Stop Bad-Mouthing Girls!

Dear Parents and Soon-to-be-Parents of Boys,

Please, please, please stop saying things like, “I’m so glad I have boys!” when in earshot of Parents of Girls. Especially when the girls in question are also within earshot.

I am so sick of people acting like having a girl — or having multiple girls — is so much more difficult than having boys. Comments to the effect of “I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl” or “Girls are so ‘fill-in-the-blank'” (I have heard: dramatic, emotional, fussy, difficult, and — the ultimate — “girly”) are, at best, ignorant, and, at worst, rude.

I understand that you may truly feel relieved that you do not have or are not having a girl. That is fine; you are perfectly entitled to feel that way.

I have two girls. And yes, one of them is quite dramatic. The other is utterly irrepressible, although that may have more to do with her personality than her gender (I am betting). They both tend to be emotional and when they are angry with each other, they threaten to not be each other’s friend anymore (rather than, say, pounding the crap out of the offending party).

Maybe when it comes to issues of friendships and relationships, boys are easier than girls. Maybe I will learn this, too, as my boy gets older and develops his own way of being in the world.

That is not the point. The point is that to disparage the way-of-being of girls — overall, as a group — is not helpful or constructive or nice.

Girls are girls, and there are as many different types of personalities for girls as there are for boys. Girls can be sporty and fun and smart and messy. They can be helpful and sweet and nice and good at math. Girls are princesses and super heroes. They can be sugar and spice and everything nice, or they can be mean bullies.

Girls roll their eyes. They stomp their feet (boys do this, too, I’ve seen it). Girls’ tween and teen years may be more fraught than boys’; they may require more negotiation by all parties. The old trope “with boys you only have to worry about one penis” may be true, but we still have to teach all our children to respect their bodies and the bodies of others. Boys and girls need to respect others’ feelings; they all have to learn to stand up for themselves and for others and for their beliefs.

The implication of “I’m so glad I have boys” is that boys are better to have. I disagree. Heartily. Not that I think girls are better to have.

I don’t think it matters what you have. Children are work. The challenges of parenting come with parenting girls or boys or both. The challenges may vary, but they vary by child, not by gender.

And children are blessings. Boys are blessings, girls are blessings, one of each is a blessing, four of one kind is a blessing, only one is a blessing.

It’s fine to have a preference, it’s fine to be relieved that you are having a boy (or a girl, for that matter). Just don’t be rude about it. Because if one of my daughters turns to me and says, “Why did that person say he (or she) is glad he has boys?” I’m going to respond, “Because he (or she) is an idiot.”

Sincerely,
red pen mama

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41 thoughts on “Stop Bad-Mouthing Girls!

  1. Yes!

    I consider myself extremely lucky to have both a boy and a girl, but I did have to overhear some of that when I was pregnant with my daughter. It’s nonsense. I know that each kid will bring special joys and unique frustrations. I also know some of those joys and frustrations won’t be due to biology but to personality, although some probably will be. Regardless, I expect to find that my boy and my girl are both frustrating just as they are both wonderful.

    There is only one thing that I am concerned about being harder with a girl. Because of the influences of our society I think it is difficult for a girl to learn to respect herself. I’m pretty sure my mom did all the “right” things, and I didn’t learn that lesson until my 30s. It seems to me that it will be easier to raise a boy to respect girls than to raise a girl to respect herself. I hope I’m wrong on that, but if not I hope that, like me, she at least gets there eventually. And, I know a boy can struggle to respect himself as well, which is a problem I hope my son never has.

    Still, even with that consideration, having a girl is awesome! Having a boy is awesome! Kids are awesome!

    • Yes, I think instilling self-esteem in girls is harder than it is in boys. And I do think that is a cultural phenomenon. The messages girls and boys get are different. It’s terribly tricky to deal with as a parent, and i hope I navigate those waters with my girls well. I remember being self-conscious as a girl, especially as a teen, but I did not suffer from poor self esteem overall. Relationships were tricky until I figured out (with the help of therapy) my true self worth.

      I think it’s hard because we (culturally, not you and I individually) teach that girls should be “good” and “modest” and “humble”, and if they aren’t, they can be punished by their peers. That is devastating for a girl. We need to let girls be proud without punishing them for it. Or we need to give them the tools that help them resist those who want to take them down a peg instead of building them up. Girls put a lot of emphasis on relationships and having people like them. I think it’s more important to teach them to like themselves. That’s the most important thing of all.

  2. For me, when I said “I”m glad I have boys” there is no implication of boys being inherently better than girls. It is not a comment on THEM it is a comment on ME. As in, “Girls take a different kind of parenting than boys – a kind of parenting I’m not sure I’m capable of producing.” I actually admire people who can be parents to girls and do it well. It is not an easy thing and I’m not sure I would be able to do it. So, yes, I’m glad I have boys – but only because I don’t view myself as the kind of person who can be patient enough to do the right job with a girl. There’s a compliment hidden there, not a judgement.

    • Cari, I hope you realize this wasn’t directed at you. It wasn’t directed at anyone I know well, actually. Some people I barely know (a parent at daycare; someone I was with this weekend who is adopting a boy child) have said these things, and it was very much more about the girls than the parents. When you have talked about your boys, you have been very much about expressing what you say here. The “I’m glad I have boys” remarks I have dealt with have been in direct reaction to something one or both of my daughters has done. So please don’t take this letter to heart. I hope we’re still friends! πŸ™‚

      I’m not sure I’m parenting well at all some days, my boy or my girls! I’m just doing the best with what I got!

      • I’m not offended! Really! I promise. πŸ™‚

        I just know that I have said “I’m glad I have boys” on more than one occasion and it never occurred to me that people would be upset with me for that because, as I said above, I’m not dogging on YOU, I’m dogging on ME. And while my boys might not do the same thing girls do, they sure have their ways to push my buttons every single day and 12 times on Sunday.

        And I have to say that someone saying that in response to something your kid did is just ignorant. It would be rude enough to say “I’m glad that kid isn’t mine, I’d never put up with that,” but to just automatically attribute it to gender is ridiculous.

  3. Hear, hear! I never understood that at all. Boys & girls, both, are a lot of work. They are each demanding, some in their own way, and yet they are also demanding in a lot of the same ways. And as you said, each child has his or her own personality – THAT is more a defining characteristic for the particular challenges you will have raising that child than their sex.

    Women are respected too little in so many societies of the world; that is something you will have to teach your boys AND your girls. There will be emotional dramas with both, there will be bullying with both (both dishing out and receiving), there will be problems with friends, there will be problems in school, there will be hurts & boo boos, there will be fears for them as a parent, there will be sleep issues or not, and so on.

    And there will be joys abounding with both. There will be love, there will be joy, there will be accomplishments, there will be friends, there will be awards and achievements and hugs and kisses and so much more.

    Whether you have boys, girls, both, one, etc. Enjoy them. They are wonderful and precious and difficult. That’s what being a parent is all about. Everything.

    • I had an interesting conversation over the weekend with a couple who were married for nine years before they had their first child. And now they have two girls, and they both said if they knew how great having kids was going to be, they would have started sooner and had more. And that warmed my heart immensely. Because that’s what it’s about, that JOY that our kids give us. Not anything else.

  4. @Cari: EXACTLY to your last point. Yeah, my girls, (well, especially Kate) plus my baby boy, are a handful. But they are MY handful, TYVM! And it wouldn’t matter if they were all boys. I’d probably still be totally overwhelmed! πŸ™‚

  5. I love that you wrote this! My cousin is currently pregnant with her third child. She has one girl, one boy. She literally threw a fit when she found out she was having another girl. She says “girls are horrible b!tches”. Yes, she says this in front of her eight year old daughter. It breaks my heart. I told her once that every child, boy or girl, is different. Her daughter acts exactly like she did at that age. Nothing will change her mind.

    I have two of each, and both groups are hard to raise. Maybe for different reasons, but still, it’s not any easier with boys.

    Thank you,
    Lisa J.

    • That is horrible! My heart breaks for that little girl. Both those little girls. And the mom is just setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the expectation is that the daughters will be bitches, well, then, yeah, the daughters are going to live “up to” that.

      • Exactly. And honestly, her daughter is one of the sweetest little girls I’ve ever met. Just not to her mom. On the weekends if she’s not with her dad then she’s either with me or my parents. We try to interfere as much as possible.

  6. This happens both ways. If I just have my boys when I go out, I hear things like “oh you poor thing, to just have boys! You must be SO BUSY!”…when I go out with just my girls, I hear all about how dramatic girls are and how I’ll need to have 3 bathrooms ha ha ha!

    It makes me so mad. But I’m over-emotional because I AM a girl, after all. ::eyeroll::

      • EXACTLY. My oldest is 9, my next youngest is 6 and I STILL have yet to see any “differences” that could even be remotely attributed to gender. Personality, absolutely. But gender…no. UGH. (This may be a sore spot for me…ha!)

  7. What frustrates me about this whole, “Boys are SO much easier to raise than girls,” mentality is that then, girls aren’t given the fair chance. They’ll just be annoying, you know.

    I raise both my son and daughter the way I see fit. I don’t let the fact that one’s a girl and one’s a boy get in the way. And those who do, well, you’re just setting your kid up for failure. They’re YOUR kids and anything said otherwise is just an excuse for not being able to parent. That’s my opinion.

    And I don’t mean to offend.

    • Right, I never said to myself, “Well, I have to be like this with my girls, and I’ll be like this with a boy.” It never crossed my mind to do things differently based on gender. I know that boys and girls can be different, of course. But to make an assumption that one is easier or harder from the get-go, as you say, does set someone up for failure, whether the child or the parents.

  8. I am totally guilty of saying this, but it’s often said in jest. Someone will comment on doing something especially girly with their daughter or some random girl drama and I’ll say it. But at the same time, I know that as Jack is running around the park and purposely throwing himself to the ground there is a mother of girls shaking her head saying “I’m glad that I don’t have boys.”

    I have no doubt that 99.9% of the people who make such comments are just like me. They really don’t mean anything by it at all. It’s unfortunate that there is that .1% out there who truly are being negative.

    • I think we have ALL said something like this in jest. I often joke that my SIL is a saint because she’s the mom of 4 boys — and married to my brother. I just have been caught off-guard in the past, oh, month or so by near-strangers commenting to me about my girls, and I finally got mad enough to blog an open letter. πŸ™‚

  9. Yes!

    I have one of each, and they are still young (2.5yrs & 17mon) but I’ve already gotten comments. They each have their own challenges- and it’s NOT because of their gender.

  10. True that.

    When I was pregnant with Gideon I really hoped for a boy. I got my boy. Now we’re thinking about having another baby and I would really, really like to have a girl. And I feel stupid for wanting a boy so badly last time.

    • I wanted a boy *slightly* more than I wanted a girl the first time I was pregnant, too. This last time I was pregnant, I kind of hoped it was a boy just for Dan’s sake. πŸ˜‰ So don’t beat yourself up. As long as baby is healthy, that’s all that matters. Although girls have better accessories!

  11. I’ve heard from family and friends that girls are easier to raise until puberty, but boys are easier to raise after puberty. Thoughts?

    (I have 2 boys and 1 girl so far – all under 3.)

    • I think this is the trap that we have to avoid, though: the word “easier”. Puberty brings its own challenges, regardless of gender. I think the commentary that goes on unthinkingly (and not in jest) is the idea of Future Teen Girl — every parent’s worst nightmare.

      I watched my father and my brother butt heads when he was a mouthy, moody adolescent; I watched both my parents struggle with my sister as a teen with mental health issues. My father and I locked horns when I was a teen, too. (My mom and I had serious conflicts once I left home, while I was in my early 20s. We’re friends now.) So I don’t think it matters if you’re a parent to boys or girls — that time in your child’s life is going to be fraught. And the idea that we should dread our girls becoming teens more than we dread our boys becoming teens is what needs to be squashed.

      • My sister and I basically got along until she turned 11. That year the hormones started flowing, and she turned into a psycho hose beast from hell. Our relationship didn’t start to improve until she had her first child. It’s as though motherhood hormones fixed what puberty hormones broke. Has anyone else experienced this? Is this a common phenomenon?

  12. Both boys and girls and be amazing, wonderful, frustrating, and OMG.I.NEED.A.DRINK My girl can be dramatic. But my boy can be moody. My girl can be high-maintenance. But my boy can be no-maintenance (as in no maintenance is done to his surroundings and he is a big slob). People are stupid.

  13. @eric,

    What do your parents say, though? Was she harder to parent as a teen than you? Do they think that’s because of hormones or that she was a girl or just “because”?

    I would guess that my parents would say that my younger sister was the hardest of the three of us, but not because she was a girl. There were other issues (that I am not at liberty to disclose). But, as I said, all three of us were challenging as teens, regardless of gender.

    • What do your parents say, though? Was she harder to parent as a teen than you? Do they think that’s because of hormones or that she was a girl or just β€œbecause”?

      Yes, my parents have said that raising my post-pubescent sister was much harder. They used more diplomatic language, though. πŸ˜‰

  14. This is a total shock to me, because over here it seems GIRLS are regarded more highly, and I hear the exact opposite ALL THE TIME. When people hear I have two little boys, they get all wide-eyed and say things like, “Wow, I’d go crazy with all boys!” followed immediately by, “So when are you going to try for a girl?” When I found out I was having a second boy–shortly after suffering two miscarriages–my own sisters expressed their disappointment to me. I feel like people are constantly pitying me for having two boys, when my husband and I could not be more content with or proud of them. So I can totally understand how you’d be offended if someone made a comment about your girls!

    Boys and girls may be different in some ways, but they’re all SOMEONE’S KIDS. There is no “better or worse” for their own moms. They are loved for being exactly who they are.

    I think people should just be happy for others. And if they can’t do that, they need to just mind their own business.

    Your kids are ALL beautiful. πŸ™‚

    • β€œWow, I’d go crazy with all boys!” followed immediately by, β€œSo when are you going to try for a girl?”

      Having two boys 13.5 months apart meant hearing stuff like that all the time. It also meant once our girl was born (16.5 mo after the second boy), we started hearing, “Are you done having kids now?” Ugh.

    • Where is “over here”? (sorry I don’t know.)

      I think this whole idea of who is easier to parent is suddenly fascinating to me. Did our parents or our grandparents think like this? Is this “age-old” wisdom? Or is there something in the current culture that makes the idea that one gender is better/worse, easier/harder?

      hmm. I may have to do some more research on this idea.

    • Also: And YES, someone’s kids, very loved — step off, people! πŸ™‚

      And thank you. I think they’re pretty damn special. They each have their days, that’s for sure. Sometimes, each has their own HOUR it seems.

  15. when my sister first had Little C, the MIL said “Thank God you had a girl! Boys are so hard to raise!!!!!” Granted, we didn’t care boy or girl, family wide, but she has then and since declared girls easier than boys, to the point of saying to my mom that she was blessed to have to girls (my sister and I) versus her two boys (brother in law and his brother)

    As a singleton, I love them both. I can rough & tumble with both, or play house with either. No one should ever say either is better. You’re blessed with a child, male or female, just be happy!

    • That’s interesting because when Dan & I were talking about this last night, he said the same thing as your MIL, that BOYS were harder. I just said the teenage years were going to be challenging regardless. We’ll just have to brace ourselves. And maybe stock up on alcohol!

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