagree. "I disagree. I think most girls these days are brought up to believe that they are equal. I truly see it." We then went back to the whole circle of discussion about why school P.E has different scale for boys and girls - that he believes that already bring girls up to think that they are naturally weaker, and boys to think that they are stronger. On that, I think he has a good point.

My boy is really growing up. He is even thinking about the type of girlfriend he might be looking for. He has his own mind, his own opinion, his own preference. I respect it. I am glad that I can be his guide, someone he is willing to share and discuss his opinion with. That's most important to me, not to control what he thinks, he needs to be able to think as an independent human being. I just want to have the opportunity to discuss his thoughts and feelings and guide him if he is not going in the right direction. I feel that I have it.  

By the way, yes, I did ask for my teen son's permission if I could publish our conversation. 

*This blog is the 4th story in the sequel of From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate.
Read more here:
1. From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate,
2From Tiger Mom to Emotional Intelligence Advocate (II): 5 Learnings on How to Let a Child Fly
3. A Date with My Teen Son

* Seow Lim is POVI's creator and founder. 

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