Ruth G. Garcia is an Assistant Professor of English at New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York. Her work focuses on eighteenth-century novels written by women and the representation of servants and service. She is the author of, “‘Born a woman—and born to suffer’: The Mistress-Servant Community in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Maria,” which can be found in Her Own Worst Enemy: The Eternal Internal Gender Wars of Our Sisters, edited by Monique Ferrell and Julian Williams. Dr. Garcia’s writing can also be found in The Encyclopedia of British Literature 1660-1789 and The Literary Encyclopedia; and her work will be included in The Cambridge Guide to the Eighteenth-Century Novel, 1660-1820, which is forthcoming in 2020. Dr. Garcia is also co-editor of Lead, Follow, or Move Out of the Way!: Global Perspectives in Literature and Film (4th edition) which is forthcoming in Fall 2018; and she previously worked as an Assistant Editor of NANO: New American Notes Online.
In this essay I share moments from my own mothering, to show my struggle to raise a son who is not shaped, to his detriment, by traditional notions of masculinity. The trajectory of this essay moves from private moments at home with my son (the first time I overtly confronted issues of gender with him and one of the first times I questioned my feminist mothering practices) to a more public one with family and his peers. This personal narrative is not meant to offer answers. I share these moments to highlight the various challenges I face, as well as the insecurities I feel, when my ideals meet the reality of mothering; specifically, the reality of mothering in a world that operates differently from what I am encouraging when I ask my son to reject the “boy culture,” or traditional masculine identity. In sharing these stories, my narrative responds to Susan Maushart’s call, encouraging women to discuss their experiences to show the realities of motherhood “to [pool] what we really know about life on the other side of that great divide of parenthood” (480); and I do so, with the hope that if mothers of boys know we are not alone in our goals, mistakes, and insecurities then it will feel less burdensome and become more common to parent boys in a non-traditional way.
Mothering a Boy: A Feminist Shares Her Experience