I Was Afraid to Raise a Boy

mother and son-Pierre Omidyar

It wasn’t until Mandy Brasher finally let herself trust men that she began to trust her ability to raise a man.

When the day finally came to find out the sex of our first child, I must admit that I was hoping for a girl. Boys have always intimidated me. My biological father wasn’t around for most of my childhood so I was raised by my mother and stepfather, who after decades, was still reeling from his own traumatic past. My relationship with both of my fathers’ has been challenging and it created in me a distrust in men that was tough to shake. While I was pregnant with our daughter, my husband and I were in the early stages of our marriage and I was still struggling with how to be a good wife and very soon, a good mother

Our daughter came into our lives in August 2002 and while the newborn phase was very challenging, I felt competent that I could raise her to be a strong, bright and well-rounded human being. Girls made sense to me. I had many girlfriends, a wonderful relationship with my mother, a sister whom I consider my best friend, and a grandmother who was always the matriarch of our family. Female upbringing was like second nature and I never questioned the kind of mother I could be to our daughter.

Four years later, my son was born. While it was a joyful experience to see my husband hold his namesake for the first time, I worried that I was incapable of teaching my son all the things he would need to know when he eventually left our nest and ventured into the world. I wondered if there were things I should do differently with him, but I didn’t know what those things were. My trust issues with men were still lingering and I was fearful that those issues would affect my son negatively. While I was excited to have another child, I was fearful that I may not be capable of raising a good man.


Meeting men at varying stages of manhood made me wonder what influence their mother had had in their lives, especially after I became the mother of a boy. There were a few men I had met who had turned their back on responsibility and chose to never take the giant step into manhood. Then there were those who had manhood thrust upon them because there wasn’t anyone else to be “the man of the house”. The last group consisted of men, like my husband, who had grown into manhood with confidence, a gentle nature and a desire to love. These men graciously took on the role of husbands, partners, fathers and providers. How would I raise that man?

It was frightening to think that I may not have the ability to do just that. I was unsure of how much to hug my son, what kind of discipline to use and whether or not to let him play with dolls. While I wanted him to be happy and well rounded, my biggest fear lay in raising a boy who could not easily move into the age appropriate stages of his life. Or raising a man who would leave his family, hurt another human being or never gain the self-confidence he would need to go out into the world. Instead of trusting myself and my husband, I was living in my fear of men. The fear I had of angry, sad, forceful, absent, and neglectful men from my childhood. Men who lied to me, men who forced themselves on me, men who saw women as a body and not a person. Clearly I didn’t want to raise my son to be that man, but I didn’t know how.


Then I let go of my story and loved my son. As he has grown into his own person, I have finally found the security of parenthood that I had been hoping for. When I finally let myself trust men, I also began to trust my ability to raise a man. My sons’ needs are more closely related to my daughters’ needs than I once believed and that is a wonderful realization. He loves hugs, plays with dolls and soccer balls, and has a heart full of gratitude. We talk about his dreams of becoming a firefighter and a daddy and his sense of humor lightens my heart. I know that he will become a great man one day. My son has taught me an important lesson, raising a boy requires much the same skill set as raising a girl. It requires love and a belief that you, as a woman and his mom, are enough.

This post originally appeared at My Thirty Spot. Reprinted with permission.

Photo: Pierre Omidyar/Flickr

About Mandy Brasher

Mandy is a writer living out her 30’s in suburban Utah with her two kids, one husband and their racist cat. Mandy is currently the Relationship Contributor at mythirtyspot.com, has written for mariashriver.com and attempts to keep folks laughing on her blog mandybrasher.com where she covers everything from parenting like a boss to her failed attempts at writing a book. When she’s not structuring sentences on her laptop, Mandy enjoys traveling with her family, practicing yoga, and trying new dark beers.

Find her on Twitter @BrasherMandy

Check out her irreverent rantings at mandybrasher.com.

If you like stupid pictures, follow her on Instagram @MandyBrasher.


  1. I totally related to this, only my fear waswas about having a daughter. I was relieved when my second turned out to be another boy. I did not have a great time model for a mother, an I was fearful of how issues I have would affect my ability to nurture a secure, confident, strong woman.

    You wrote beautifully about your personal fears and previous relationships in an honest and courageous way.

    Clearly you are a wonderful mother who only wanted to be and do what is best for your son. And you found your way.

    It wasn’t about your husband’s ability to be a great father, it was about your self-doubts. Anyone who never questions themselves or openly analize how they are doing as a parent, doesn’t leave much room for growth.

    Thank you for expressing what I haven’t been able to write about myself.

  2. Terry Washington says:

    May i recommend Judith Arcana’s “Every Mother’s Son”( Seal Press, 1983) about her son Daniel’s progress from infancy to the verge of adolescence on what it is like to raise a male child?

    • Thank you for the recommendation, I will put that on my list. I’m always looking for great books on raising children and being an all around happier human being. 🙂

  3. So powerful. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

  4. Well said. I think you found exactly the right answer.

  5. JutGory says:

    This line bugged me:

    “It requires love and a belief that you, as a woman and his mom, are enough.”

    I wanted (and still want) a boy; ideally, I wanted a boy and a girl, but I wanted my daughter to have an older brother. Some of it was for the same reasons you had a preference. I thought I would understand a boy better and be able to teach him how to be a man. Then, I would be much better able to handle a girl, after having gained some parenting experience.

    Well, BabyGory is a girl and I think I am doing just fine. However, I would not go so far to say that I am enough, as that would minimize the role my wife plays in her life. Yes, people can find themselves as single parents and they have to make that good enough. But, you, being married, seem to ignore the (probably) very important role your husband plays in raising your son (and daughter). Maybe you could do it all without him, but I suspect he makes (and will make) your job easier.

    Nit-pick, I know.


    • It’s easy to nitpick when someone else has poured their heart out in a story. I said enough because I had never felt like enough in my life, to myself. It had nothing to do with my husband or his role in our son’s life. As I stated in the article, I had issues with men and issues with feeling inadequate in relationships with men. My husband is a wonderful father and I could not do my job as a mother without him. And I tell him that quite often. “Good enough” is my issue as a human being on this planet. Thank you for reading and I hope you come away with a clearer idea of what I was addressing in this article. Even if it “bugged” you.

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