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“Mom of Boys” keeps it real

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Unapologetically a “real mom” – of four boys between the ages of five and 12 – Casey Shevel is all about authenticity. In her hilarious book, Mom of Boys, she gets down to the bare bones of what it takes to be a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, dating coach, and matchmaker in an increasingly frenetic world, sharing ingenious parenting hacks and go-to recipes along the way.

“You know those moms. They don’t just drive, they speed into the school parking lot, and then their car jolts to a stop. They’re generally wearing camo and sunglasses – they’re ready for combat. The door opens, the music is blaring, the bags get thrown out, and then the kids get thrown out too.” That’s how Shevel jokingly described a typical mom of boys at one of her multiple book launches last week.

Not just focused on one topic, Mom of Boys encapsulates Shevel’s experiences and reflections on life, from finding a life partner, to weight loss, to managing and feeding a home full of boys, to the pressures and immense gifts that come with parenting.

The book is inspired by Shevel’s passion for people. “I love people, and I’m such an empath that I can’t actually step away from the pain of others, which is often to my detriment,” she told the SA Jewish Report. “But when I see that there’s something wrong, I want to make it right. This book was a part of that.”

Yet, says Shevel, the writing process was a gift, allowing her to shift her focus on others to herself. Ironically, by giving herself the time to write each day – a process she loved – she was able to create something that turned out to be much bigger than herself.

“There’s a misunderstanding of people, such a judgemental mentality in terms of how we see each other and mostly how we see ourselves. I wanted to let people feel like they’re off the hook, that it’s ok. We’re all struggling in some way, and we’ve just got to provide support and make things easier for each other.”

Through her book, Shevel hopes to open up conversation about the pressures we all face in a world where perfection has become the holy grail. “What women are expected to be is beyond unrealistic,” she says. “An incredible homemaker, amazing mom, head of the PTA, successful at work, always looking great. How are we supposed to tick all of those boxes?”

It’s a topic she hopes her book will open up, being a launchpad for speaking engagements aimed at uplifting, sharing laughs, and talking openly with women, giving them the space to feel less isolated.

Through being the mom of four – particularly boisterous – boys, Shevel has learned to release her own perfectionist tendencies. “I love beautiful things and aesthetics, and believe that things need to look a certain way, but I’ve got to let go to a certain extent,” she says. “You’ve got to pick your battles: decide what the non-negotiables are and let go of the rest. It’s a lesson. That’s what our children are there for, to push our boundaries and make us grow. And my kids really make me grow!”

Though the book is about far more than parenting boys, it does reflect on the unique challenges that come with the role. “The hardest part is actually having the physical capacity to look after these boys,” says Shevel. “Boys are very physical and physically demanding. My days are full, mad, and on the go. They literally don’t stop for a second.”

Yet, the rewards of parenting boys are endless too. “I love the way that boys love you. When your boys say something nice about you, like when they say, ‘Mom you look beautiful’, you know it’s really genuine and not something that would come so naturally to them – that’s special.”

Parenting coach Laura Markovitz says that regardless of whether or not we are challenged by children of a different gender to our own, we need to make space for our kids to develop their own identities. “As with most things parenting-related, a good combination of empathy, connection, and boundaries goes a long way,” she says. “We want to raise children who are comfortable and in touch with who they are, not who we think they should be – no matter how difficult that sometimes may be.”

Shevel agrees, saying it all comes back to living an authentic life. “Our children learn just from watching us,” she says. That’s why it’s so important to be true to ourselves – we teach our children to do the same. “If anyone can detect inauthenticity, it’s your kids. They’ll call you out in a second if they see anything that’s untoward.”

Shevel also works to dispel the misconception that every mom of boys must be longing to have a girl – something she encounters regularly. Joking that she’d probably have twin boys if she and her husband did in fact “try for a girl”, Shevel says she’s a born boy mom. “Everyone just assumes that I’m dying to go to ballet concerts and all I want is to dress my children in tutus, but that really was never me.”

Yet for some moms – and dads – an idealised dream of having a little princess to take care of is hard to release. “It’s vital to remember that it’s always ok to have any feeling that arises in such cases,” says Markovitz. “It’s useful first to respect and make space for whatever it is you feel, be it excitement, disappointment, sadness, or joy. If we’re more in touch with what we feel, then we’re better placed to respond to what’s thrown our way. We’re also better able to separate what’s other people’s stuff and what’s our own.”

Regardless of how many kids you have, what their genders are, and how people expect you to parent your brood, having the freedom to admit that you’re sometimes not coping is key to your mental well-being. It’s being honest, not taking yourself too seriously, releasing expectations, and asking for help that in fact makes you a better parent. As Shevel writes in her book, “I’m a mom who loves her kids to the moon and back [and occasionally considers sending them there for a short stay].” Many a parent can undoubtedly relate.

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