Saturday, August 13, 2011

6 Reasons I Never Wanted to be the Mother of a Boy

Did you read my guest post at TouchstoneZ ?

I wrote with honesty and anguish about how disappointed I was when I found out that my 4th babe was a boy. I wrote a follow-up post, too.  It's about the ridiculous things people have said to me about the sex of my children.

I'm not done with this topic yet.  It really matters to me.  I'm still completely appalled at how determined our culture is to make me raise a boyish-boy son and to make me want to value his contribution to my family more than my daughters'.  And it's not that I still feel disappointed that I had a son.  I adore my little Julian.  He is absolutely as wonderful as my daughters were at his age.  But he isn't MORE wonderful just for being male. 

Here's why I didn't want a son:
1.  I mostly don't like any of the little boys I know.

Why do the little boys in my neighbourhood stand on their front lawns and pretend to shoot guns at my daughters and I as we walk by?  Why do I always see brothers beating up and tormenting their younger siblings?  Why does every little boy who talks to my daughters have to turn every little interaction into a competition?  Why do all the little boys at playgroup and La Leche League try to destroy and/or hoard all of the communal toys?

And why are all of their parents oblivious to these behaviours?

You see, if these behaviours are just normal boy behaviours, then I don't want a boy because I don't want any child of mine to act like that.  Why would I have wanted a boy if I had to expect all these aggressive and anti-social behaviours from him?  And if these aren't just normal boy behaviours, then why don't the parents of these boys that I've described do something to help their boys learn nicer behaviours? 

2.  I can't stand all the stereotypes about boys.

If all the aggressive behaviours of boys that I've described above are TRUE, then I genuinely don't know how to be the mother of a boy because I CAN'T STAND those behaviours.  BUT, if boys are actually socialized to behave aggressively (which I believe that they are, but that's another post all together), then I should be able to prevent those behaviours by 'socializing' my son in the same manner as I am 'socializing' my daughters.  Right?

Well, maybe.  Unfortunately, people are constantly ready to throw ancient gender-stereotypes at my children.  They tell me that my daughters are CUTE, but my son is BIG and STRONG.  My daughter who wants to do everything herself is STUBBORN, but my son is INDEPENDENT.  They tell me that my daughters will spoil my son but that my son will protect his sisters.  Excuse me?

And why do people insist that my curious, happy one-year-old boy is 'such a boy' because he gets into the cupboards or because he insists on playing on the stairs at every opportunity?  My daughters did those things at the same age--so were they 'being boys'? 

Babies are babies.  A boy is just a girl who's a boy.

I refuse to believe that there are 'boy behaviours' and 'girl behaviours' in children who are too young to understand sex or gender difference.

3.  I hate the way that everyone wanted me to have a boy.
Just a few of the stupid comments I've heard:
  • Still trying for a boy, eh?  (while pregnant)
  • This one better be a boy!  (while pregnant)
  • You better get the order right this time. (while pregnant)
  • Daddy must be happy this time.
  • Finally Daddy gets his little boy.
  • So your husband finally got the recipe right!
  • You got your boy!
  • Well that took long enough!
  • You can finally call it quits, eh?
  • I guess you're done now, right?
Hi, people?  I had a 4th child because I wanted a 4th child.  I was never, never, never trying for a boy.

4.  I don't trust men so I don't know how to raise a boy into a man.
Throughout my twenties I seemed to gravitate toward men who were first-class liars.  Not just liar-liar-pants-on-fire-liars (No, I didn't sleep with my ex-girlfriend after I deliberately ran into her at the gym), but the kind of liars who would lie about what they had for breakfast.  Chronic liars.  Guys who couldn't open their mouths without lying.  Guys for whom lying was synonymous with breathing.

Add to that that I have two brothers, neither of whom has spoken to me in 7 years nor even acknowledged that I have children.  They seem to have a world view which includes requiring me to live by their values even if they don't do what they think I should be doing.

And then top it off with having a father who was emotionally unavailable for most of my life.  He didn't have my back when I was growing up, he didn't stand up for me, never validated or empowered me, never recognized my obvious talents.  I've forgiven him and I have a very good relationship with him now and I've figured out that his weaknesses are no worse than mine.

Still, I have serious baggage where men are concerned.  There is no man in my life who I would consider to be an ideal role model for my son.

5.  Mothers are always blamed for whatever their sons do that deviates from what is considered 'normal'.

If a boy is shy or sensitive, it's because the mother babied him too much.  If a boy is aggressive and bully-ish, it's because the mother didn't give him proper boundaries.  If a boy is not athletic and coordinated it's because the mother didn't give him enough opportunities and encouragement.  If a boy is lazy it's because the mother did everything for him.  If a boy is attention-seeking it's because his mother didn't give him enough attention.  I could go on and on....

I don't believe any of those ridiculous statements--but I've heard every one of them as an elementary school teacher. 

The way I see it, I'm going to have enough guilt about my parenting skills without leaving myself open for society to blame me too.

6.  I think it's harder to be a man in modern culture than it is to be a woman.

This could be an entire post in itself.

Why is it that girls who become astronauts and engineers are celebrated, but boys who become daycare workers or dental assistants get the raised eyebrow?  Have you ever noticed that people still use the expression Male Nurse?

I've observed that men are expected to be both macho and sensitive, but I find those two attributes to be mutually exclusive.  By contrast, I find that women are expected to be both sexy and intelligent, two attributes that I don't find to be mutually exclusive.  Men face pressures that women don't.  I'm sure there are many who would disagree with me about this point in particular.  I'm just saying that for ME, being a woman in 2011 seems a whole lot easier than being a man.

After re-reading this post, I feel compelled to reiterate that I absolutely love my son Julian and I really believe that he is the perfect addition to our family.

But I'm still not done with this topic.

TOMORROW:  Gender Fluidity, The Genderless Baby and How I Intend to Raise my Son

Totally gratuitous picture of Julian (13 months), learning to walk while on the beach at Lac Morency in The Laurentians


  1. Great post- you raise some interesting points. Funny though, I was terrified of having a girl. Maybe I'll do a post on that--I only wanted a boy, and still hope for all boys. Though, I know that if I have a girl, I will simply fall in love.

  2. Patty...enjoy your son.

    Do recognize that he will be different than your girls...but that's's part of how everyone is different from everyone else. But don't deny some of those differences you'll see either. Just train him to love and fear God and it will all work out. :)

  3. @Adrienne
    Thankyou for reminding me that there are just as many people who are as leary of having a girl as I was about having a boy. I really appreciate that you raised that point.

    I hope that my (final) post on this topic tomorrow brings an appropriate conclusion to how BEING the mother of a son is really, really wonderful and how it is giving me the opportunity to grow and learn in ways that I never would have with only daughters.

    Thankyou so much for commenting. Much love to you and Burkley.

    Hi Cousin! Thankyou for your kind and loving comment. I absolutely enjoy how Julian is both different and the same as my daughters. To me, gender difference is no different from age difference or weight difference--it simply exists and is neither good nor bad. As you said, everyone is different from everyone else.

    Much love to you and your family.

  4. hey... I have to admit though that I found this statement to be so incredibly sad.

    "There is no man in my life who I would consider to be an ideal role model for my son."

    NO one? not even your fella? that is just to me so incredibly sad.

  5. As a teacher, I was once accused of playing favorites to a white student over a black student. During a conversation with my principal, I argued that I absolutely did not play favorites--I treated each student equally. My principal pointed out to me that by treating each student equally, I was, in a sense, discriminating since it was my job to play to each student's their individual strengths and interests. By putting them all into the same "box" I was minimizing their individuality. It gave me pause to hear this--I think there is some value in what my principal was saying. I wonder if there is a connection between this and what you are saying about how you view raising a boy vs. raising a girl vs. raising your beautiful children.

    I also HATE it when the little boys at a play space I take my daughter to take virtually ANY OBJECT and turn it into a weapon! It bothers me to no end. I have asked my friends who have boys what is up with this, and I've been told that it's just in their DNA. Sad.

  6. Thanks for you sharing your thoughts. Very insightful, provocative and honest! You've raised some important issues here that more parents should take note of!

    This post is interesting for me because I was RELIEVED to have a boy...I also have issues from my childhood but they seem to have manifested differently than they did for you. Fascinating how we all respond differently to gender-related issues!

    Nonetheless, I've focused on providing nurturing and opportunities for my son that are gender neutral. I've been shocked at "what a boy" he is. He still gravitates towards vehicles, balls, and very physical activities. He also has a doll that he loves! As much as it's bothersome to admit, boys and girls ARE different. Not absolutely, not across the board, and not without exception. But it would be a shame to deny those differences. I encourage my son's interests, even if they are "typical" boy stuff. I try to honor and respect the things about him that are so boyish, because that's who he is. That being said, I will not sit back and let my son act aggressively towards others just because he's a boy. He is a boy and he has undeniable male qualities, but that doesn't mean he has to be a jerk. So, have some faith in yourself and your son. I do!

  7. I think what we have lost sight of in Western Society is not that boys are inherently all different from girls in the same way, but that all children are different from each other. Especially as more and more people have two or one child, it's really easy to chalk up all the differences between a quiet, clingy girl and an adventurous, physically adept boy to the inherent differences between the genders.
    I got a lot of knowing looks from mothers of boys when my daughter was a baby, early walker, climber, fearless kid. "You'll see, if you have a boy, it's SO much worse!" Now one of her friends who is a shy, quiet, clingy girl has a little brother who is independent and has great motor control, and his mother keeps remarking to me how similar he is to my daughter at the same age.