As the lone female at home, I often feel a bit colonized by maleness. Testosterone, the English Premier League, poop jokes and questions about why it takes me so long to get ready are soldiers of the Empire and with it being three against one, I know more about what team is at risk of relegation in the Premier league than I do about more “gentle” things. I’ve become a yeller, I’m somewhat adept at talking about aiming for the toilet bowl and even have my own wrestling move.
Yes, mamas, you read that right. My own wrestling move.
So not what I pictured when I dreamt about motherhood.
But then again, the cozy dreams of motherhood never quite capture the reality of mothering.
And my reality, as crazy and loud and smelly as things get at home with my two sons, is I’ve come to love being a boy mom. I wasn’t sure, initially, that I would, and wondered if I’d feel any sense of loss at not having a daughter. But I don’t. Maybe this is because I truly believe we receive the children meant to be ours or because the overwhelming love I have for my boys fills any mouse holes lingering in my heart. Whatever the reason, I’m more than happy being the mother of two sons.
But while I don’t feel a sense of loss at not having a daughter, I’ve found I often wonder where I fit along the Feminist continuum in the context of mothering and raising the next generation of strong women as the mother of boys. My soul runs on empowering other women but I don’t have girls of my own to grow. And having boys in the era of the Me Too movement has left me to question my identity as a Feminist as certain worries I have for them have left me conflicted, unsure how to reconcile who I was before motherhood with who I am now.
Before motherhood, there would be no inner turmoil regarding this part of my identity but parenthood certainly has a way of taking the black and white and making it all gray. I knew exactly where I stood on issues that impacted the lives of women and in all honesty, could be too quick to place blame on men for the injustices of society. But parenting boys has forced me for the first time in my life to try having empathy for men, opening up my world view to include the male perspective. This hasn’t always been easy. I worry I’ve become an imposter, that I’ve truly been colonized, a new member of the Empire in a Nevertheless She Persisted T-shirt.
I found out at work that my second child would be my second boy. Because I was 35 at the time, I was considered as being Advanced Maternal Age and it was recommended I have the blood test that checks for genetic abnormalities and can determine the sex of your baby as early as 12 weeks. When I got the e-mail that our results were in, I closed my office door, sat down at my desk, and with butterflies in my stomach and silent wishes for a baby girl, I clicked on the link and blinked, wondering if I was reading the results correctly.
I opened my door and sat for a moment, dazed and in disbelief as I heard my co-worker’s familiar footsteps making their way down the hall. She stopped at my door and began talking about the latest article about Me Too – conversation that was not unusual given we were trauma therapists working with children who were victims of sexual abuse- when I started laughing hysterically, manic and in shock and blurted out “I’m having another one! I’m having another boy.”
This is how I found myself at the intersection of being a boy mom, being a Feminist (not to mention one who is a trained trauma therapist who worked with crime victims) and navigating a new internal landscape. Yes, I can certainly raise my sons to respect women, to understand women and men are equal, that women can do anything and deserve (more than) equal pay for equal work. And I do raise them with these ideas. In fact, I’m raising them to understand that these are not ideas at all but unmitigated truths. My struggle is this – I am the mother of a son who can have difficulties with observing personal space, who struggles with impulse control when overexcited and I wonder and worry about how he may be perceived by those who have come of age in the world of Me Too.
Is there space within our current culture for us to embrace and support those who may struggle with the nuances of relationships, not because of entitlement or patriarchal beliefs, but because of the way their brain is wired?
And does it make me less of a Feminist to ask?
I don’t believe in the notion boys will be boys. I also don’t believe that it’s acceptable to send our sons who need guidance in respecting boundaries and understanding difficult social rules out into the world without any support, only to use their lack of understanding as an excuse. What I’m asking is that we recognize the needs of our children, regardless of sex and gender, with understanding and compassionate eyes and that we take an objective look at what is behind behavior before labeling it.
Maybe this does make me less of a Feminist, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to come up with an answer to my question, no matter how much soul searching I do. The truth is, while my soul is all me, my heart is with my sons. By asking all of us to have compassion and understanding for our boys as they navigate the world, I’m still fighting for equality and inclusivity. It just has nothing to do with Feminism and everything to do with being Connor and Daniel's mother.