If someone asks a pregnant couple, “Do you care whether the baby is a boy or girl?,” they may get an emphatic, defensive, how-dare-you-madam type of response: We just want it to be healthy and don’t care about the sex. Following close behind are two additional reasons that rather pointedly suggest that the sex is inconsequential to more pressing concerns: We hope we won’t totally mess this up. Oh, and also, we hope they don’t turn into assholes.
But the sex of our children is something many of us have thought about a lot and, if you’re like me, you may even have openly wished for one sex over the other.
I love having daughters. I prefer it. I enjoy it. I hoped for it – pretty hard. I still get asked if I have regrets or whether I entertain [hypothetical] family scenarios that include a son. But I don’t. In fact, if I had had another child, I would have wanted another girl.
I prefer girls, but it’s not because I don’t like boys. I don’t have an aversion to them. I’m not a monster who would have recoiled or been ungrateful if I had had sons. And the reason I like having daughters has very little to do with the gendered assumptions about them.
There’s a lot we can and should be gender blind about when it comes to kids – their clothes, toys, hobbies, and interests. But we generally still assign certain attributes to boys and girls. The common refrain heard from moms with sons – couched in exasperation and love in equal measure – are that boys are destructive, rough, and really loud.
While boys may have the market cornered, I can assure you that a rough-and-tumble nature isn’t a gendered concept. While my girls certainly reside in the realm of playing with dolls, enjoying a nice floral romper, and nurturing an unhealthy glitter fascination, they also regularly intrude upon the “traditional” province of boys. My younger daughter is a cyclonic force who catapults off furniture as Captain America, will never have the “indoor voice” expected of girls, and breaks all. the. things.
Not to be outdone, my older one befriends worms the size of my forearm and sneaks in amphibian creatures in various stages of development. There is so much vigorous hand washing to oversee at my house, folks. Also, girls are just as obsessed with bodily functions and funny-sounding body parts (evidently, that’s just an equal opportunity type of appeal). So, my preference for girls was never really rooted in how committed they would be to the “girl stuff,” given how they, like many others, traverse easily between both worlds.
For me, there is so much more to my personal preference for raising daughters.
Parenting can be a corrective, as this quote signifies: “Be the parent you needed when you were younger.” With my own fractured family history comprised of a biological mother and stepmother who are no longer in my life by choice, my motherhood certainly has some generational redemption at play. With time, therapy, and perspective, I’ve realized that the healthiest and most productive response to the shortcomings of my upbringing is to not simmer in the anger of the past.
Rather, it’s been about leveraging a pained past into crafting a decidedly different maternal narrative for my own girls. I know I would have applied this perspective if I had sons as well, but the symmetry of shared gender makes for a much more pronounced endeavor with my daughters. I try to be an antidote to the notion that bad parenting is genetic, cyclical, or inevitable. Because it’s not. Bad parenting is circumstantial and contextual.
I will do well by my girls not merely in spite of my experience, but because they are deserving of my best possible effort at being their mother.
My husband is clearly outnumbered in our house, but his impact is significant. He is everything I am not, which is precisely how it should be. And he’s never treated them like a consolation prize because they’re girls.
Selfishly, I love seeing my husband through the lens of fatherhood. I love how he talks to them in a way that is both rational and endearing. He is an engaging guest at tea parties, can more aptly answer a volley of questions about what bears eat and how hot is the sun, and is always game for black tie optional dress-up. It is clear the girls are his greatest gift in the way he invests in them financially and emotionally.
Our daughters are also really good for him. I’ve known my husband mostly as an exercise in restraint; he’s not about big displays of emotion. But his quieter, under-the-radar approach belies the deep love he has for them, such as the judicious ways he is setting up their financial and educational futures. He also set up personal email accounts for them (to be accessed at 18), where he sends pictures and notes to serve as a digital archive that perfectly intertwines both their childhood and his fatherhood.
Subject Matter Expert
I have no qualms about admitting that I simply feel better equipped to raise a girl. The emotional and physical experiences of boys and girls are different. There is a lot of complexity in the experience of womanhood, from inequities to opportunities. I’ll certainly honor and acknowledge how my daughters’ challenges will not run parallel to mine, but also bring to bear my own experiences and understanding. Not so much “back in my day,” but a more specific type of empathy that will let me anticipate and better address the full scope of what my girls have ahead of them.
Individually, my daughters’ similarities end with their shared last name. The thoughtful compassion of one daughter contrasts beautifully with the light and levity of the younger one. It’s been a joy to see their emerging identities as individuals. But I’m just as excited to understand and appreciate them in the shared context of their sisterhood. I’ve quickly learned that the impulse to protect, playfully torment, and serve as examples to each other isn’t dictated by their birth order.
I love seeing how they already play such integral roles in each other’s lives. Having an older sister as a forerunner to both the cautionary and carefree experiences ahead is just as invaluable as having a younger sister to help mold into a decent person– especially because siblings often wield tremendous influence that rivals the parents. If we are granted the natural sequence of life where my daughters survive my husband and I, they will have each other.
And while we haven’t yet conveyed this rather morbid message quite yet (YOU’D BETTER LOVE EACH OTHER BECAUSE WHEN WE DIE, IT’LL BE JUST YOU TWO), the underlying sentiment frames their affinity as sisters in a rather sacred sense. They will be competitive, squabble, and bear resentments. But they will also fiercely defend, enjoy, and support each other.
I’m very much rooting for this sisterhood and relationship.
What an Important Time to Raise Girls
The last few years for women in this country have managed to be both progressive and archaic. In the same dichotomous fashion, it is a daunting time, but it’s also an empowering time to raise daughters. There is increased prominence for women in a political, educational, and cultural field of vision that has historically been pretty myopic. There’s a more pressing urgency to effect change for and by women. Maybe success as a woman will be become so common and unremarkable that we will finally abandon the tired language of womanhood, oddly conveyed in contractor language: ascending ladders and breaking glass ceilings. I’m excited at the prospect of raising my daughters to be confident, competent women.
This article was originally published on