“Would I have it in me to be the kind of mother that didn’t degrade or diminish his masculinity, but teach him that it can be a powerful tool for positivity, change and equality?”
We were sitting in the waiting room, my pregnant stomach protruding and sweat from another episode of morning sickness still framing my brow. It was the big appointment, when we’d learn the sex of our growing potato or summer squash or whatever size our tiny surprise was, and we were nervous and excited and anxious.
“I hope it’s a boy”, my wide-eyed and already proud partner whispered.
Before I could ask why, we were called into the doctor’s office and delivered the news.
We were, in fact, having a son.
My partner was thrilled, already planning father and son trips to the ballpark or football stadium or fish-filled rivers. I could sense a palpable comfort, knowing he felt relieved that he wouldn’t be raising a girl. His son wouldn’t face blatant sex discrimination or stomach-turning rape statistics or have the majority of society tell him his worth is based solely on his looks.
My partner was grateful we were having a boy.
I was terrified.
Men being nervous about having a daughter is considered normal. We’ve somehow come to the conclusion that raising a man is easier than raising a woman; less pressure and less responsibility and less evils to worry about and, therefore, protect them from. We don’t worry about our sons’ safety as much as we worry about our daughters’.
But I didn’t feel this palpable comfort.
I felt an overwhelming sense of liability for the growing potatoes or summer squashes in other women’s bellies, who were girls. I felt an obligation to the parents who were just as nervous and excited and anxious as we were, learning that they were having a daughter and immediately feeling that small yet powerful tinge of terrified worry.
I knew it would be my parenting style and my consistent example and my unwavering precedent that would ensure he didn’t add to the misogynistic and oppressive society that a brand new, beautiful baby girl would be born into. I was instantly aware that what went on in my home and how we conducted ourselves in public and how I handled specific situations my son was sure to experience, would be the difference.
I would be the difference between my son helping a woman instead of taking advantage of her.
I would be the difference between my son believing women are his equal instead of his inferior.
I would be the difference between my son respecting women instead of callously degrading them.
I would be the difference that could ensure he would, one day, be different.
And with this immense amount of pressure came an overwhelming feeling of inadequacy. Would I—hell, could I—be the parent that could raise the kind of man another parent would be more than happy to have his or her daughter meet? Would I be able to instill a sense of social justice in my son that would make him empathetic towards his female counterparts, regardless of his inability to know exactly how they feel?
Would I have it in me to be the kind of mother that didn’t degrade or diminish his masculinity, but teach him that it can be a powerful tool for positivity, change and equality?
Would I be the mother that, by keeping my son safe and secure, ensures that the future women he’ll be sharing the world with will be safe and secure as well?
We tend to think raising men is somehow easier. We believe there’s less to worry about, as they don’t face the very real, very overwhelming fears women face on a daily basis.
But I think raising men is harder. I believe there is a greater responsibility, not only to your own precious potato or summer squash, but to the others who are growing in the women around us. I think that culpability should be instilled in every current or future parent, because we are the difference between the men women are thankful they encounter, and the men they hope they never come across.
We’re the difference that can make the next woman – sitting in the waiting room with her pregnant stomach protruding and sweat from another episode of morning sickness still framing her brow – hoping for a daughter.
And that hope not being terrifying, at all.
Photo: Getty Images