Every week, Preen tackles motherhood sans the rose-tinted glasses. Our columnists L. Juliano, Marla Darwin, and Rossana Unson tell their personal experiences like it is—at times frustrating, oftentimes confusing, but always enlightening.
Every generation of new mothers always makes the same promise to themselves time and time again—that they will try to do better than the ones who came before them. There’s just a lingering aspiration for me to leave the world better than I found it.
My worldview started shifting for the better when I embraced feminism. It called me out on my unchecked privilege, and woke me up to the everyday injustices humans inflict on each other because of tested ideas on race, class, and gender.
As my kid’s mom, I need to teach her agency, equality, and empathy. And this is how I plan to do it.
#1 I will not differentiate “boy things” from “girl things”
If my daughter gravitates toward fighter planes as toys or my son wants to play dress up with a feather boa, it’s fine. My daughter will grow up with a father who isn’t afraid to cry and actively share in child-rearing duties.
Emotions and the ability to nurture are not solely in the realm of women; at the same time dominance and assertiveness aren’t exactly men’s.
#2 I will embrace my child’s gender identity, whatever it is
I will not force my kid into traditional gender roles because her identity and body are hers alone. All I can do is help her become the best version of herself and equip her with knowledge, courage, and support. She will understand that gender identity and orientation have nothing to do with being a good person.
#3 We will be able to talk about sex in our household
The first thing she will learn is consent. If she is uncomfortable kissing or hugging friends or relatives, I will let her refuse and I will protect her from their judgment.
She will understand that her body should never be used to gain the affirmation of people without her consent. I want her to understand the concept of boundaries as early as possible—that she can always say no. We are not afraid to say “vagina” or “penis” in our house. Every question will be answered.
#4 She will understand that no one ever “asks for it”
Cat-calling, lewd comments, and sexual abuse are never your fault, no matter what you are wearing or how you carry yourself. In turn, she will also understand that everyone deserves kindness and respect, regardless of their manner of dressing or living.
#5 She will not be silenced
I will train her to speak up and not feel small around people who will try to talk her down or alienate her. She will learn how to identify forms of gender-based, class-based, income-based, race-based discrimination and call them out for what they are.
She will develop an instinct for identifying condescension. She will also learn which battles are not worth fighting, and how to extract herself out of difficult situations gracefully.
#6 She will know that mommy’s feminist manifesto is also daddy’s
We know that all these will just be words if we don’t make sure we live it out. We avoid misogynistic company. (Or more accurately, we promise to avoid surrounding our family with awful people, period.)
We try to be self-aware. We will apologize to our daughter when we make mistakes (and there will be a lot, sorry). We won’t profess to know everything. And we promise to choose love no matter what.
Art by Dorothy Guya