We’ve all seen that diaper commercial where the first time mom is in a dead panic about life with a baby. Then they show the second time mom, who is super relaxed that her kid is eating cat food and swinging from the chandelier.
Ok, maybe the comparison isn’t that dramatic but the basic point is, moms mellow over time.
It makes sense. The more experience you have doing something the more relaxed you are about it. It becomes second nature. You just parent. That’s been my experience anyway. Over the last 10 years my style has relaxed and so have my New Mom jitters. Between having two kids and running a childcare I feel very comfortable in my role as mom…or I did. Until last week.
Last week at my gender reveal — yep, I’m expecting baby #3 — I was not-so-secretly hoping to see blue. So when the balloon popped and blue paint exploded out, I was thrilled! But somehow, the reality of actually having a boy took me by surprise. Suddenly my decade of parenting didn’t seem good enough…after all, up until now all my parenting experience has been with girls. And even though the rational half of my brain was laughing and telling me, ‘babies are babies.’ I couldn’t shake this funny feeling that I was already failing.
It wasn’t until a few days later that it hit me why I felt uneasy.
When I found out I was having my first girl, my mind immediately went to how I would raise her. Although I admittedly adore Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, I wanted my daughter to know that she didn’t need rescuing. I wanted her to be capable, proud, and confident in the belief that girls can do anything boys can do. As a result, I’ve spent the last ten years filling each day with gender-free activities in an attempt to let my daughters decide for themselves where their true interests lie.
Things like messy science experiments, bug investigations and mud pies in our dirt kitchen fill our days. We shop in all departments of the clothing store and often buy “boy shirts” (Superheroes and Star Wars are big in our house). And although some moms gave me the side-eye, I was incredibly proud when my oldest daughter wore “boy” shoes to kindergarten. I wasn’t proud because she was breaking gender norms. I was proud because she figured out what she liked and hasn’t changed her opinion based on anyone else’s input. She’s an alligator loving, Spider-Man shoe wearing, scared of the dark, awesome kid.
But what did this girl-empowering lifestyle I’d created offer a boy? And did I actually need to teach my son that a boy could do anything a girl can do? If so, what did that look like? Should I offer him dolls instead of Legos? Or push nurturing toys over science based toys? Would I dress him in pink My Little Ponies dresses just because my girls wore a green Boba Fett onesie?
None of that sounded quite right — because my parenting goal is to raise good people. Not people that bucked the system. I want them to be well-adjusted, happy people. People that know who they are, and can proudly stand by their choices. People who are respected and in turn respect others.
I know the path to that goal will probably manifest differently while raising a son than it has while raising my daughters. I doubt I’ll ever have to teach my girls to respect women. Just like I’ll probably never have to warn my son to watch his drink while at a party. But the laughing voice of reason in my head was right. The basics are the same.
Everyone should learn about music, science and math. Everyone should know how to cook and clean. No matter if I’m raising girls or boys, STEM based toys and good parenting skills are important to me. And just like I did with my girls, I’ll encourage him to look beyond the hobbies and attitudes marketed towards his gender and instead explore the world around him with an open mind.