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This week’s blog is written by AinA CCO, Lindsey Hamilton. Check out her discussion on influence, gender roles, and setting examples. 

Those around us change our lives.  Whether they’re family, friends, teammates, or total strangers, people leave marks, make in impressions, and oftentimes shape our paths in ways we never knew possible.

When I think back to those who influenced my passions early on in life, I can easily pick out a handful in particular that made a lasting impression.  My mom and dad are probably the most obvious kick-starters.  At a time when it wasn’t at all popular, my mom was the sole breadwinner for our family and my dad was the stay-at-home caretaker. It wasn’t weird to me. It was normal. Sure, I ran into some strange situations. Some kids at school made fun of me and taunted me with questions like, “Why can’t your dad get a job?” I was hurt and at the same time didn’t get it. Or when my best friend in kindergarten wasn’t allowed to come over and play unless my mom was home. Well, friend, she’s not and she won’t be, so I guess you can’t come over.

This shaped my life in unimaginable ways. Sure, I was a tomboy growing up (what does that mean, anyway?). My sister and I liked sports before dolls, never wore make-up, and didn’t have our ears pierced. But more than that it was the representation of “gender roles” that we learned and grew up with. I learned that there was no reason a woman couldn’t be the provider for the family; to work and love her children, both in the greatest capacities.  I learned that men could raise the family from home and simultaneously be masculine. My dad is still one of the strongest men I know.  I can remember when my mom would fill out paperwork and it would ask the father’s occupation – she always put “retired” for his.  Well, I guess so.  My dad owned his own business before they collectively decided it was best for him to be home with the children, but for all the moms out there all those years, the answer would’ve been “stay at home mom.”

I’m one of the lucky ones.  I grew up with examples of women in the workplace and men filling roles less traditional than before. Not everyone gets that, but everyone deserves it. Little girls need to see images of women like them providing, striving, and take charge. And little boys should be able to see representations of other men being able to participate in their families and in their adult lives without feeling like it will diminish their manly sense of self.

My parents didn’t make the decision to structure their family like this to break the mold of gender roles. But ultimately, that’s what happened. We’re all making decisions everyday that can and will impact those around us in ways we’re not even aware. Who has made an impact on you and, even more importantly, how are you demonstrating the possibilities for others?

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