Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

Why I Refuse To Buy Gendered Gifts For My Kid This Holiday Season

Ad failed to load

Although my 1-year-old daughter is lucky to have a sizable assortment of toys, I can't say that I've frequented actual toy stores very much since her birth. It's not that I have a problem with the baby dolls, miniature monster trucks, kitchen sets, tool boxes, or singing teapots to be found there. Rather, I take issue with how they're all usually marketed — which is precisely why I won't be buying my kid gendered toys for the holidays.

In my experience, dolls, kitchen sets, and singing teapots are often pink. Their boxes feature smiley little girls in similarly rose-colored ensembles. The monster trucks and tool boxes, on the other hand, often sit in the "boy" aisles. Cool little dudes decorate their packaging while rocking blue, green, black, gray, or red ensembles.

Girls are sold the home-wear-inspired play things; the toys that teach them how to become caretakers or how to vacuum the rug. Boys get all things practical, like toy screwdrivers or Legos. They learn how to build things and make things, while their female counterparts pick up tips on how to clean up the resulting mess. It actually feels, for all our progress, that things have gone backward in the past four decades. Watch an old Fisher Price commercial from the '70s, and the boys play with little figurines, and the girls wear corduroy pants.

Ad failed to load

I'm not about to get rid of my kid's toys, of course. Luna loves her very pink tea set, for example. The pot sings a little tune about the merits of matching your tea to your cake (what?) and she enjoys pretending to take sips out of the cups. Equally, she finds smashing her trucks together or spinning their very fast wheels lots of fun.

Nonetheless, I'm not buying into the gendering of toys this holiday season. I'll welcome whatever gifts she receives from her rellos with gratitude, of course, but I won't personally feed into the message that, as a girl, she is somehow "supposed" to play only with Barbies or flowery plates and cutlery.

Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina
Ad failed to load

Now, look: I'm not saying that everyone who buys your daughter a Barbie or gifts your son a tool set is intentionally trying to condition your kid into assuming traditional gender roles. They're probably not looking at your little girl and thinking, "She'll make a great housewife someday," just because they buy her a toddler-sized kitchen. Nor are they likely thinking, "He'll make an excellent bread-winning alpha male," if they give your son a toy laptop, calculator, or briefcase. I don't believe that toys alone are responsible for the perpetuation of the gender binary, nor is every single individual who's buying them.

I do, however, believe that toys can contribute to the endurance of these norms. This is why Luna's toy box is full of cars, dolls, stuffed animals, tiny tools, and tea pots. When I'm asked for present ideas for her, I try to mix it up. I send my friends and family links to toys or clothes from both the "boy baby" and "girl baby" sections of my favorite retailers.

Ultimately, I want Luna to know, from an early age, that all of her interests are valid — whether they're historically thought to be "male" or "female" interests — and that she is entitled to explore any hobby, field, or career of her choosing as she grows up. I don't want her thinking that she's limited to cooking, care-taking, or becoming a princess (as toys marketed at little girls may suggest). There's nothing inherently wrong with any of those activities, but the imposition of them is certainly irksome.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

So rather than trying to strike a balance between buying Luna toys that are traditionally thought to be for boys versus those traditionally thought to be for girls, I'm trying something different for the holidays. I'll be sticking to toys that don't seem to painted by gender norms at all.

Music-related gifts, for example, still seem to be marketed towards children of all genders. Luna's main gift this year will be a wooden table featuring a small xylophone, drum set, and maracas. I'll also happily buy her books. Although some kid's stories definitely have male or female audiences in mind, most are meant to be enjoyed by all. I'm pleased that music and literature — two bringers of utmost joy and wonderment — haven't been too co-opted by gender stereotypes in the toy community.

Ad failed to load

Ultimately, I'm doing this because I'm already tired. Only a year into raising a little girl, I'm exhausted of how inescapable certain ideas of girlhood and womanhood already are in her life. Some folks have body shamed Luna right in front of me, chastising her double chin or not-flat stomach. Others have found it hilarious that she's a good eater because I myself am plus size. "Aren't you worried she'll be too much like you?" Others still have bought her pink on pink on pink outfits, so she can look like a "real-life doll."

Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

I don't need her to look like a "real-life doll," though. I don't need her to show an interest in baking or mopping. I don't care if she'd rather play with Tonka trucks than tea cups. I just want my daughter to be happy — and I think there's happiness to be found in instilling the belief that she can explore anything that fascinates her. That she can wear anything that fills her with warmth, comfort, and confidence. That she can work hard towards becoming whatever it is she wants to be, whether the occupation has historically been dominated by men or women.

Ad failed to load

I want her to know that gender roles don't define the person she is, or the person she will become. Maybe it's a lot to wish for. Maybe buying her "gender neutral" toys won't make much of a difference, one way or the other. I have to hope that small actions do make a difference, though. I have to hope that the messaging my husband and I share within the household teaches her that the best gift she can give herself in this life is simply to be herself. Whether that looks like a person who loves pink dolls, blue trucks, black tool kits, rainbow animals, or anything in between.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

6 Early Signs You're Going To Have A Short Labor, According To Experts

As far as I'm concerned, a short labor is right up there with winning the lottery in terms of lucky life events. (And when I was actually in labor, I would absolutely have traded a bucketful of lottery winnings for a speedier birth.) While some women…
By Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In March

You can always count on Netflix to keep it fresh: though there are already so many movies and shows to choose from, every month there's an influx of new content to keep your entire family entertained. As February enters its final weeks, it's time to …
By Megan Walsh

Here Are 10 Ways To Boost Your Baby's Immunity To The Flu

As I'm sure you've read in the thousands upon thousands of articles written about it this winter, the flu is spreading like wildfire and it's bad. Really bad. This strand of flu is the worst we've had in a very long time and it's the most widespread,…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Khloé Kardashian Asked Twitter About Her Bump, & Moms Totally Delivered

Like her younger sister Kylie Jenner, Khloé Kardashian managed to keep most of her pregnancy a sort-of secret. But unlike Jenner, Kardashian chose to publicly announce her pregnancy several months before the baby's due date. While there's no wrong wa…
By Sophie Hirsh

21 Moms Share The Most Surprising Part About Having A C-Section

Honestly, I don't think we, as a culture, talk about C-sections nearly enough, especially considering so many mothers experience them. And because of a number of factors, the little we do talk about it always seems to be a familiar narrative: "It's n…
By Jamie Kenney

13 Yummy Instant Pot Recipes To Make Under 30 Minutes

An Instant Pot seems to be the must-have appliance in every kitchen these days. If you are anything like me and never knew the beauty of a Instant Pot, you are about to have your life changed. Basically, you put some ingredients into a pot, set the t…
By Kristin Manna

9 Things The First Six Months Of Motherhood Will Teach You About Your Baby

Personally, the first six months of motherhood was a mixed bag. I learned some harsh lessons about myself that made taking care of my baby seem overwhelming. For example, I was clueless, and no amount of research could help me feel like anything but …
By Steph Montgomery

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack