Saturday, January 9, 2010

Girls and Boys are Equally Wonderful

After Manly was born, our fabulous congregation asked people to bring us meals. The first of these was brought by a very sweet woman named Isabelle*. During the conversation about our little Manly, the subject of gender was introduced.

"In describing the birth of her first son (after two daughters)," Isabelle commented,  "a friend of mine related to me her experience. She said she felt something so powerful when she looked down at her boy. Something she did not feel with her daughters. She felt the weight of responsibility in rearing her son to become a man, a righteous Priesthood holder, and future missionary."

I simply nodded my head after this account and respectfully changed the subject.

After Isabelle left, and we sat down to eat the delicious meal she had prepared, Mr. B asked me what I thought about Isabelle's story.

I gathered my thoughts, put my fork down, and leaned back.

"I was a little dismayed at her friend's description,"  I intoned.

"Why?" He asked.

"Her friend's insinuation of her son's importance, over her daughters, was, frankly, preposterous," I responded.

"I agree," he said.

We then launched into a discussion about gender inequality. I won't bore you with minute details, but I will, briefly, summarize our thoughts and feelings toward this issue.

We want our daughters to pursue higher education. We want them to gravitate towards those subjects that are too often void of women influence: Math and Science. We want our daughters to know they are equally as intelligent and worthwhile as their brothers. We want them to be satisfied, and feel honor, in becoming a mother one day.

Yes, I hope that my daughter's will become mothers. I hope that they see my sacrifices as necessary and important. I want to them to know the exquisite worth of mothers.

A false tradition in our culture is to slightly value men over women. The feminist movement strove to fight this sentiment. It won on some grounds, but failed in other ways. Men still garnish higher wages. Women are still highly underrepresented in Politics (especially in the White House, although Pres. Bush and Pres. Obama have set a precedent by bringing in more women into high power positions). And, frankly, baby boys are often valued over baby girls.

When mothers are expecting girls, they will hear comments like: "Oh, girls can be fun, but I prefer boys because they are less emotional." Really? Girls are more emotional? They obviously have not met my brothers. (Or my husband, and I mean that in a very positive way. He is far better at precisely defining his feelings than I am.) Comments like the one mentioned only promote the undermine a woman's worth. Comments like that make me cringe.

As for Isabelle's friend and her experience, I will be open and honest with you. I did feel something different when I looked upon Manly for the first time. I felt the overpowering love from the beginning. However, this had absolutely nothing to do with his gender. It had to do with the overall birthing experience. The staff and the doctor worked vigorously to ensure I was not only comfortable, but given full power in determining how my experience went. 

With the Queen, my experience was less than ideal. Something I will share eventually, but suffice it to say, it was rough. She was also my first. I was overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. Now, I have the same amount of love for both my children. My little Queen brings me such joy with her "chatter" during the day. Manly brightens my day with his smile. And, I feel equally responsible for their futures. I expect much of them. I know they will be intelligent (because I am, of course!). I know they will be examples to their younger siblings, and to their peers. I know they can reach the stars.

I feel no difference when thinking about their futures. I want them both to recognize their capabilities and work hard to achieve their dreams. I will seek to foster educational plans in each of their hearts. I will not allow gender stereotypes to interfere with their plans.

I hope to nurture my daughters' and my sons' mental development. I want them to be highly successful at whatever occupations they choose to enter. (I secretly want them to pursue difficult courses to prove that they can do it.)

I also hope to continue and debunk the gender "myths" I find in my own thinking.

*Name has been changed. 

Social whatever Saturday has been moved to Monday on account of a guest post. It will be super, I promise!


  1. I think about the differences in my daughter and son often. I also hear comments as you've described about having a girl and boy, which is easier, which is more emotional, which will "stick with me" as I grow older, which will cause more heartache, etc. It's annoying to say the least. I honestly wept some tears when my son was born. I didn't know how I'd handle a boy after spending three years raising a girl. But he swept me off my feet pretty quickly! I strive to MAKE him emotional. To be the kind of man that can listen and hug and cry just like girls are "supposed" to. And I want my daughter to be strong, verbal, confident, handy around the house and into sports. Well rounded. That's what I want for both of them and to not feel stifled ever for what they want to do even if it's "against the grain." Another nature vs nurture example. How much are they born with and how much do they learn by what they see? I'm hoping I can at least start them off right by feeling confident in doing whatever comes naturally to them but pushing them to try it all.

  2. I think about this all the time. I admit I felt the opposite way - I desperately wanted a daughter. From the very outset of my beginning to think of motherhood. And I feared I woudl never be "given" one. And then my firstborn was a girl. I was honestly shocked to have a boy next, which made me realize I'd sort of assumed I'd have all girls (I am one of two girls, and my husband is one of three boys).
    And I feel hugely privileged to have both experiences, and from the outset I've felt differently about both children. But, like you, I can't disaggregate how I feel about their infancy from the birth order, their respective births, etc. And, in truth, it doesn't really matter, right? I think often gender is used as a simplistic, reductive way of explaining difference when it is actually one of a set of complex and interrelated factors.
    Thank you for sharing your articulate thoughts.

  3. Intriguing post - makes me wonder how I'll feel if we ever have a boy.

  4. In Judiasm, the home, which is the heart of the religion, is created by the woman. The woman is essential to Judaism, because, regardless of how wonderful a father is, the mother imbues the children with the heart and soul of the faith.

    Like I told my son when I was expecting my daughter, "God picks" what the gender is. I take a lot of solace in that, in knowing that I was meant to see my husband fathering a daughter as well as a son, and watch both of us struggle and grow because of the demands of both.

    The only different demands I've felt raising my son is to raise a kind, healthy, man, someone who will one day marry and carry on Judaism to the next generation. Nothing's guaranteed, but I do my best.

  5. Linda, while I feel that both girls and boys are important, they each play different roles, no? I guess the heart of what I was trying to say is we should not place more importance on one gender over another. I will encourage my daughter to become a mom, my son to become a dad, and both to be active in their community, to attend college, and live up to their potential.

  6. Lindsey, when I became pregnant with my son, I didn't know what to do. I did not think he would be as cute as his sister. While cuteness isn't everything, it makes up for those long nights. A silly thought, huh?

    After I met my dear Manly, I knew I was wrong. I realized how perfect he was. How I loved him just as much as I loved his sister.

    I know that my birthing experience with each of my children will be different. I also know that I will grow to love each of them the same. I will appreciate their differences, enjoy their similarities, and strive to be the best mother for their different temperaments. So much is at play when it comes to rearing children. If we choose to focus primarily on birth order or gender than we are forgetting the other important factor: nurture. Something that Becca has already pointed out.

  7. Becca, I want to teach my children everything you described.

    Nature vs. Nurture. There is no end to this debate. I, for one, believe it is both. We can foster natural mental abilities and encourage unnatural mental abilities. We play an important role in shaping who our children are.

  8. I do believe that raising girls and boys is different. I swore I wasn't going to treat them differently, but the fact of the matter is that there are a whole lot more dangers out there for girls than there are boys in the dating world.

  9. I have heard sentiments both ways (both towards boys and girls), but I have never understood it. We all have distinct roles to play and it is important to prepare all our children to fulfill those roles.

  10. I published this comment separate because I'm not sure it passes the clean test (I won't be insulted if you delete it if it doesn't)

    (To GunDiva) I have to ask- are you saying that girls are more likely to "go too far" when dating? Because it takes two for that.
    What is dangerous for my girls I feel is dangerous for my boys. In fact, I think it is much more likely that my boys find themselves out with an underdressed overs*xualized girl pushing them to go to far than for my girls to be out with a r*pist.

  11. I agree. Nice post, visiting from SITS. :)

  12. Hi Ambrosia, I wanted to clarify, the reason I'm more worried about raising my son to be a fine, healthy humand being than my daughter is that I'm a woman, I pretty much knew I could raise another of me. The challenge was raising a great guy. I had dated a lot of creeps and guys with committment problems and guys who had been around too much and become jaded. I want my son to be wise enough to avoid all that, to know what I had to find out the hard way, that he will be happiest in a faithful, monogamous marriage.

  13. I don't value one sex over the other, but I think I am more demanding of my daughter, and fear that it amounts to the same thing.

  14. Being of the female variety, I completely support gender equality. :) I believe that God made us in His image, Men and Women He made us (meaning we are equally made in His image). I do believe that God gave men and women different roles as a whole, but has given each and every one of us a special task, a specific place in His Will, and has given us that which we need to fulfill our purpose. So: different, but equal.

    I pray that this friend of yours finds the inexplicable joy, honor, and responsibility in raising young women of God, just as strongly as she sees it in raising a man of God. As I pray for myself, and for us all.

  15. Ambrosia - I do believe that each child is different and unique. Whether male or female, each of my six has given me, and has taken from me, something totally different.

    We nurture boys and girls differently, at least I hope we do. The nurture has to take into account what is nature. I find it necessary to nurture boys on how to treat women, on how to respect others (more so than girls), on how to be a good man. Nature and society place so many preconceived notions about how men are suppose to act that these need to be counteracted with love and guidance from family.

    The same is true for girls. Even with the advances and slides backwards from those women who have gone before us, society still places women in a secondary position. Girls need to be nurtured to be able to stand up for themselves, to be able to protect themselves.

    Truthfully, both males and females need to be nurtured on how to be alone and find truth and happiness in that solitude.

  16. My son takes more patience, energy, encouragement, discipline and did I mention patience? than both of my daughers combined. Is that relevant to your post? I don't know, really. But I guess what I feel very strongly, having three very different children not only dependent on their sex, is that it is my job to love them for who they are, which often means helping them learn who they are from the very beginning. From birth. Thanks for this post, Ambrosia!

  17. As I married older, I recall being thrilled that I was able to get pregnant with no problems, and to have two babies one right after the other. I also remember that I was so awestruck and filled with amazement at my firstborn, that what I worried about most was that I couldn't imagine loving another child as much as I loved him.

    And of course, the moment I saw his face, I knew that was the silliest fear I'd ever experienced. And that our capacity for loving our children - and all children - is immense.

    Boys and girls are inherently different (something I thought wasn't as true as society made it to be - yes - in my naiveté of the heady 70s). But as has already been stated, there are so many complex factors that go into character, personality, behavior - nature + nurture as well - that each child is different, and precious, and entitled to our best parenting and their best selves and opportunities.

    Now if only we could make the world "so."

  18. When I adopted my son, I felt a heavy responsibility to raise him to be a good, honest citizen of this planet. I felt the exact same when I gave birth to my daughter. I know the world will value them differently and so I make it my job to teach them they are worth the same. It isn't easy and I must be aware and vigilant at all times -- but that's part of the joy of parenthood.

  19. Hi there! Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment for me. I've just been browsing over here a bit and loved this post. I have heard many of the same types of comments about "raising priesthood brethren" - but I have to agree that the privilege and responsibility of raising children has to be the same for each gender. It takes both great men and women to have great marriages, to raise great families, to contribute to callings, to be great citizens, etc etc etc. I hope I can rise to this task with each of my own kids. It is daunting.

  20. First there's feminism. Then there's the backlash. This is a "battle" that will be ongoing. We win a little, we lose a little. We take baby steps. And I think the most important thing is that we remember those who came before us and we support each other. I have seen in the corporate world where women tried to cut each other down first. Why? Easy targets. And also there is always this unspoken rule?/belief?/instinct? that there can only be 1 female at the top. So we go after each other to be the chosen one. Your daughters are blessed to have you as a role model. I cannot wait to have a female POTUS! So mothers of daughters, do your job! :-)

    p.s. For those who believe that a woman's job, once with children, is to stay home to ensure that their kids are well brought up, we just have to respectfully agree to disagree. Thanks.


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