The other day, a friend was congratulating me on being pregnant. Shortly followed by “I bet you want another girl, don’t you? I was so relieved to have girls. Boys are just so loud and messy.” (In fairness, she has three girls, so boys must feel like another country.) A father of two girls said much the same – he was ‘relieved’ when they found out the second was another girl. Someone else commented, “Well, you’ve got your girl. You must want the boy now.” (What? Like I’m buying bookends?) Another pregnant friend told me that was a bit disgruntled that her second was a girl.
I think I get it. The unwritten rules state that it shouldn’t matter; you ‘just want the baby to be healthy’. Unofficially – it seems like most of us have a preference. Even if it’s a ‘well, one of each would be nice’ (“the full set” as my husband calls it, as though we’re talking about salt and pepper shakers). It seems the norm to crave one ‘flavour’ over another. Many women I know evinced a preference for a girl with their first pregnancy (a case of stick with what you know?), then hankered after the opposite when pregnant with their second.
Full disclosure: I have a three-year-old girl and when I was pregnant with her, I was convinced she was a boy (even though I could more easily see myself with a girl). This time, when I first discovered I was pregnant, I simply assumed the baby was a girl at first. Until recently, when I’ve started thinking what it would be like to have a little man of our own about the place. (Pretty darn cool, I reckon.)
In fact, I always thought that I would be the one who ‘got’ my girl (because we share a sex), but it’s my husband who has had a more intuitive understanding of her and what makes her tick. (They look alike, share many character traits – at times it as though she is a small, feminine version of him. At the very least, I know exactly what he would look like wearing a hair bow.) I’ve had to learn to read her – am still learning, every day. So perhaps a boy would be more like me?
A wise friend – a mother of one daughter – relayed how she has been told that you might crave having a girl, and adore your daughter; but fall in love with your son. I can certainly attest that all the little boys I know are in love with their mamas. I had the only girl in my NCT group – and would watch as the boys gazed adoringly at their mamas, wanting only their presence to be complete. My daughter was born with Elusive Party Syndrome – and was constantly looking around, checking she wasn’t missing out on any thrilling action. Boys are also hugely affectionate. Alex, a mother of three boys, attests that “my boys are the most beautiful wonderful boys in the world and no girl would be better than them”. (This is true. I not-so-secretly hope my girl will marry one of them. Surely, there’s a chance?)
Alex also notes that, despite the constant stream of media thought about ours being a misogynistic society, “Since having boys, I really do think there’s prejudice about them: boys are messy’, ‘boys are dirty’. They’re never celebrated. The fact that, generally, they’re more affectionate, more cuddly, more loving, less manipulative than girls – that’s not really mentioned”. She alludes to the ever-wonderful Caitlin Moran, who recently wrote a column which made me cry (she has a knack of doing this – because so writes with such truth and SO brilliantly) about her brothers – how wonderful they are; how sweetly they behave to her two daughters. (She is exactly right: my brother’s tenderness with my baby daughter makes me well up just thinking about it.) “The chord it struck me,” writes Alex, “was that she said she always smiles at teenage boys ‘because no-one ever smiles at teenage boys’ – and it’s so true. I think boys are badly maligned in Western society.” (But this is a subject for another post; it deserves space of its own.)
The little boys I know are by and large utterly gorgeous. Sweet, affection, hilarious, smart, straightforward. I would be delighted (and honoured) to have one of my own. It would open my eyes and enrich my world. If not, I shall still be the luckiest mama in the world; I shall simply have to borrow my friends’ boys every now and then – just to get a fix.
What about you? Did you have a preference? Did you suffer from ‘gender disappointment‘? If you felt that you would be a ‘better’ mother of boys or girls. If you are a mother of boys and take issue with what Mumsnet call ‘SMOG’s’ (Smug Mothers of Girls), or sweeping generalisations about the male of the species. Or vice-versa: perhaps you think the ‘son and heir’ mentality still rules. We’d love to know what you think.
[A late addendum: Yes, we know how lucky we are to have our children. Every single day.]