These days, we tend to focus on raising independent, bold, fearless daughters with the hope that they will go on to shatter their gender specific stereotypes and reach their full potential not only as women but as humans. We work on empowering our daughters so that they can grow past societal expectations and I am no different in the way that I am raising my daughter. The world, without a doubt, needs more powerful women but what the world also needs is more decent men. In the midst of raising these wonderful daughters, we should be working equally hard to raise wonderful men that will also go on to shatter stereotypes in their own right.
The notion that raising boys is far easier because it requires less work and less responsibility (in comparison to raising girls) is unfortunately common among not only the South Asian culture but cultures across the globe. You won’t believe the number of times I have heard “You have a daughter? Good luck!” or “You are so lucky that you have two boys” by women no less. As new generation parents, it is about time that we let go of these old notions and start anew by raising both genders as equals as much as possible. If we want equality for women, there is no better place to start than with our sons. As famous philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson once said — Men are what their mothers made them.
I hope I don’t come across as stereotyping the male population but most men, especially in the South Asian community, are raised to believe that certain duties, mainly that of cooking and child-rearing, are a woman’s job. Maybe I lived in a cozy little bubble for the majority of my life, but this is a fairly new revelation to me. Growing up this is not something I learned because my father worked two jobs but also happily and willingly worked alongside my mother in raising three children. His contribution to the family was not merely wealth, it was and is still so much more!
For example, my father who works in the evenings, babysat Akshaya as an infant during the day while I went on to finish my post-secondary education to the genuine shock of many people including my husband. He changed diapers, fed my little girl, played with her, read to her, bathed her, and took her to the park because that is what a parent does. All of these things may seem strange to some, but these are the exact same things that my dad did with his own three children. My husband on the other hand, preferred that I stay home and raise our daughter rather than go to school. My father doesn’t believe jobs being labelled as a woman or man’s and he credits that to his family. He grew up in a family where both women and men worked, took care of the kids, and the household. This is the kind of man that I want Udayan and Achyuthan to grow up to be so I am really thankful that my dad makes an effort to be in my children’s lives, despite his busy schedule.
Although the boys have a good male role model in their lives, I know that will not be enough. Personally, having two boys scares me because I know the kind of partner, father, and individual that my boys will become has more or less to do with me. That’s a HUGE responsibility on my part as a mother and woman. As a mother, all I can really ask for is for my boys to be happy and healthy but as a woman I expect so much more from them. The woman in me wants Udayan and Achyuthan to be kind, respectful (not only to women but to everyone), patient, loving husbands, responsible fathers and the list goes on.
I think it helps that I have both genders in my home because it really forces me to parent in a non-stereotypical way. I try to raise both Akshaya and Udayan (and eventually Achyuthan) the same way in that I buy them the same type of toys, give them the same chores, and I involve them in the same activities including baking and cooking. Just as I bought Akshaya cars, and Lego (before Lego for girls became popular), I bought Udayan a little boy doll and a tea set much to his father’s obvious disapproval.
Mind you, I do consider my husband’s wishes when it comes to the kids, perhaps more than my own because I trust his opinion is in the best interest of the children. For instance, I wanted to raise the kids to be vegetarians like myself and he didn’t so we settled on the kids eating poultry and seafood. I wanted Akshaya to learn Bharathanatyam and my husband didn’t so he reluctantly settled on Ballet which later turned into Tap, Jazz, and Acro. Many more times I gave up my wishes for his as we often do not see eye to eye when it comes to parenting or anything else for that matter. It may sound selfish but one thing I will not compromise on is how I plan on raising our boys.
Now at four years old, Udayan doesn’t care for the doll but up to two years of age he pretend-fed that doll, burped it, and changed diapers. It honestly made my heart melt knowing that one day he will actually do those things for his own child, if he chooses to have children of course. Obviously giving him a doll isn’t going to automatically make him a good father, but a mother can only hope!
Since my boys are still so young and impressionable, there are a lot of years ahead of us for me to be able to guide them into the decent men that I wish for them to be. However, I think I am on the right track because Udayan is very helpful, empathetic, and kind. When I had a bout of strep throat this past month, he peeled a clementine for me most mornings before he left for school. He offers to help watch his baby brother so that I can take a bathroom break or drink water. He offers to dry dishes and help cook when he notices that I am overwhelmed with everything going on. Perhaps this is just his character but perhaps it is also because when I do need help I don’t just ask Akshaya because she is the girl, I ask Udayan as well. God-willingly Udayan will follow on this path, with Achyuthan following in his footsteps, and I will offer the world two wonderful men.
Here’s another post you may interested in: 30 Things I Want to Tell My Sons as They Grow Up.