International Women’s day was last week, Harry, and I have been mulling over the significance of it ever since it started popping up on my Facebook feed.
I am feeling pretty empowered at the moment.
I get to live my life how I want to, and follow interests based on just that: my interest, not what I “should” be into. I can stay home for my maternity leave and take care of you- your Dad can do the same (parental leave for Dad’s and Mom’s has not always been an option). I can go back to work and send you to daycare, or not, it is my choice to make, and no one can (or should try) to make me feel guilt about that.
I always suspected that when I had kids, I would have girls. Not because I wanted girls, but because being one myself I have a easier time envisioning the experiences that go into growing up female. I have been a daughter, sister, wife, and thanks to you, mother. I have also been an athlete, a student, enjoyed a professional career, I’ve worked at job sites with both a majority of women, and majority men.
I feel like it is a frightening time to raise a child, Harrison. The news abounds with stories of hate, and rather than facts, the opinions of others who view the facts are what’s presented to us. We hear of judgement passed, attacks and violence for things like the colour of one’s skin, religion, sexuality. I hope that you will never feel isolated over your unique human traits (statistically, you are less likely to as a caucasian male from a middle-class family). Before I had you, I was excited to take on the task of raising a child, and thought that my own strong personality would lend itself well to raising a family. I am strong. I am independent, I have a career that gives me meaning and interests that fall under all sorts of traditional, and untraditional categories. I was raised to believe that with the right commitment I could accomplish whatever goals I set for myself. I revel in the responses I’d receive from people when showing off woodworking projects, or troubleshooting vehicular issues, but can still make my sewing machine sing, because I will not constrain my interests to gendered expectations.
I felt that my abilities and interests would be exceptional in contributing to the task of raising girls. Girls who, for lack of a better word, were a little bit like myself. I feel strongly about being respectful, as well as demanding it from others where it’s due. I am open to talking about feelings, but also “checking myself” and asking why something makes me feel the way it does. I think a little more objectivity is needed in society these days, and in most scenarios, I can play devils advocate to look at different ways of framing an issue. There are so many conversations happening around how to raise kids “right”: ensuring access to equal opportunity, consent, screen time and media consumption and to lump a few topics together: just not being a dick.
I watched the Disney movie Moana a few weeks before you arrived. I remember sitting on the couch with your Auntie Amy and watching this strong character deviate from the expectations of society and set off on a journey to achieve a monumental task. I was moved by that message, and excited to mould this small character of my creation. You, who would someday have adventures and accomplishments of your own making. At that time I reflected on common experiences of growing up: bullying, isolation, navigating relationships, respect and consent as an adolescent, as well as pride, satisfaction, goals accomplished and joy. The media would lead me to believe girls face different challenges than boys, and I feel that in my progression through life so far, I’ve successfully navigated all those challenges to a degree that I could mentor youth through this cruel world of unrealistic expectations.
I have adjusted my outlook since you came along, Harry, though not by as much as one might think. My main goal for you, and for any future siblings of yours is that you find happiness in life, and do so in a way that is respectful to those around you. I still want to raise an empowered, feminist child who can overcome negativity and strive to be exactly the person you are and want to be. I hope the example that your Dad and I set for you sets the theme of what a healthy team looks like.
Our home is run based on what needs doing, and while your Dad is anal enough about his lawn to strongly avert me from ever attempting to mow our lawn, and I tend to be the one who’s blood pressure rises faster at the sight of a dirty floor (enough to actually do something about it, at least), you will never see your Dad leave a full laundry hamper because its a “pink job”, and when you phone home for support because your first car got a flat tire, I assure you I can walk you through changing that sucker with near-equal competence to your Dad (and have done so, ask Aunt Amy). You will never look down on any task as less-than because of who it historically fell upon. All of our kids will be competent in life, whether it be cooking, cleaning, maintaining finances, or anything else that contributes to independent function, because that is what the expectation is set as.
You will have both trucks and dolls, not because I will make you play with either, but so that if you want to, you can. You will never hear me utter the words “you do ____ like a girl” or that “boys don’t do ____”. You can do anything you want like Harrison, not “like a boy” OR “like a girl” and I will support you in that.
I said before I thought I could raise girls who were “a little like me”, really, I don’t see too big a shift in reframing that to say:
I will raise PEOPLE who are (for lack of a better word) “a little like me”.