If you follow my Instagram, you’ll know that in just a few months, I’ll be able to hold a newborn once again in my arms. This time, my sweet little boy, which I’m looking forward to the moment I get to meet him. But being the planner I am, I needed to make sure I felt prepared for what that meant. I knew how to be a dad for a girl, but could I do so for a boy? As someone who’s taken a deep dive into feminist issues in order to be more conscious of how to raise our daughter, I felt a little intimidated by what it would mean to raise a boy.
When I bring that up, everyone tells me raising a boy is easier or that it should come so much easier for me to father a boy than a girl. But if that were the case, would all the men’s mental health issues be as prevalent as they are today? Doesn’t the way society dictates gender norms have a lot to do with the commonality all men feel in our resistance to share our true emotions?
I know how much impact toxic masculinity can have as a kid and the effects that stay long through adulthood. I’ve worked on my own traumas relating to that in order to make me better for my family. But how can I prevent my child from being damaged by this and repeating a cycle?
I don’t know the answer yet, but I suspect that the biggest reason this is even an issue is that we are quick to box what we expect from each gender at such an early age. I’m doing it now, and I have to learn to parent without expectations of who my children will be. We have to let kids be and let be, being careful to not persuade them to like certain things but giving them the environment to explore what they enjoy. Kids like what they like (I tried preventing Isabella from liking princesses for example, but she’s all about it now). Second, I know that the learnings I’ve had regarding feminism and raising my daughter should only be amplified for my son, as raising a child on empathy and respect should be a priority regardless. Finally, I know that there’s so much more to learn and I’ll need to keep up my self-education. By learning more about men’s health, feminism, gender identity issues, and doing more self-work, I hope that I can continuously be better, for both my kids.