A Mothers view on a Mans World
One of the big surprises of motherhood for me is how angry I get when I hear people saying negative things about men. If people assume someone is a lesser parent because they are a man I get angry. If they jump to conclusions that problems in a relationship or household must be a man’s fault, it upsets me.
I used to rather blindly assume all sorts of things about men, but I have grown out of that now for one very important reason – my son. When I was expecting my son I had to attend a high risk pregnancy clinic and there was a lot of fear and doubt about how it would all end. The day I went into labour there were further complications and it was a long and frightening process to bring him into the world. Nothing could ever describe the combination of joy and relief I felt when I finally heard his first cry and the uncertainty about his safe delivery was over. I was in an operating theatre at the time and he was taken away while they finished their procedure. When they returned me to the ward he was waiting for me wrapped in a blanket so I could be the one to dress hm for the first time.
He was tiny and exhausted, with a big swollen bruise on his head from the ordeal he had been through. He was also starving hungry but too weak to suck and two days later he had to go to the Special Care Baby Unit. There is nothing I would not do to protect that boy.
When my son was in primary two he was bullied in school. I have never felt so insane with anxiety in my life. He used to burst into tears at the school gate the moment he saw me having held in the hurt and the fear all day. I spoke to the teacher but she was young and inexperienced and didn’t seem to be able to manage the problems in the classroom. I also went to the Head Teacher but he seemed very apathetic. I started to think that part of the problem was that my son by this stage was head and shoulders above the other children in his class, being that our family tend to be tall. He was also confident about speaking out, as I have encouraged him to be, and massively kind and helpful. Sadly, his kind nature makes it possible for people to manipulate him and I think his classmates were taking advantage of his innocence. I got to the stage where I turned up unannounced at the school to see if he was ok – he wasn’t, he was distraught; and one day I actually sat in the playground during his lunch and watched as the playground monitor failed to manage the children around her, then raised issues with the school. Of course, we moved him to another school, where he has been very happy, but I will never forget the agony of watching him suffer. My heart was broken every day. Neither of us were eating or sleeping and I felt utter powerlessness at having to send him to school. I can only imagine what it would be like if your son was living with an abusive partner and I dread the day when anyone hurts my boy.
Just because my son will be tall and strong and articulate will not mean that he can’t be hurt. I do worry, however, that it might be harder for him to seek help. I see people making negative comments about men on Facebook all the time, and especially in terms of domestic violence. I have started challenging this whenever I can because I want the world to be fair to my son. That said, I also have a very precious daughter and I feel the same way about her, but something about bringing a son into the world has changed me. In those early hours when I was dressing my son for the first, I remember being frightened that I would not know how to raise him because I am so girlie, maybe he wouldn’t like me. I also wondered how on earth someone so very male could have been a part of my body. It turned out that he was the easiest person in the world for me to get close to and that we were a confirmed double act, joined at hip at all times until he got to the age where that was uncool.
I have a couple of male friends who have had a terrible time with domestic abuse and I have found it very hard to know what to say. With a female friend I seemed to just ask about it and we agreed a safe word which she could text to me if she was in danger. It was just all out in the open. With males I felt afraid to say anything in case I somehow made them feel less of a man and I danced about the issue for ages until they told me. That’s why I like MANI. I want to see a safe place for men to go and talk about what is happening without fear or stigma. I want to think I can seek advice from them about how to support the men in my life should these things happen.
My biggest wish is that both my children will grow up to have safe, happy lives, but if they do experience abuse, I want them both to be able to go somewhere for help and support. The resources for female survivors are already well established in Northern Ireland and that is why I hope that MANI will get lots of support – so that by the time my son is a man, there will be a safety net for him just the same way as there is one for women.