Many moms fantasize about the type of person their sons will grow up to be. They hope for them to be kind, smart, successful, and happy.
As we know from movements like HeForShe and It’s on Us, a number of women hope to inspire change for women and girls by increasing support from men — and raising feminist men is a great way to do just that.
One woman who’s holding her son up as an example to other parents is philanthropist Melinda Gates, who, in an essay published Wednesday, said she is proud to have successfully raised her son to be a feminist.
Read More: 27 Famous Men Who Are Proud to Be Feminists
Gates, who has three children with Microsoft founder and fellow philanthropist Bill Gates, wrote the essay in honor of her son, Rory’s, upcoming 18th birthday.
The essay is chock full of advice and personal anecdotes, and is a must-read for any parent or people considering having children.
Gates said she decided would discuss these issues as a family when she became a mom. She had a good plan in mind, but, as she says while poking fun at parenting expectations in her article, “the realities in our household didn’t always live up to our ideals.”
In the essay, Gates is honest about how hard it can be to erase stereotypes from your behavior.
“I will never forget the moment a few years ago when I realized that I had been asking Rory to take the garbage out and not his sisters — a task that studies say usually goes to boys more often than girls. I was also disappointed to notice that I often held our daughters to a much higher standard than our son when it came to keeping their rooms clean,” Gates explains.
This piece offers a quick look at ways in which gendered biases affect our households today — even when we have the best intentions to avoid them.
Gates says that her son does his part to better recognize these biases. According to her, Rory doesn’t shy away from discussing gender equality. She goes on to share a story about a trip they took together to East Africa.
While on the trip, Gates met with men working together to shift gender norms in their community. They were sharing household chores with their wives, working together when it came to finances and making big decisions, all the while trying to persuade the other men in the village to do the same.
“I was impressed. I thought that, in many ways, what these men were doing was extraordinary. Rory respectfully disagreed.” Gates writes, “He told me he thinks that standing up to unfair norms is nothing more than exactly what men everywhere should be doing. Yes, he recognizes that the more entrenched the norms, the more courage it takes to confront them. But he also believes that it’s a universal responsibility and one that he’s already striving to uphold in his own life.”
Gates’ essay, while heartfelt and brimming with pride, also serves as a reminder that it’s important to reflect on how families can influence societal change for women and girls today and in the future.
The philanthropist finishes by saying, “I’m optimistic about what the next 18 years will bring all of us as these young men grow up to become equal partners in their households, champions for women in workplace and architects of a better, more equitable future for their own sons and daughters.”
Disclosure: Melinda Gates is the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a funding partner of Global Citizen.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.