Will you raise your son like you raise your daughters?

  I have thought a lot about what it would have been like to have had a boy. To have experienced a son with a man who desperately prayed for a boy and was not so thrilled to have a daughter. I was proud to have a healthy baby, no matter what the outcome. Now that my child and I are older, I have realized the power and significance in my life since having a daughter. I have realized the value of educating my child about gender and equal opportunity. I have also noticed the difference in how we have been treated all because I have a girl rather than a boy to raise. Here’s what I have summed it all up to.

We live in a world where (all over the planet) male children are valued more than females. Male babies are welcomed to families with more enthusiasm for the fact that they can carry the family name. A strong boy is always welcomed to be born first so they can be the oldest and the protector. In some countries, boy children are valued higher for their physical abilities to work and earn income for the family. Males are also able to carry out family traditions such as religion and possibly a family company.

In other parts of the world, female children are used as a system for bartering and gathering dowry to earn status and income. Land. Reputation. Daughters are valued as a service or deal while male children are kept as leaders of the family. Girls are sold into sex slavery and married off young in order to provide benefit in highly poor regions. Some countries find it beneficial to send the boys to school while the girls have to work in sweatshops and on farms. This is valid and recent information. So many girls all over the world are treated unfairly in comparison to males. So many girls are aborted, abandoned and devalued through trading their lives for income or status. Its nothing more than a sales transaction, while some little girl somewhere is being raped repeatedly in a brothel in order for her parents to afford their farm and boys to make a living.

This stuff is real. It happens. To this day.

I have come to appreciate all of my advantages in being a young, white and independent female in America. To be able to choose my fate, apply for assistance and live by myself at a University. To have food on my table and clothing for myself and my child. I can recognise my advantages as a teen parent, though having been abandoned by my parents. I still have options. I do not have to care for my parents financially or emotionally. I will not ever have to be responsible for their debt. Nor will I have to give up my own child for their gain. Not me. I made my choices.

And lucky for me, I survived.

  Somewhere, far away, I know girls are worse off than I was. Homeless. Starving. No education. No ability to take care of their kids. No contraception but sometimes no other means of survival but to turn to prostitution or stripping. To turn to marrying onto a loveless marriage in order to get bills paid and a loveless union for a roof over their heads.

How many men have had to face these trials?

How many young boys have been traded in order to harvest the crops and afford the family home?

How many boys have been sold into sex slavery and then forced to have abortions or operations for far worse problems from having to have sex with hundreds of men a month?

Of course, young boys and teen boys have also been sold or kidnapped in the past. Its not only a female focused crime. However, the point is to look at the value of each gender. Why should either child be more or less important?

In America, children are gendered even in this generation. The way we dress our children, the toys we select for them and the things we prioritize for them are GENDERED.

Look in target. Toysrus.

Stroll down an isle in the girls section and tell me what you see. Do you see pink, glitter and accessories? Dresses, tight materials and low cut everything? What are the toys like? Do you see any science kits or legos in the girl isle? Does dressup consist of firefighters, doctors or lawyers? Or do we see imaginary character costumes? Fantasy or domestic roles over police officers or dentists.

The funny thing is, most people are senseless and don’t even notice. Check out the toys that are eye level to children. What does the media and the toy industry want your child to aspire to? If you think it doesn’t hinder your child’s ability to develop based on gender bias then your wrong. Your dead wrong to say you would let your boys play with Barbie’s. And when my daughter wants to grab trucks or wrestlers, she’s stared at. Why is that?

Though I can go on forever listing the ways western culture gender divides children, my main point lies in the way we choose to raise our children. We choose this stuff. From the nursery until the college dorm, we hand pick and design the way our kids develop. We encourage things based on their gender as well as what is normal for our societal norms. This complicates your child’s ability to differentiate between fantasies and real goals. Our daughters find fantasy play more pleasing than hard laboring or leading their own dreams. Because we tell them its OK to be dainty and submissive. To wait for a husband to pay for their every need and build their home for them. To be the breadwinners for them and provide the stability. Leaving all the pressure on the males to complete those sometimes impossible achievements.

We also rob female children of their own achievements by making them feel as if certain goals are unattainable. As if they simply cannot and should not be able to take care of themselves. 

  I appreciate that I do not need another person to take care of me. I have had to grow up very fast due to many things in my past that didn’t allow for me to be submissive or for lack of a better term, effing stupid. I have not had the time or patience to sit around and wait for others to take care of me or save me. I have never settled for less than what my mind believes I can acquire. I believe in myself. Regardless of my gender or the oppressions I have faced, I know I can reach as high as I allow myself to.

What I will pass down to my daughter is the knowledge and abilities to take care of herself. I want her to understand the history of women all over the world and the strides many made to overcome their societal limitations. To overcome the struggles pushed onto them for simply being born a female. I never want to hear my daughter say she does not appreciate who she is or what abilities she has. We all should be thankful for what we do have because someone out there has it way worse. I want her to be compassionate and have a desire to serve others. To help make the world have equal opportunities for both genders.

I want her to know the struggles young girls face every day. Instead of being blinded to the crimes and awful treatment afflicted by strangers, families or cultures.

  I have had more than a handful of people curse me with the conclusion that because I had my daughter young, she may get pregnant young. Correction. Will get pregnant young. As of she will spitefully plan it. Or I will not reinforce the lessons I learned hard enough. Maybe they even though in some ways, my “stupidity” gene was hereditary. I have mostly been stunned enough to pause before reacting. My favorite was the time an unnamed person told me that I’m in trouble for having a daughter because she can be pregnant as a teen. To this I replied, “well I suppose it would be better than having a son who can impregnate twenty women at once if he tries hard enough.” Yup. I said it.

I have also been told that I am in trouble when my daughter becomes a teen because girls are just worse off. They are troublesome for wanting to dress a certain way. For wanting sex. To date. To be popular. To be noticed. Its been said that girls are the ones who seduce. Who beg for attention. Who ask for it. Attract rape. Attract pregnancy. Well, I would like to know what made women feel the need to compete against one another. What makes the females want to act certain ways and go through certain things that males don’t. Supposedly don’t. 

  Some day, when I have a son, I am going to treat him as equals with my daughter. I want to educate my child(ren) about sexual health, body changes and hormones. I want to provide curfews and standards for both sexes. I also want to be fair. I want my boys and girls to feel value in themselves as unique individuals with different passions and dreams. I do not want to blame their short comings on their gender. Or limit their options based on what society provides for each gender.

Wake up people!

The truth is, no child should hold more value over the other. And no child of anyone should have to feel inferior in their family. We set the standards. We have the choice to make the boundaries. But parents have to be willing to put in the work and effort.

While I raise my daughter, I show her how to respect herself and respect others. I show her how to use compassion and kindness. How to appreciate her talents and work on her weaknesses. We love animals and nature. Art and science. We do not do things based on the fact that she is a girl. However, I do not want her to be gender neutral. I won’t tell her she does not have to identify strongly with being female. That’s not what feminism is about. What I wish for my daughter is to stand up for the fact that she is a female, but to make her own definition of what is appealing to her. Not what society forces her to like.

I will not blind myself to the fact that she will soon have emotions of all kinds. She will hit puberty and go through social obstacles. Like any other child. It all comes down to how I will handle it. And how I will educate her to make her own choices.

The best gift you can give your child, boy or girl, is the whole picture. Instead of allowing a narrow view of life, give them the whole picture and allow them to make their own mind up. If you can teach your children to be independent and well rounded, your job as a parent is complete.

  So here it is. Some day I want more children. Once I am married and in a home of our own. A home built up on values and equality. A family that appreciates each others uniqueness and talents. When the days come and the obstacles hit the front, I will deal with them as fairly as possible. When I have sons, they will hear the importance of safe sex and commitment. They will all hear about curfews. About self respect and self reliance. Independence. As well as knowing when to ask/receive help. I want all of my children to understand the importance of permission. To say sorry and take responsibility when making a mistake. I want my sons to respect and care for their future partners but also accept when a partner wants to be independent. To never leave a girl if she does not want to be intimate. To earn their lovers. To earn trust.

These are the qualities all children need to be raised on.

Its what will help weaken the gender standards. So we can all start living with equal expectations and opportunities. For the better of our own and future generations.

The magical thing about freedom of choice is that we do not have to live like the past. Society has the opportunity to record history and learn from it. Change is the only way to make a difference in this world.

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“All by myself”

 
  We finally have made it to September. My daughter seems so excited for kindergarten. I have been shopping for what I can to prepare for kindergarten. I was so excited to receive my silicone baking cups in the mail finally!!! I cannot wait to use them for organizing her school lunches.

   Today we picked up some more finger foods and snacks for her lunches. I also found some pretty cute Tupperware. This is what my life comes to. I am excited about lunch containers. Its a new chapter in her life so I want
everything to be perfect.
   

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I am trying out new recipes for my daughter to add in new food groups she isn’t used to. I also need to amp up my diet which now consists of anything I can get at campus or junk. No breakfast. And cookies. I am horrible during the semester. I snack way too much and end up not feeling 100%. I need to focus on eating the right types of food. Also, I need to live off water. I am a maniac when searching for beverages because nothing seems to be natural anymore. I hear so much about GMOs and added dietary chemicals. I search for 100% juice or it goes back on the shelf.
  
   So far this past week I have labeled books, prepared her backpack, and tried to encourage her as much as possible. I am dealing with my own stresses but trying not to let it show. I have trouble hiding my feelings from my daughter. She is the only one who can see right through me. She knows all my weaknesses and fears. She knows my happy face. My angry face. She will even walk into time out because she knows my “I have had it up to here” face. You all must know what I mean!

  What is bothering me is that her going to kindergarten is a big marker of independence for us both. I am starting to decide what career I want. The clock is ticking. I have to come up with answers. I need to get a plan that is fail proof. I have no where to live after I graduate. I have to find an apartment, find a steady job and get a car. I have to make sure its in the area so my daughter can stay in her district. I need to do it all by myself. The lesson of the week has been that phrase exactly. What I am most afraid and eager of is having to and needing to do this all alone.

  I have been in a serious and committed relationship for three years with a man who is not the father of my child but the only person she knows most besides me. He met her when she was only two. She is nearly six now. We are both college aged and busy with our own paths. We have made it through so many things that I feel like we are almost invincible. We thought long and hard about some major decisions and decided to follow our own hearts but in different directions. No, not a breakup. Physically. As in latitude, longitude. He is going to go to Africa to serve and help people. I am going to finish my college degree and find the career of my dreams. With all of our friends all rushing to be married or pregnant, we have been very different. We have stayed committed and happy without rushing to be more than just our ages. It has made us happy and closer than ever to follow through on our own life plans. Something I learned a long time ago was that giving up your dreams for any guy is not love. Its settling. And abandoning your own passions. I’ve done it before. And I got a daughter out of it. I am so thankful for that. But now is my time to get it right.

   I had to say good luck and see you later to my best friend, my only real love last night. He will leave tomorrow evening on a days journey to Africa. I am so blessed to have him in my life and to have his family. We are so in love and in sync with each other. I never really felt loved by anyone like I do with him. Though we both cried and had a hard time parting, we feel joy at the great experience we are giving each other. To be able to grow and follow our own paths. When both of us are done in a few semesters, we can then be reunited and see where our five year relationship. We have plans for the future together but first we need more than ever to complete our own goals. He is my hero and I admire him so much. For all that he does for others. He constantly puts others well being before his own. He is active in church and also a well adjusted guy. He has been the best thing to ever happen to my daughter. She is so excite for him to go to Africa and see zebras. She tells everyone about him nonstop. I never thought I would find someone to whole heartedly accept myself and my daughter, for all that we are.

   I can honestly say I have loved him fro. The start. (Really, I said I love you the first week). I dated a lot after my ex, even though Bella was a baby. She never met any of the guys really. Unless I was friends with guys I did not want her to be raised meeting all different guys. Still, I was only seventeen with a baby. I did want to date. I went through a whole lot of frogs and didn’t feel right with any. I felt like I could just skip being emotional to avoid being hurt or abandoned again. Love was not for me. Until I met him. Now some friends ask me If I’m open to dating while he is away. Its not on the table. When you know, you just know.

 

I have had a lot of obstacles but I finally know what I want in my life. I know who I want to be. Who I am. And who I want to spend my life with. I am thankful and happy for the friends i have. For the memories I am making with my daughter. I can actually say I am at peace with my life. All because I am not afraid to do things by myself. To accomplish my goals and make my own dreams come true. Like I deserve.

Love is having your heart walk whole outside of your body. For me, half beats strong in Africa and the other half is cuddled up on my lap. I finally found my home.

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Its OK to have “Just a mom”.

   Hold me to this. I have an idea. One that will some day hit Barnes and Noble. With my name on it. A children’s book. A classic , award winning series”. I will call it “One is enough”.  I will even illustrate it (there goes my art skills in action). And it will be dedicated to my sweet daughter.

  My story will be meant for children all over the world (offered in every language and in every library). It will discuss various situations in life where one parent was enough. I will make a series for fathers and for mothers who are single. From being widowed, abandoned, divorced etc. For all of those situations. The ones where people wonder, stare and question (sometimes out loud) if one parent is enough. Guess what?

   It can be.

I have had a rough but enjoyable journey with my daughter.

My ex had tried a few attempts at being in her life, mostly due to my dumb encouragement on giving her a chance to know who he was. It did not stick. It just did not work. One of the two of us was mature and ready enough to be a parent at 16. The other, not so much.

I have stressed and thought over and over about what is best for my child. Not what looks best. Or sounds best. But what is functionally best for her well being. For her future. She has on her own questioned things. All she has ever known is mom. She has literally been with me her whole life without view of another parent for any of her milestones. I have packed every lunch. Set every bath. Kissed every booboo. Wiped every tear. I have 100% supported her life and well being. But some insist that it is still not enough. It cannot be enough for her to have one parent. She must be lacking in something from deprivation. She must have some ugly or bitter trait from not having two parents. She must be forming “daddy issues” or not comprehend where babies come from.

Even some judge, somewhere, will tell me “that is not good enough”. The american, hetero-normative parenting diagram states that it takes two to tango. So when one parent skips out of all the responsibilities, memories, milestones and bills, its still inappropriate and lacking for a child to have a parent who does it all. That’s simply not enough to meet everyone’s standards.

Of course not everyone admits this out loud. They do it through actions. Its so normative to have two parents that a child with one is questioned out loud if their other parent is dead. Or disappeared. Its natural for kids to question things. But who fills their heads with the idea that it is OK to ask another if they are missing or lacking something? How does that child feel when other kids ask them why there is no dad or mom. Like shit probably.

  I have not raised my daughter to go around asking people why they have or don’t have a parent. I have told her countless stories about families of all colors, sizes and orders. Some families have two moms. Some families have two dads. Some families have just grandparents. Some families have a mom and dad and sisters and brothers. Some families are made of many relatives living all together. And then, there are some families with just a mommy and a child. And that’s OK too.

Its such a sensitive thing, explaining reality to a child. Those moments we have to burst their innocent bubble and fill it with the grime of the earth. The things we hope to not cause them pain or anguish. Yet we have to. Some information needs to be explained so that other kids don’t fill their heads with bad feelings about it. I have had to sit my child down when she asks why some families have dads and some don’t. She has asked me why I do not have a mommy or daddy. In her eyes, I am everything. And I have all the answers. I am the all knowing mommy god. I try to be light in detail but truthful. Since those times, some kids have asked her about her parents. She simply tells them ( in a strong statement), “I don’t have a dad, I have a mom”. 

  I do not wish to fill her head with negativity. I do not think it is my job to give her every detail and explanation on why my ex is not involved. Why he chose to make bad choices. I know some day he will have to answer to her when the time comes. That will be for him to come to terms with. What I try to focus on is what mommy and her accomplish. It is not about what we don’t have. Its what we do have. We have always had each other. That’s what we will always have. No matter what.

  Being a parent is a full time job. It is exhausting and beautiful. To be a parent, you have to invest your full attention. Your every days. Your heart and soul. You have to be willing to sacrifice your last dime for them, your only piece of bread and your last breathe. They are a part of you. A literal part of you, only outside of your body. My daughter is like my heart, walking around on this Earth. With her own personalities, ideas and dreams. My daughter has a little bit of me but she is 100% her own person. She knows what she wants and likes, even at five. She is preprogrammed. She is not a toy or a puppy but a real person with a bright future.

I hope that as she grows, from the love and encouragement I give her, that she can be who and what she wants to be. She has had such a fulfilling childhood already. A normal one. Filled with friends, dance classes, stuffed animals, VHS tapes, classic bedtime stories and so many people who love her. We have a wonderful family built up by the friends we have made and real love we have been shown (not by blood family). It does not matter how anyone is related to us or not. We have been just fine.

  To all the people who have had and will have the future audacity to ask my child why she does not have a father: it doesn’t matter. Its none of your business. Its none of your concern. My child’s single parent lifestyle is not contagious. It will not make your child rebellious or low income or crazy. In fact, having each other is pretty damn awesome. One really really is enough.

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She’s a brick house!

A successful woman is one who can build a firm foundation out of the bricks others have thrown at her“~ anon.

  I have had a super rough week trying to adjust to my new schedule. With my daughter still getting over being sick and my homework quickly piling up, I have been frazzled and twitching. I did manage to get many things accomplished. However, my patience has been tested all week by people around me.

   I am not sure why people need to stare at me while I’m on campus pushing a stroller, but they do. This past week, some jerk guy decided to make fun of me for pushing a kid in a stroller on campus. He mumbled things to his friend as they hurried past me. My friend over heard it and told me parts of what he said. I was ready to pounce but I refrained.

  I had no choice but to bring Bella to my night class, sociology of reproduction. We had a lecture and a movie about childbirth. My daughter sat quietly watching Netflix on my phone and munching on a granola bar. I was totally entertained by the faces I got and the comments. Though most people find my daughter adorable, I know its not the norm. seeing a small child on a college campus. That’s cool. That’s fine. But leave it at that and don’t make me feel like a weirdo for having a child.

    What more people should be saying to themselves is “wow, look a young mom can still do normal things like attend school and hold a job”. I get increasingly frustrated by girls who become pregnant and then throw away all of their ambitions. I strive to set a good example and reach out to other young mothers. Though I do still struggle to make everything work, I am not ashamed of being a mother. I am proud that I have been able to follow my dreams. It worries me when I don’t see many moms. Not because I am expecting an epidemic of teen moms. I just know that the ones who are out there and are not married also don’t likely choose to follow through on getting an education. I never mean to put anyone down. I do not think I am better than anyone for having an education or certain privileges others might not. It just worries me how few girls are encouraged by society and the education system to get a degree and eventually a career.

   The biggest problem I have seen with the education system (mostly because of the state) is that there is very little support or encouragement for mothers to stay in school. There are not many scholarships for single or young parents and financial aid is scarce for students because of budget cuts to the state. The facilities like childcare and after hour care are dwindling because of dropping budgets or no state workers and many colleges don’t even offer it. There are very few colleges that have family housing or spouse housing. Families just don’t fit into the college equation. I suppose that these systems just haven’t changed with the changing times.

  As much as 40% of babies are born to unmarried couples over the last few years. The percentage has steadily increased over the last three decades alone. This could be due to economics, culture differences, absent parents or religious differences. Some couples are choosing to have and raise children without the institution of marriage. Yet young adults are still encouraged to earn a degree out of high school. If not, where will their income be earned from and what kind of family will they be able to support with a minimum wage job? My choice was clear. I researched colleges when I was 17 and had a newborn. I was not just determined to head off to college to prove a point to anyone. I knew if I had no parents and no father for my child, I needed to be independent and earn a steady income for my child. That way we could live comfortable when she was growing up and I could still fulfill the goals I had for myself.

   Even though I have researched and inquired to many colleges about their facilities for parenting students, I have yet to figure out a main idea on why there is so little support available. Surely this is the twenty first century and I am not the first or last teen to get pregnant. It is also not a new thing that families are being started at a younger age. Teen pregnancy rates have dropped according to recent studies since the 1990’s.  But it still exists. And its nothing like MTV’s TEEN MOM. There are real girls out there. Who are dreaming of goals beyond being a mother. Who are in relationships or not but are happy with their decision to be a mother. So why is it that so many states in America offer little assistance or aid to them?

   I am not referring to aid as in welfare. What I mean is actual support groups. Benefits through jobs. Tax credits for being single mothers in school. Schools that offer classes built around daycare hours. A real certified daycare facility on each campus with its own budget and workers. Trained staff. Did you know that new York state offers a SUNY grant to help pay for daycare?

I don’t make this stuff up people. I am tired of being “One more teen mom”.

I want to be “One less statistic”.

feministingmama

Mini me

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  I wonder how many times a week all of you get mad at your kids for doing bad things. Awful and teeth gritting things. The things you do and have taught them. Here are some fun things I have passed down to my daughter.

*Leaving socks on the floor and/or not matched in the laundry

* Not putting a dirty dish or cup in the sink from the table before going to play or watch TV

*eye rolling

*Screaming due to tiredness/crankyness and no real reason

*leaving caps off of markers, pens and highlighters

*not thinking before speaking

*giving ultimatums and not following through

*Giving two choices and hearing your child pick the other “you better walk or I’ll carry you!” Oh damn, she chose carry.

*not refilling the toilet paper when its all used up

*saying dammit (or worse)

* lying to get off a phone or away from someone (but that could be useful)

*walking over to the fridge and staring into it. With no real commitment to any object in it. (I do that a lot)

*stashing candy.

*laughing when I am angry. (I can’t help but laugh when she is livid because its so dang cute).

*saying No.

I think there are a million more things I have taught my child that I in return hate when she does. I’m sure many of you are guilty as charged. Anyone else totally see themselves in their child’s mistakes?

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