Written by: Kendall A. | Umm Iman
Nearly two and a half years ago, I walked through the doors of the hospital room for my initial ultrasound. It was my second pregnancy, and I was interested in knowing the gender of the baby to help me prepare better. I would be happy with whatever Allah had decreed, but of course, pregnancy and the prospect of becoming a parent again, even when we have other children, always brings nervous enthusiasm. As an African-American and Native American, Muslim woman in America, knowing the equal potential that my unborn child could be a boy also gave me overwhelm.
It’s the same concern that most Black mothers in America feel. Will my Black son be loved, respected, and cherished in this society? Or will he instead be seen as a threat and a problem from a very young age? The nurse conducted the ultrasound without these thoughts in her head, simply doing her job as expected. The moment of reveal arrived, and she announced that the child would be a boy, in sha Allah. My heart skipped a beat, my forehead perspired, and a wave of anxiety washed over me. Okay, I sighed and breathed in deeply. This venture will require immense tawwaqul and dua, I thought to myself. Looking back, every challenge that we face requires this–patience, tawwaqul, and dua, because nothing in life comes without challenges, fears, and concerns, but also great joy, reward, and beauty.
In addition to being concerned that my son would be a child of color growing up in a world that sees race before character, I also felt self-conscious about my ability to raise a son in the absence of direct male leadership. Alhumdulilah, my family stepped up to fill that gap and has been a huge support system and source of role modeling in that regard. However, I couldn’t help but think about the needs he would have in adolescence, that as a woman, I simply cannot speak to from experience. Worrying about this at his birth, I realize is futile and negates the recognition of aforementioned tawwaqul needed; but alas, I am human and cannot deny my initial worry.
I feel that men experience more pressure or self-consciousness around “being manly” than do women on being “womanly enough.” This is my own assumption, an of course, it does not reflect every person; but I say it to say that it was an initial point of insecurity that I had in considering my ability to raise a male child. What I’ve learned in the past two years, is that there are many different types of people and all of us have space to be validated, loved, and secure in being our whole selves. That our whole selves are unique and not bound by gender, and that there is no one way to “be a boy” or to “be a girl.” What I mean is that, there will be boys who are interested in a myriad of activities and passions, just as there will be girls who are interested in things beyond what is stereotypical. As a parent, it is my job to honor the interests of both of my children, regardless of their genders, and to focus instead on character development, spirituality, and education, as these are the foundations of raising beautiful, well-rounded individuals, who can and will contribute to the world in beautiful ways, in sha Allah.
My intention in raising both a female and male child is that they will be drawn to a potential spouse one day who has similar character as what they saw in the home from one another. I want for them both to be individuals who can care for themselves and a family, who work to build the communities around them, and who use what they have been blessed with to give back to the world in meaningful ways–that they will be a light by the permission of Allah swt and encourage others toward all that is good.
What were some of your initial fears or concerns in raising children? Did you think that raising one gender would be easier than the other? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below or by email =)