Stop Telling Me How I Should Feel About Not Having a Daughter

by Wendy Wisner
gender disappointment wanted a daughter
Vasiliki Varvaki / iStock

“Just be grateful you have two healthy children.”

“Well, you can always try for a girl.”

“Gender is just a construct anyway. Just enjoy your children, whatever parts they have.”

“It’s cruel to your sons to wish for a daughter.”

These are just some of the things that have been said to me if I mention even the slightest hint of disappointment over the fact that I don’t have a daughter.

I have two sons, and I’m not planning on having any more kids. So this is what my family is and will be.

These boys are my world. My love for them is deep, vast and true. I don’t want them to be any different than they are, down to what parts they were born with. They are perfect, they are mine, and they are the exact children whom I want to have.

Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to explain that. I would have to be a pretty shitty person to wish my sons weren’t born or to wish they were born a different sex than they are. And I’m no fool: I know that the genitals they were born with may be different from the gender they’ll identify as. I could have a child who is transgender. So far, my sons seem to be “boyish,” but that could change any day. Gender is a fluid concept, and I’m open to how it might manifest in my boys, now or in the future.

But, you see, I’m not talking about what could happen, what has happened, or what might happen in the future. I’m talking about human emotions. I’m talking about the fact that despite every rationalization, sometimes I wish I had a daughter. Sometimes I wish it with all my heart. It’s a visceral longing.

I have a right to feel that way. There is nothing wrong with me, nothing shameful or embarrassing about my feelings. As long as I can keep my feelings in check and not impose some weird guilt on my sons, there is really no problem here.

I don’t know why people have such strong reactions to gender disappointment. I feel so often that I have to skirt around the issue, or apologize, or what I usually do, pretend that these feelings don’t exist. But whether you have all girls and wish you had a son or all boys and wish you had a daughter, your feelings are real, valid, and most importantly, entirely normal.

Some days—probably most days—I don’t even think about the fact that I have sons and not daughters. Most days, I’m just in the thick of parenting. Yeah, their boyishness is part of the picture. Maybe all the extra tumbling and roughhousing color my picture of parenthood, but that is not something that is in the forefront of my thoughts most of the time.

Other days, I’ll feel a tinge of longing when I think about having a daughter. Maybe I’ll see a mom in the park braiding her daughter’s hair, or maybe a mom and daughter aren’t doing anything particularly “girly” together, but just seeing them walk side-by-side to their car makes me wonder how I would look walking with my daughter. Sometimes the idea that I will never know punches me in the gut.

Usually I’ll feel that longing for a bit, and then it will dissolve. But sometimes it will hang on. When I think about helping a daughter as she enters puberty, or when I think about my very own daughter having a baby someday, I can get pretty emotional. Those are some of the disappointments that can linger for a while and sort of break my heart in two.

But guess what? I’m a grown-up, and I can deal with it. I own my feelings—no one else does. As long as I can manage them well enough, I’m allowed to feel whatever I feel about the fact that I don’t have a daughter. I’m allowed to feel strong feelings about it sometimes. I’m allowed to feel more than one feeling at once—imagine that!

I should also be allowed to say how I feel without getting a ton of unwanted advice.

So, in answer to your questions and concerns:

Of course I am grateful that I have two healthy children. I am grateful every damn day.

No, I’m not going to try for a girl. I’m done having children, and even if I were to have another, there’s no way I could “try” for a specific sex (I’m pretty sure every urban legend that says otherwise is a crock of shit).

Yes, I know that gender is a construct anyway, but we live in a gendered world, and it would be weird if I didn’t have feelings about whether my kids were girls or boys. I’m only human.

And by God, it isn’t cruel to my sons for me to wish that I had a daughter. Wishing for a daughter has nothing to do with my sons. It does not negate their existence or make them any less wanted. Period.

I wish we lived in a world where parents weren’t so quick to judge one another, where people could express their complex, nuanced—sometimes very strong—emotions without getting a barrage of unwanted advice. Usually my answer is just to keep my lips sealed, to keep my feelings to myself, or to express them only to those I trust the most.

But people have confronted me on the boy-mom issue at the checkout line at the grocery store. Relatives have given me their condolences and advice. I’m left constantly finding myself silencing my own thoughts about this. It’s like I’m supposed to have zero regrets over the fact that I don’t have a daughter, lest I be viewed as a self-indulgent hot mess for feeling an ounce of gender disappointment.

So I’m done with all that bullshit. I’m a boy-mom who loves her sons and sometimes wishes she had a daughter. Simple as that. No need to gloss it over. No reason to freak out. No guilt. Just normal life. Normal feelings.

It’s nothing I need to change, and nothing you need to judge.