I am a “boy mom.” Growing up (in a family of only girls), I always pictured having daughters. Now, my sister and I have four boys between us, and I can’t imagine it being any other way. People often ask if one or both of us will try again for a girl, but honestly we wouldn’t know what to do with a girl at this point. Our houses are loud, funny, smelly, and full of love.
There are times when I have felt relieved to be a boy mom and to not have to worry about some of the issues and pressures that girls face growing up. However, there are other times, like today, when I am quickly reminded of the challenges to raising good, respectable, responsible, sensitive men.
A friend (also a boy mom) posted on Facebook about her sons wanting a boy babysitter and asking for recommendations. I immediately thought about how great it would be for little boys to have a kind, well-rounded, responsible older boy to serve as a role model. It wouldn’t hurt if they also liked to talk about Pokemon, throw a baseball, and laugh at fart jokes. From the comments, most everyone else agreed and many shared recommendations or their own experiences with great male babysitters. Even my mom, who has been a high school teacher for over 20 years, and has become well acquainted with “the teenage boy” offered to line up some qualified candidates. But my hopeful outlook about overcoming old gender stereotypes was short lived.
My friend texted me a screenshot of this private message she received from an acquaintance in response to her post:
We were told but [sic] a very respectful family to not have a boy sitters. For some reason, boy sitters can have a tendency to be more inappropriate with things that come out of their mouths, things they do with their bodies. They are also more likely to “molest” boys in a way that little ones don’t think is wrong and don’t think to tell.
Girls, by nature have a more mothering spirit and can discern situations that the Lord just didn’t give to men.. think about how different it is for your boys to stay with your husband vs. you… you can probably keep a house clean, read books, make a craft, type recipes, post on IG for work and keep everything functioning. Not saying men can’t… it’s just natural for women. When I walk in after the boys are with Andy I think in my head, “at least everyone is alive”.
Now, I will say this is not ALWAYS the case … obviously. But we used family (which things can happen in families too, I get it), neighbor girls that were close to their mommas to have questions answered.
I’m just a big picture person and think about EVERY person my boys come in contact with … are they reflecting Jesus? Do they point my kids to Jesus? Are they from a family we trust and have like-minded values with? I’m training to fight the “battle” of life one day so it’s my job as the mom to provide all the tools they need for that battle. Everything we do as parents prepares them for the battle they will fight in [sic] their own.
I kept reading and re-reading the message trying to wrap my head around how anyone, much less a woman and a mother, could continue to think this way. I wanted so badly to publicly call this woman out, but did not want to turn my friend’s uplifting post into an ugly debate or give this woman more of a platform to spew her garbage. So instead, I decided to put my thoughts on paper.
It is hard to decide exactly which part of this woman’s vile message is the most disturbing. Not only did she argue that boys in general are incapable of controlling themselves sexually and acting appropriately around children, she also claimed that men are inherently less nurturing and less qualified to manage kids and a household because GOD DIDN’T GIVE THEM THOSE QUALITIES! My husband and brother-in-law, who each happily and successfully take on an equal share of parenting and household duties, would argue otherwise. And don’t even get me started on the part about only wanting her kids to come into contact with people who are “reflecting Jesus.” By her own logic, Jesus himself wouldn’t have been trusted to babysit her kids.
I thought a long time about the message this sends to our boys (who will one day be men). I couldn’t stop thinking about the implied expectations (or lack thereof) for our sons. Should we just accept that they will grow up to be sexual deviants and bad fathers? Should we teach them that they don’t need to be equal contributors in their future households because that’s just how God made them?
This idea of “boys will be boys” is not only incredibly dangerous because it excuses bad behavior, but it also robs our boys of the potential to be well-rounded men who are not afraid to express their emotions and show their nurturing side. It also reinforces the antiquated stereotypes that women are best suited for duties inside the home.
We have made a lot of progress when it comes to equality for women in the workforce, but we can’t forget that there should also be equality for men within the household. How often does mom get the first call from school and the emails about bake sales and classroom parties? How often do we applaud men for undertaking the most basic of parenting responsibilities like changing a diaper or doing school drop off? Simply keeping the kids alive should not be the benchmark for successful fathering.
It is easy for me to say that raising boys is simpler, and in a lot of ways it is. However, that idea of boys being “simpler” is also a disservice to them. Boys deserve to be complex. They deserve to be held to high expectations. They deserve to be taught to be good role models, caregivers, and fathers.
I take pride in the fact that my sons see their mother and aunt as lawyers, have female doctors, and now have a female Vice President. But I also want them to see examples of men being good fathers and caregivers. I want them to see men who respect women and value consent. I want them to see that masculinity and manhood are not the same thing.
As a boy mom, I know the great responsibility I have in helping to raise the next generation of good men. And I pray that my sons are lucky enough to know older boys who can show them what it looks like to grow into such a man.
Every part of this woman’s message makes me sad for our boys … but what makes me the saddest is that she’s a boy mom, too.