I stare at my 4-month-old son as he smiles at me. I mirror his cheerfulness by smiling back; however, my thoughts wander as I imagine what kind of man he will become. My pensiveness leads me to a question: how do I raise this boy and his older brother to be respecters of women?
The answer might seem to be a simple one sincemy boys are Filipinos.
According to the *World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2017, the Philippines ranks 10 among 144 countries on gender equality. It remains number 1 in Asia. This classification is based on women's participation, attainment, and involvement in four categories: labor, education, health and politics.
While a number of women are freely exercising their rights, cases of domestic abuse, sexual harrassment, human trafficking, prostitution, and rape still exist here. A number of insecure men still heartlessly secure their power by controlling women. Needless to say, there still exist a mindset of "macho men dominate women"; hence, we continue to rally respect for our rights.
As a mother, I understand the dynamics of this power struggle for I bear my share of untold #metoo experiences. Thus, I intend to raise boys to becomecaring, respectful, secured men.
The task is an uphill battle for children come into this world without a personalized manual. My two boys possess contrasting personalities for a start. As early as now, I acknowledge that this cannot be done alone. It takes greater grace from God Most High, alongside communities who advocate for women's rights and the partnership of my husband.
Since children learn better by example, I assesshow my husband and I model gender parity in our home. There I see a promising fighting chance: my husband.
From the time I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, he knew that my days would consist ofa routine of arduous, tiresome, unpaid work. So he helps with the household chores.
There are moments when I sleep pass midnight to soothe a crying baby.There are nights when he rises from his rest to comfort the baby for meto sleep my tiredness away.
There are mornings as I wake up, I see a well-prepared breakfast complete with coffee. But I do not find him in the kitchen, for he is outside hangging our clothes. He is our human washing machine. He chooses to handwash our blankets, bed sheets, pillow cases, and clothes.
He buys our groceries on the way home from work. As soon as he arrives, he changes his clothes and plays with the boys while I prepare our dinner. Sometimes, he volunteers to cook while I take care of the boys. There is a seemless fluidity in terms of who is responsible for the tasks at home. My husband gladly unburdens me of care work.
When I told him I want to pursue a writing career, he bought me a number of inspirational books and a better technology for writing.He also hired someone to look after our eldest son while he plays outside so I could find time to write.
I never ask him to do all these things. He is proactively thinking, " how can I lessen my wife's burden?". His acts of love and gifts always come as a surprise.
One day, I ask him why is he putting much effort into helping me out at home. He answered that he views my choice for care work as heroic. Helearned about gender equality so he intends to:
a) recognize that my role at home, albeit unpaid, is productive;
b) reduce my burden so I could pursue the things I enjoy, such as time to write; and
c) redistribute the tasks at home by assigning these to individuals concern.
I am not privyhow men behave inside their respective homes, nor how husbands share the burden of care work in their households. But as a woman, I feel privileged that my husband respects my rights.
He has been consistent since the day he confessed he likes me. In pursuit of romance, he courageously went to my parents' house for permission to date me.He respected my values and preferences, and never took advantage of me. He waited for my kiss that I only allowed him to takeon our wedding day. It was a crazy personal conviction due to my traumatic past with disrespectful men, but he willingly obliged.
In our marriage, he practices patience as hewitnesses the hormonal rollercoaster I have: pre-menstruation, menstruation, pregnancies, child births, postparttums. And hopefully, he is prepared for the menopausalstage.
I am aware of his imperfections just as he tolerates mine. I am aware that it takes a village to raise a child. However, our kind of village is an everchanging one as we move from one job assignment to another.
When I teach my sons about gender equality and respect for women, I can pass on to them my advocacy: paying attention to women's needs and their hormonal imbalances; honoring their privates spaces;respecting their rights; learning household work;supporting their choices, and the like.
I can expose them to communities and organizations that practicegender neutrality. I can share stories from studies recorded here and abroad. I can point them to God who loves us all equally. But whenever thetime comes thatI run out ofwords, stories, and strategies, I can always tell my sons, confidently at that, "go and emulate your father".
To my husband, Jerick, this post is my way of celebrating YOU. I want the whole world to know that I appreciate every thing that you do, and that I am so proud of you. Happy birthday!
Sidenote: I have been itching to submit an entry on Building Up Boys, but I waited until February 15 to post this. For today is my husband's birthday!