Raising boys

FIGHTING WORDS - Kay Malilong-Isberto - The Freeman

The last activity that my co-class parent representative and I organized this school year for our sons' class was a mini-career expo. It was supposed to enhance the career expo organized by the school months before. The idea was to give the boys a chance to listen to as many speakers as possible to know what careers were possible and to hear the resource speakers talk about what it took to get them where they were: a successful point in their career.

We consulted the guidance counselor about what kind of speaker we should be getting considering the career preferences that the boys picked. It appeared that a lot of them were interested in careers in business and law. She suggested that we choose speakers who graduated from the same school so that the boys could relate to them better.

We asked the other parents in the class for help. We thought we had a scientist, a basketball coach, and a guitarist from a popular band for our event. One of the parents who was a nurse and an educator also volunteered to speak.

The day before the event, we found out that only the guitarist and the nurse/educator could make it. It was too late to look for more speakers. My partner is a successful businesswoman who runs an events company but she said that she didn't like public speaking. We are both married to lawyers but neither of our husbands was available that day. She convinced me to give a talk about law as a career.

I have no problem with speaking in public but I knew that my son would probably be embarrassed about me having to talk to his classmates. While I see a lot of them often since they hang out at our home, I hadn't really talked to any of them beyond the usual pleasantries. My son did not know that I was going to be one of the speakers until I was introduced by my partner.

I talked to them about how to make it to a good law school (get high grades in college), how to make it in law school (study really hard, get notes and old exams of smart people from higher batches), and how to get a job in top law firms (be in the top ten of your batch, use fraternity or family connections, or marry the boss's daughter).

I also talked to them about how the partnership track in a law firm could mean not being able to spend enough time with their family and of the need to find a supportive spouse who will not mind having a husband who will miss important dates like birthdays and First Communions because of work. I was describing my old life.

My friends and I talk about how a lot of Filipino boys are raised to be macho. They grow up to be chauvinists who believe that they have to be the primary breadwinner and that they are better than other men if they have multiple wives and girlfriends.

With my crusade to release boys from gender stereotypes, I asked the boys if they would be fine with a wife who made more money than they did. Silence. I asked them if they would be willing to stay home with the kids to support their wives' careers. Silence. I didn't really think that anyone would speak up but I'm comforted by the thought that I planted those ideas in their heads. And my son is still talking to me.


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