I’m a plan-obsessed control-freak – but I’m not finding out the sex of baby #2. Here’s why…

When I fell pregnant with my daughter, I was absolutely sure I wanted to know the sex of the baby as soon as possible. At the time I didn’t mind if the baby was a boy or a girl, but I had convinced myself that it would be easier to bond with, and ‘visualise’ the baby, if I knew the sex. Paranoid that the pregnancy wouldn’t go to plan, I figured that the time I had to get to know the baby would be invaluable time I’d never get back if the worst was to happen.

More practically, I’m also a compulsive planner, so the more time I had to buy all the stuff I needed and sort the nursery, the better. By the time she was born, the obsessive organiser in me had everything in place; every pair of baby socks had been washed and paired, the muslins were ironed and folded and the home-made Jane Austen mobile was hung over the cot.

Now I don’t necessarily regret the decision to find out the sex of our first born, but over the last couple of years, I’ve come to feel differently about our society’s approach to gender when it comes to babies and young children.

Everyone that stopped me in the park or street in the first few weeks asked me if the baby was a boy or a girl. I didn’t mind this at all until I started to notice a pattern. Over the next few months, whenever the baby was wearing something gender neutral, people always assumed she was a boy. When they did this, the language and even the tone and volume of their voice changed. She was referred to as a ‘strapping young lad’, with ‘good strong legs for football’. People were louder and more direct when they spoke to her. Whenever she happened to be dressed in anything more feminine, people addressed her as a ‘beautiful, delicate little thing’, in hushed, comforting tones.

I was also puzzled when many people, after hearing me fret about her sluggish weight-gain as a newborn, would say, ‘yeah but little girls are supposed to be small, you wouldn’t want a great big baby girl, would you?’ All I wanted was for my baby to be healthy, it seemed peverse that this was a response I would hear over and over again – if my baby’s health was at risk, why would I care what she looked like? It seemed totally irrelevant to me.

As the year passed, I came to notice more and more how much emphasis we put on gender; from the way we talk to babies, to the sea of pink and blue clothes on the high street with their reductive, generic slogans, to the hyper-gendered baby toys in every shop window, to the increase of ‘gender reveal parties’.

Why, when these babies are yet to make their way in the world, were we so hell-bent on leading our daughters in one direction in life, and our sons in another? This heaps unnecessary pressure on kids from the get go and almost asks them to live up to an impossible idea of what it means to be a ‘girl’ and what it means to be a ‘boy’.

When it is well evidenced that ideas that children form about gender from the ages of two and three stay with them into their adult lives, we know that the toys they play with and the clothes they wear have a huge influence on them. Children aren’t born with these ideas; they learn them from the world around them.

I became increasingly more agitated when people would assume Emily was a boy because she was wearing something considered ‘boyish’, like a dinosaur t shirt, or Paw Patrol wellies. Finally, in my own small way, I decided to push back on all this gender nonsense.

When Emily was about 15 months old, I set up the #dressdownfriday campaign; a means by which parents could come together en-masse to uplode pictures of their kids in clothing that smashes gender stereotypes.

I felt like all this gender prevelance presented an incredible opportunity to challenge the status quo and reject these outdated ideas on gender. Within the space of six months, hundreds of parents had joined the campaign, and it received backing from a number of online clothing brands – and even got a celebrity backing from Gok Wan! You can read more about the campaign here.

It has also been great to see the conversation around gender being driven by organisations like ‘Let Toys Be Toys’ and ‘Let Clothes Be Clothes’; they’re helping to change the narrative around traditional gender norms and they’re getting parents to consider the impact of hyper-gendering on their children. Retailers like John Lewis are launching gender-neural clothing lines and many others are introducing more ‘empowering’ slogans and designs for both boys and girls.

And so now that I’m pregnant with my second child, I’m looking at the prospect being a parent to a ‘boy’ or a ‘girl’ a little differently.

I now don’t feel the need to know the sex of my baby. This little bean is already so loved and is already so much a part of my life, not knowing their sex hasn’t stopped me from bonding with them.

As a relentless planner, I’m also finding it easier than I thought to plan for a baby without knowing the sex. Regardless of the gender, the nursery and all of the newborn clothes will be white with splashes of colour, and a great deal will be hand-me-downs from their big sister, who already has a wardrobe made up of clothes from the boys’ and girls’ section of the store.

I’ve come to think that if I expect this baby to grow up being tolerant and excepting of others, I need to demonstrate to them that there is no right or wrong way to be a boy or to be a girl. They will have the opportunity to wear, play and socialise without gender restrictions. This way, they’ll hopefully know that they can grow up to be whoever and whatever they want to be…and that no matter what, they will always be that little bean that has been so loved from the minute I found out I was pregnant.

#DressDownFriday is six months old!!!

I can hardly believe it as the months have just flown past, but my little ‘bug-bear’ of a campaign is now officially six months old!

I didn’t really have any specific goals or a grandiose mission when I set it up; I simply wanted to vent my frustration at lingering and pointless stereotypes that I was encountering daily when it came to the clothes my daughter was wearing.

I aired my frustrations via the blog and decided I would embark on a one-woman mission to kick-back at gender stereotypes.

It turns out that many parents harboured the same frustrations at supermarkets and shops that seem to lazily perpetuate the same tired gender-genres through kids’ clothes.

Before long, we became a global unit of hundreds of parents who post their #DressDownFriday pictures of their kids sporting clothes that challenge gender stereotypes every week. Our mission is a simple one – we want to normalise the idea that a girl can be more than ‘pretty’ and a boy can be more than ‘tough’.

In the last few months, #DressDownFriday has been supported by some wonderful kids’ clothing companies including Zac & Bella and The Green Flamingo Co, and I was chuffed to bits when fashion-icon Gok Wan got in touch and gave his own personal backing to the campaign.

Since I first scratched the surface of this issue six months ago, I can’t help but see these inequalities and outdated gender-norms every day; in shops and high streets and supermarkets, online and out and about. I guess having an opinion on this sort of stuff makes you more heightened to it, but it’s undeniable that our society still has some serious issues with how we guide our girls in one direction in life, and our boys in another.

In the last six months, our collective of awesome parents have done incredible work in spreading awareness and helping parents to consider the potential impact of the clothes they dress their children in. But in my opinion, one ‘pretty like Mummy’ / ‘tough like Daddy’ shirt on sale is still one too many!

Having been pulled in a million different directions over the last few weeks, I’m now renewing my impetus to eradicate gender stereotypes! And I’d love your help! Here’s what you can do:

  1. Post your #DressDownFriday pictures on social media each week to spread the word!
  2. The next time you go shopping for your children, whether it’s at Liberty of London or Lidl of Leeds, try and choose one outfit that doesn’t conform to ‘pink or blue’ or that goes against traditional gender norms.
  3. If someone passes comment on what your child is wearing, especially if they’re questioning your decision to give the traditional boy/girl clothes a miss, respectfully put them in their place! This sounds far-fetched, but I’ve had swathes of parents share their anecdotes of family members –and even strangers – commenting that they’ve dressed their daughter ‘in a boy’s coat’ or that letting a boy wear Peppa Pig wellies will ‘turn him gay’. The only way to quash these outdated points of view is to politely, but firmly, challenge them.

And that’s it! The more people that take up the challenge, the more of an impact we will make together!

I’d like to say a bloody great big ‘thank you’ to each and every person who has posted their own #DressDownFriday picture over the last six months. We’re slowly but surely chipping away at outdated gender ideals and making the world a more kick-ass place for our kids. Here’s to many more Friday gender-slays!

Gok endorses #DressDownFriday!

At this exact moment in time I’m stood in my kitchen doing a happy dance – We got Gok!

I’m so thrilled to announce that the #DressDownFriday campaign has now been officially endorsed by none other than fashion legend, Gok Wan!

Having seen the campaign online, I was invited to meet Gok last week after his Fashion Brunch Club in Cardiff. Gok has kindly lent his support to the movement to help spread the message of the power and influence of clothing and the impact that this can have on kids.

He said: “Fashion should be empowering, not restrictive. The #DressDownFriday campaign is encouraging parents to opt for clothes for their kids – one day each week – that promote variety, individuality and equality. I’m thrilled there’s a campaign like this out there!”

With the campaign launching just three months ago after I got sick of comments from a range of people about the fact a ‘pretty little girl should be in a dress’, I’m so blown away by how far we’ve come. So many incredibly supportive parents and kids’ fashion designers have adopted the campaign and post photos of their gender-stereotype-busing outfits each and every week.

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know so many of you and I’ve loved bonding over a mutual agreement that our kids shouldn’t be confined by gender norms when it comes to what they wear, what they play with, what they do, and who they are.

I am so unbelievably grateful to Gok and his team for taking the time out to learn more about #DressDownFriday and offering to help promote it to a wider audience. Here’s to many more empowering Fridays ahead!

If you’d like to learn more about the campaign and take part, click here.