Gender Disappointment

Never is the parental axiom, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” more true than in the case of children. Boys, girls, whatever. When you get a healthy baby, you should count yourself lucky and move on with more important parenting tasks like keeping them bathed, fed and in clean pants. Nevertheless, we have recently become aware of the internet phenomenon known as “gender disappointment,” whereby mothers of multiple children of the same sex (all boys or all girls) feel deeply unhappy about not having a child of the opposite sex. So unhappy, that they lament it online, try expensive gender-selecting fertility treatments, and may require therapy. Whatever her opinion of these antics, the well mannered mother remembers that gender is a sensitive subject for other mothers she may meet. That means steering clear of comments like, “Wow, three boys. Were you disappointed you didn’t get a girl?” Given that most parents have no control over the sex of their baby, negative comments like this are as unwelcome as appraisals like, “Wow, three kids with buck teeth. You must be upset. Are you worried about your future orthodontist bills?” Needless to say, when the well-mannered mother receives such innane comments, she smiles politely and says, “I’m pretty proud of the boys/ girls I have.”

When required to console a friend suffering from gender disappointment, the well-mannered mother resists any urge to say “You have got to be kidding me! Don’t you realize how entitled and narcissistic you sound?” Instead, she listens, smiles, nods. The helpful sort of well mannered mother might make a suggestion such as “You should really talk to Jen, she is suffering from Apartment Disappointment and has recently come to terms with her Husband Disappointment. Now she is worried her son might not get into Brown and he will have to be treated for College Disappointment. You two should really have lunch.”


whitney said...

As a mother of three girls, I am constantly asked the question "Are you going to try for a boy?"

Since the entire spectrum of possible answers, from "Yes, tonight in fact. I can't wait!" to "No, I made my husband get fixed," is decidedly outside the realm of the mannerly, this question should simply NEVER be asked!

Great work Liz and Zib -- love it!

Mamaplayground said...

Nothing worse than having a mother who never went through this ooze superiority over a mother who has experienced gender disappointment. It is just plain rude and ignorant. But the what you must understand is that it is not a temporary state of longing and narcissism induced by the hormonal pregnancy state. It is a life long battle with random jerks in every amusement park, grocery store, and street corner that a mother of a one-gender family must deal with on a daily basis. It is a hard position to be put in to defend your family when you are quite proud of them and don't believe them to be subpar in any way

Elizabeth Baxter said...

I agree. The author of this post has four wonderful boys.

Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

I was just going to say that I feel particularly qualified to laugh at the absurdity of my own gender disappointment, as the mother of 4 sons. Really, I find it helps.

Anonymous said...

I have a boy and a girl, but I really wanted two girls or two boys. I grew up with brothers but they kinda just went their own ways as we became adults. They are very close to each other but I am the 'outsider' simply because of my gender. Their wives are also very close but don't try to get close to me because I'm their husband's sister ... as opposed to BIL's wife, and another DIL, I guess.

My husband and his sister aren't that close, although my husband is very close to his male cousins. I also see sisters sticking together and being good-friends. Now, I'll admit that this is not ALWAYS the case and there are many brothers and sisters who hate each others' guts out there but this isn't the case in my family or in my in-laws' family.

So, I really wanted my kids to all be of the same gender. All boys or all girls. Depending on the gender of my first born, of course, and since she is a girl, I desperately wanted another girl. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

I know this sounds just ridiculous but from my perspective it was cause for disappointment. I say 'was' because I am now getting over it and starting to enjoy my kids for who they are instead of what I hoped they'd be.

Previously disappointed Mama of siblings of the opposite sex.

Kristen said...

I really enjoyed this post. As a mother of two girls and a baby boy, I'm amazed at how many people comment on how I must be so thrilled "to have finally gotten a boy." I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from saying, "Yes, I'm thrilled. It would have been a bit sticky trying to leave a girl behind at the hospital."
If a couple can't realistically say that they want another baby regardless of its gender, then they shouldn't have another baby.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm a rotten human, but I was very disappointed that I had a daughter. This largely subsided but at times when I'm at a play or clothes shopping with her, I still deeply wish she were a son so we would be playing sports or hunting instead of the boring things she is interested in now.

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