As a mother of a son, I feel I have certain additional responsibilities than my counterpart, a mother to a daughter. As the latter, a parent will make sure of raising an independent and decisive daughter, but as a parent to a son, I will have to raise a man, who will not just be independent and decisive, but will be capable of supporting, appreciating and above all respecting such independent and strong women. After all, only strong men will end up appreciating the choices of strong women. Regressive men won’t know what to do with them. Such men will constantly continue to oppress and suppress women at home, at work and even in public.
You will not be surprised with such breed of men as the lot has mushroomed exponentially over the last few years, unabashedly. The public media enlists in detail about the atrocities men commit to hamper a women’s sense of respect and dignity almost on a regular basis. Their perception of women as objects is simply increasing day by day. Whether home, workplace or a public place, be it her body or her choices, women are always under scanner for her looks, her gestures, her way of life, in short, everything.
To me a larger of the core problem starts from home.
A boy, who is raised by strong women, who command respect, will respect women in the same way. However, if a boy sees the men in house treat her like a doormat, or belittle her as a woman and her choices, he will eventually turn out to do the same. As a child, he may feel hurtful of such abuse meted towards her own mother, but he will gradually learn it is acceptable. Hence, as a woman, as a mother, one has to constantly project and command respect and put up a fight wherever her concerns and her issues are trampled. She has to voice her concerns and have that no-nonsense attitude always. A child, who sees a mother’s protest will understand the injustice of a situation and therefore, see such women in a different light and not as a set of weak, mute, helpless and sympathetic creatures.
Another issue is the buildup of a stereotypical image of Indian men in our society. Being the patriarchal society, we believe that men should not be emotionally too expressive. It makes them “Girly”. Statements like “Boys don’t cry”, “Boys don’t behave like that”, “Boys don’t wear pink”, “Boys don’t play with dolls” etc. etc. are heard from every nook, cranny right from childhood. And all this in the belief that we are constructing macho men in process!
Seriously! So much for machismo!
Discrimination of toys, clothes, color, and behavior on the basis of sexes is what is likely to create another big bunch of men with distorted mindset. Playing with dolls or kitchen set is simply helping a boy to be little bit more empathetic and compassionate in process. Won’t it help him in becoming a better husband and a father tomorrow? Plus he is learning a new variant of pretend play, which is strengthening his social and emotional expressions too!
Not being able to express and cry is likely to make a child an emotionally confused human being. He will have troubles to vent out those bottled up feelings in later years too. If boys, right from childhood, are not allowed to identify their emotions, address them and control them, they are likely to turn out to be emotionally unstable, aggressive or even unsocial individuals. Addressing emotions in a child, in a way that the child feels that you are on his side will help him to talk it out right from the start. For a great start, read books or stimulate pretend play that stimulates the right feelings of empathy in them. In situations of anger and frustration, help them identify their feelings and address them tactfully.
Building a sense of self-worth and competence in your boys, will go a long way in building his confidence. For every achievement, no matter how small, you should appreciate his effort in the correct way. Statements like “you are so smart”, “you are so bright” are nothing but false praise. Remember the idea is to encourage and appreciate the efforts and not plant the seed as someone invincible. The latter is likely to plummet your boy into becoming an arrogant and spoilt brat! It can have a downside, especially in situations when he doesn’t achieve much in life.
The next rule is to respect people by actions and words. Your house should set rules and enforce them. Set a good example, and promote it as a parent. However, with boys the enforcement is more effective if it happens through the man of the house as boys associate more with the men in the house. For instance, a father can take the lead and project how men behave with women. If he treats women with respect and love, a male child is likely to take cue and behave appropriately. Remember, father figures, if not father, are great as driving force in creating the man you want, so talk to your better half or other men in the household, to make it work.
Show affection and remember physical affection through hugs and kisses to your own son is nothing unmanly or girly. Its love and it helps them feel secure and strengthens their inner sense of worth and security.
And last, but the most important thing is to have an identity as a mother. Work passionately towards your work and let your children see the passion blazing in you rather than a guilt burning somewhere down under. It could be your work in an office or a hobby or anything that you like doing for yourself, something that defines you as the person. It is something that your kid relates to, especially with you when he thinks of you. It could be your love of books, gardening, cooking or running a small tiffin system on your own or teaching children in the neighborhood as part of some charity program. All you have to do is to have a goal for yourself and work towards it in a guilt free, progressive way. The child will also learn to see that life is all about progression and improvement through you.
Often we, the mothers, dwell in this constant fear or rather the guilt of ignoring or neglecting our children, while going about in the pursuit of our careers. We feel that by doing so, we are plunging our children to sheer neglect or wrongdoing. We simply tend to forget that a child has to see the person beyond “mommy” and that can happen only when you decide to take yourself seriously in a guilt-free way.
A child will never pick the chord of distress if you go about doing your job like a job, which should come naturally from you. Make it look like a routine, which has to be done like other routine jobs. Your kid will eventually learn that it’s normal for mothers to work.
As mothers, we are responsible for projecting the traits that we want to see in our boys.
We have to project what we want them to believe because “seeing is believing”! So in real life too, utilize the “show, don’t tell” concept and help them see and absorb this very basic, yet important message. If we show them mothers, who are independent, decisive, progressive thinkers, career oriented or ones, who are passionate about working for themselves, we will see our children appreciating and accepting such women whole heartedly in the longer run. They will learn to embrace women at par with men and above all consider women to be “humans”.