When I arrived home from work last night my husband, who is (mercifully) taking long service leave, was preparing dinner and my youngest son was engrossed in study at the dining table. As usual, he jumped up as soon as he saw me, eager to share his news of the day. Yesterday that news was a video that he and the rest of the prefects at the boys’ school he attends had made for White Ribbon day.
He was enormously proud to show this to me. And as I stood there viewing it, I almost drowned in a wave of emotion. My 17-year-old son and his male cohort had filmed themselves taking an oath to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women. “This is my oath,” they chanted one after another.
I was speechless and teary. As a mother of sons my main agenda has been to raise men who respect women as equals. My son informed me that the boys had decided to create the video themselves. It wasn’t at the request of a teacher. It wasn’t at my request or suggestion. I hugged my son tightly and held him for longer than usual. No words could express how he made me feel.
It’s an extraordinary feeling to see your son pledge that not only will he never harm a woman but that he also won’t be silent if he sees it happen. I spent the remainder of the evening soaking in the enormity of that.
As a working mother I have been judged and criticised over the years for the time that I was not spending with my children. Much of that criticism came from women who had made different life choices. In an article in the latest edition of UK magazine Porter, Cate Blanchett discusses how she has had to deal with judgement from some circles of the school mothers group. She has apparently dubbed them the “mummy mafia”.
As a mother who is often away from her family for months on end making movies on the other side of the globe, when she has been able to drop her sons at school she has apparently been informed by a group of helpful mothers that she really should make more of an effort to brush her hair. Unfortunately it’s happened to the best of us.
Mostly you feel powerless to act when you’re criticised or judged in this way; it’s horribly confronting and personal. But when your 17-year-old son presents you with a video that he has made to show support for women, I can tell you, all of that subsides. Suddenly you start to feel extremely powerful and not at all like a bad mother.
I now realise that raising respectful sons has given me all of the power that I need to feel confident about the decisions that I have made in my life and the confidence to state that I am, actually, a great mother.