From Boys to Men: Raising Sons


Life Writer, Masalamommas

By Sheba Siddiqui @shebasid  & online at

I am the mother of two boys. I love them more than life itself, as all of you mothers out there can relate. Yusuf is a gentle and quiet three-year-old and his outgoing brother Zeeshan is a year and a half. I often wonder what they’ll be like as adults, what kind of husbands they will be, what type of moral compasses they will have. And as I sit with girlfriends and they tell me about the trials and tribulations of their marriages, I hope that my sons will know how to handle difficult situations, particularly within their own marriages.

I come from a culture that is primarily male-dominated. The boys can do whatever they want and the girls must learn to become domestic goddesses and “yes” women. Because really, who’s going to marry you if you don’t know how to make a good curry and maintain a clean home? And God forbid you wait to get married because those eggs of yours will begin rotting away. We are taught that our worth is determined by the amount of recipes we know, how fertile our eggs are and sure, a degree here and there makes you more sellable – all to find a good husband of course.

So this is where my parenting methods come into play. My fear is to raise boys who go through life having a sense of entitlement. Who go from living in their mother’s home to marrying someone who takes over the mothering role. I want them to be independent beings long before they get married. I don’t want them to live with me after marriage. In fact, I look forward to moving into my South Asian nursing home one day where we can all share the commonalities of daal, drooling, diaper changes and fighting over the new young male intern.

It is a must for me to raise boys who know how to cook, clean, do laundry and maybe even make fantastic roti. I obviously want them to go to school and become great at whatever profession they choose to be in but I don’t think the buck should stop with providing a great income and letting the rest fall to the wayside.

I want them to use words to describe their feelings, not fists.

I want them to be rough and tough and yet gentle and loving.

I want them to learn that those who cry are the strongest ones of all.

I want them to firmly believe in their heart of hearts that women are meant to be cherished and respected.

I want them to know that as long as they live and as old as they get, I will continue to kiss and hug them, no matter who is around. But I’m also aware that I will have to take a step back when it is time for them to get married. I do not want to compete with another woman for my sons’ attention. They are my sons and that will never change.

I am their mother. It is MY responsibility to make sure they have respect for women and don’t just see them as food providing, housekeeping, baby makers. It helps that they have a great role model in their father. Who, while running his own company, has probably changed more diapers than I have, has taught himself to cook online (albeit I still interfere and anxiously think he’s doing it all wrong) and most recently built his boys a kitchen out of boxes in our basement so they too can cook alongside us.


If there’s one thing I’d like to be known for above anything else, it’s being a great mother who raises boys that come into a marriage ready to take on responsibility, both inside and outside the home. I don’t want to raise either of my boys to be someone’s problem one day. I may not have full control over that but I do know that I can try my best with what I can control and it all begins inside the home, with the primary female role model leading the way.

I just need to figure out how to find that balance of spoiling them with love while teaching them that appreciation and respect for all others, male or female, is the highest form of self-respect.


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  1. Ayesha

    Great article… as always, Sheba! It is difficult breaking the bias. I have 2 sons (18 & 21) and a daughter (20), they split the chores. My boys mop, vacuum, do the dishes and the laundry but getting them to cook is by far the most difficult! My daughter enjoys cooking so it gives them an excuse not to. It’s an everyday struggle but hopefully, over the years, I’ve taught them to respect women. In this society where women work outside the home just as hard as men, it’s only fair that the domestic chores are equally distributed!
    Btw, I think you should patent the “Boys Play Kitchen”!
    You’re definitely on the right track!!

  2. Nadia

    My sons are 2 and 4 and I know what you mean about raising them to be independent. My husband came from his mother’s house into our house not knowing how to cook, wash clothes, buy groceries etc.
    With my boys I want them to learn that being an adult comes with many responsibilities and not expecting their significant other to be the only domesticated “one”.
    I love this blog and look forward to reading more from you.

    • Sheba S.

      Hi Nadia,
      Love your comment! Yes, I think both people in the relationship need to be domesticated too. Especially with more and more double incomes nowadays. It’s not fair or manageable to put all of the pressure and expectations on a wife/mother anymore.
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Sundeep @ Designwali

    Great article. I think of it often. Just like my daughter, I want my son to be strong, loyal, confident and secure. It is paramount for me that he shows a compassion and respect for women that is unfounding…and your right…the only way he’ll learn it is from me.

    • Sheba S.

      Hi Sundeep,
      I agree with you 100%. All of these characteristics are what I want to see in my own sons! Now if only parenting successfully came with an instruction manual :).

  4. Sheba S.

    Hi Raj,
    Great comment! I agree that the adults are children will become is so important in terms of our parenting skills!
    And yes, letting our sons be with their wives is important. Something I know I will have to make a conscious effort to do after consider them to be ‘my little boys’ for so long!

  5. Seema

    Great article Sheba!
    I have as daughter and 3 sons. I am hoping to raise them all with a very well rounded attitude towards their gender roles. I think our own attitudes as parents makes a huge difference. On a day to day basis I remind myself that these are someone’s future spouses and as such they need life skills to help them be successful partners. Attitude really is a huge chunk of everything. I want my daughter to know self defense, and be able to change a flat tire. My sons must know how to be sensitive towards their sister (and in turn all women) and they will be able to do household chores with ease. Even to prepare them for dorm life one day.

    • Sheba S.

      Hi Seema,
      I love that you want your daughter to be able to change a flat tire and learn self-defense! I hear you about dorm life. I lived in a dorm in my university years and learned many life lessons during that time. I hope my children choose dorm life as well. Thanks!

  6. Bev Patel

    As I read the article, I felt though I wrote it ! Being a mom of 3 boys (15, 12, 10) I know I don’t want my boys growing up feeling “mom” has to do all the work around the house, so they all have chores. I must say I am thankful for a husband who is a great role model for them (he cooks, cleans and on occasion does the laundry) We can all get caught up with “let’s do everything for our children” but this is not teaching them anything. Our goal as parents should be to arm them with life skills that will help them to be strong and self sufficient sdults !! Great article !!!

    • Sheba S.

      Hi Bev,
      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate that you can relate to my article. I fully agree with you that doing everything for our children actually ends up handicapping them for their futures. We really do need to teach them all they need to know to be independent and productive members of society.

  7. Lubna

    Great article Sheba – you articulated everything so well. We grew up together and now as adults we espouse the same morals and beliefs for our children, regardless of gender. You are an amazing mom 🙂

  8. Mahnoor Khan

    I really enjoyed reading this one Sheba Apa! So wonderful to have a writer in the family to look up to. I totally agree with what you wrote. I’m always surprised to find that even with the generation of South Asian guys my age (mid 20s) who have grown up in Canada, so many of them still expect their wives to cook, clean, take care of kids, host dinner parties, etc (the list goes on) and are turned off by the idea of women pursuing a serious career or doing jobs that are considered to be of the “male” domain. I think it’s extremely important for mothers (in our culture especially) to instil their sons with good values and to appreciate women as equals. As a sister, I’m always very conscious of Adnan and do my best to make sure that he turns out to be one of the good ones! 🙂

  9. Raeda

    I believe that the support of the husband is needed to accomplish this. For example, I never let my son raise his voice to me or talk to me disrespectfully when we are alone. When his father is around, his father speaks up on my behalf and lets our son know that that is completely inappropriate and disciplines him accordingly. I do the same for my husband when our son is giving him attitude.

    I believe that moving out before marriage is important for boys. I find that all arab men who moved out early to find educations and careers, are forced to learn to be independent and rely on themselves to cook, clean, do laundry, earm money for the luxuries they desire and to establish a life for themselves.

    In general, men who stay with their mama and baba until they get married usually entails mama and baba footing the bill for the engagement, the wedding, setting up the home, etc. and he will never feel the responsibility required of a man to have a mature marriage.

    That’s just my opinion from what I have seen all around me and personal experience. I ask God to enable us to be great mothers we aspire to be and give us the strength to raise this generation to have high manners and high moral standards and values.

  10. Moh

    Great article.
    As a father of 2 and a very active coach in the public school system and youth sports clubs I deal with boys from various ethnic backgrounds and cultures.
    I have been welcomed by the moms because I stress bring positive male figures in society and most importantly at home with their future wives, daughters and people in general. Some of the old school dads don’t particularly like that but we need men to start raising their kids in a positive way as well. Not just dumping the responsibilities on the mothers.

    Thank you for sharing your article with us all god bless

  11. Rashmi

    Fantastic article!
    My sons are 16, 14, and 5. I’m always talking to them about responsiblities and choices in being a man and woman. There is no fine line. We all share the reponsibilites, rights and choices in life. My big boys were changing diapers, helped with feeding and bathing thier baby brother when they themselves were still young. As teenagers they have become strong, independent young men who value all the work that a woman does. They don’t take it for granted now and hopefully never will after watching thier mom suffer thru severe postpartum and various health issues and still carry on day to day. I will continue to talk with my boys until I am no more and as Sheba said I don’t want to compete for their attention with another woman/man. I will always be there mom. Hopefully when I’m retired I’ll be on a beach in Hawaii and skyping them from time to time but I’m always their mom first!

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