Before I even tried to get pregnant, I had an idea of the ideal family- one girl, one boy. Then infertility slapped me in the face and all I desperately wanted was just one healthy baby. I must have done something amazing in a past life, because I hit the jackpot and got pregnant with two boys. While pregnant friends and strangers would ask what I was having and the news was often met with disappointment. “Too bad it’s not one girl, one boy,” they’d say, “Then you would be done having kids.” Even then, hearing this made me want to punch something, since it felt like they were saying the two wee penises I had fought so hard for were somehow inadequate. At the time I chalked my rage up to momma bear hormones.
Other people seemed to think girls have cooties. We got many comments like, “Atta boy!” as though my husband had done something particular virile by producing more men. We heard things like, “your husband must be so thrilled/relieved.” Why would having a girl be any less cause for celebration? I know plenty of guys who love having daughters. I consider myself a feminist, and find it frustrating that males are still perceived by some as the preferred gender when pregnant.
My boys just turned one and friends, extended family and perfect strangers are asking me when I’m going to “try for a girl”. The question of more kids in general is a trigger for me anyway, because of the infertility and complications I had during my pregnancy. But beyond those hang-ups, I still see red at the suggestion that my family is somehow incomplete or imperfect without another female.
I’m often asked, “But who will you go to the spa/watch TV/go to the mall with if you don’t have a daughter? “ I won’t be a lonely middle-aged lady with a female teacup dog as her only companion simply because I don’t have a daughter.
I don’t consider it a crime against parenting to spend time with my adult girlfriends. I’ll be perfectly happy watching reality TV by myself, enjoying the quiet and loving not having to share my popcorn. And why is it so impossible to fathom that guys like shopping? Both my husband and stepdad go to the mall and growing up, my little sister would look to him to pick out clothes for her because she liked his choices.
Another popular comment is “Your boys need a little sister to soften them up.” I hate broad gender stereotypes like this. Girls aren’t always quiet and soft, nor should they be. My sister jumped off roofs and punched boys in the nose as a little girl, while wearing pigtails and purple. My husband isn’t a “sports” guy beyond watching the Olympics, but even if he was a UFC fighter I like to think that we could raise sensitive, non-barbaric sons without the help of a baby girl.
But by far the worst thing I’ve heard is, “A son will leave you but a daughter stays with you forever.”
I’m not planning on getting into a game of “You’ll never love him as well as I do” with any future daughter-in-law or son-in-law I may have and in no way do I want to be like that creepy mom from that kids book Love You Forever who climbs into her adult son’s window to sing him to sleep. But I do believe it is possible for adult sons to have close relationships with their mothers that don’t compete or interfere with the relationship they have with a partner and I’m going to try my best to find that happy place.
The whole “your sons are going to abandon you” scare tactic aside, this comment raises my hackles because there is no guarantee that an adult mother-daughter relationship will be healthy. Personally, I am lucky to have a good relationship with my mom, but all relationships; ours included, have their friction areas. I know many mother-daughter combos that don’t get along or don’t speak at all, some because of the mom’s actions, some because of the daughter’s.
All these unsolicited nudges to keep trying until we get a girl make me defensive of the family I am lucky enough to have, the kids that were never a guarantee in the first place. I love having sons. Call me shallow, but I like knowing that I won’t have to share my makeup and that I’ll never have to shell out mega bucks for a prom dress.
I think that raising a girl is difficult and I truly don’t know if I would be good at it. From a young age, I’ve had body image and issues with food. It’s one of my biggest personal struggles. So there was a small piece of me that was relieved when I found out I was having two boys, because I was terrified of inadvertently passing any of those issues along to a daughter (I’m still worried about it affecting my sons). Beyond my insecurities, I have regrets in life, activities and dreams I wish I’d had the money and time to pursue and I would hate to push any of that onto a daughter.
I’ve seen plenty of larger families with three ,four ,five kids where the older children are one gender and the baby is another and I’ll admit that before having kids of my own, I thought they just “kept trying” until they had children of both gender. But I know how much work it takes to raise a baby, from having a big enough house and car to affording groceries, and now I feel like an ass for making such a blanket assumption about strangers.
It’s bad enough that women get judged by society for their life choices and are placed in a position of having to defend ourselves, be it the choice to get married, be childless by choice, and raise an only child or a brood. I think it’s ridiculous that the gender of our children is up for public commentary as well. I know that some mothers and daughters share special bonds and if you have daughters, or you are one of those people who really want to experience raising one, I wish you nothing but luck and great memories, just please don’t try to make the rest of us feel like we’re missing out on part of the mom experience by not doing or having the same.
(Image: getty images)