Let me be honest: I don’t buy much into gender stereotypes.
Beyond the reality that my two sons have male parts and testosterone coursing through their veins, I try not to read too much into their sex. One of my boys loves quietly reading books and coloring pictures. The other loves screaming, running and punching things. They’re both mine, born 18 months apart. Both completely unique individuals. As far as I’m concerned, they’re both ‘all boy.’
So when I call myself a boy mom, I’m not so much talking about the gendered toys or stereotypes—no, it’s not that at all.
What I wasn’t prepared for in my new identity as a boy mom was how having sons would connect me with men in a whole new way.
That’s the thing about becoming a parent—it truly transforms how you see the world.
Growing up as a girl, I always saw boys as “the other.” The feminist in me read stories about male privilege and the glass ceiling, and saw men as part of the problem. As a female, I saw men in some ways as antagonistic—keeping women out of power, leadership and even sacred spaces. I knew men, but I never identified with boys and men.
Until I became a mom.
Just like those men who say that becoming a father changed how they saw (or objectified) women, I, too, have felt my view on the male species change because of the gifts of my sons.
I first realized how motherhood had changed me when watching a news story about a police officer who had been shot and killed while on patrol. The local news station interviewed his mother, as they often do, in a brief soundbite about her son. After sacrificing his life in the line of duty, his mom spoke 8 seconds on the air—an almost insultingly short slice of his precious life.
In the past, I would have watched the report and thought, “Oh wow, that’s so sad,” and swiftly moved on. But that night—with my 9-month-old firstborn son sleeping in the bedroom next door—a deep, gut-level emotion washed over me. Tears filled in my eyes. A lump swelled in my throat. That poor man. That poor mother. That police officer was her baby.
That police officer was her baby.
I was equally surprised to discover the sweet affection I suddenly felt towards awkward, pre-teen boys. Full of acne and hormones, awkwardness and aspiration, I recently watched these unsure teens meander their way through our town and felt a powerful maternal instinct. In only a handful of years, my baby will be one of these creatures: a sweaty, crush-obsessed, boy-turning-into-a-man. I can’t help but look at these 14-year-old boys and smile. They are somebody’s baby.
Those teenage boys are somebody’s baby.
I saw an old man in the coffee shop last week. His hands shook as he fumbled to bring his coffee cup to his lips. He kept to himself, aiming to maintain as much independence as he could muster with his cane by his side to guide his gait. His mother is most likely not here anymore. But he had a mother. And she loved him fiercely. And now he has to go through life without her. Until the end of her days, he was her baby.
That old man was somebody’s baby.
My husband is a wonderful man and father. But becoming a parent has taught me that good men don’t just show up fully formed—they are molded and pushed and nurtured in hundreds of thousands of small and large ways. He’s a wonderful husband now, but he’ll always be his mother’s baby. And I am so grateful for the good man she raised.
My husband will always be her baby.
Some day, my boys won’t have their sweet little voices and soft little bodies. They’ll be large and limby, too busy for me and in a rush to meet up with their friends and, of maybe, to meet girls. Thinking of their angel faces with facial hair makes me laugh—and cry.
My boys will always be my babies.
But my little boys will some day—sooner than it might seem—become men. Big, strong men with responsibility and expectations. With people looking up to them, and burdens weighing them down. With cultural notions of masculinity to accept or reject. With the opportunity to be tender or heroic. With their own conceptions of what it means to be a “good man.”
And the world desperately needs more good men.
It’s an honor to help guide, raise, anchor and launch my little men along the way.
But no matter how big my sons get, they’ll always fit perfectly inside my heart.
Those men with always be those mothers’ sweet sons.
And I will always feel a warmth and depth of connection with men around the world, because of these darling boys of mine.
This post first appeared on Mother.ly