on gender

While sending a High-5 to Tim on twitter today (he defended his dissertation, so I guess I should have tweeted “sending a High-5 to Dr. Baird”) I came across this story reported on in The Atlantic and published in full here.
Researchers at Queen’s University interviewed 2300 faculty, students, staff, and alumni asking “if they had any preference about the gender of their firstborn child, the gender ratio of their offspring, or the gender of an only child.” The results were, in my opinion, quite interesting: there was a significant gender preference in all cases, with the direction of the bias dependent on the respondent’s gender. Women preferred girls, men preferred boys. The researcher’s hypothesize that this is because “people may have an intrinsic desire to leave something of themselves behind for the future and that men today envision this through sons while women visualize it through daughters.”

I like to think that I didn’t have a preference with our children, but that’s not entirely honest. When we learned that Eleanor was a girl I was a little relived; I wasn’t sure I knew how to raise a boy. (That relief quickly disappeared, however, when Tim turned to me and said “You know she’s going to look to you to what it means to be a woman.” Geeze, no pressure there!) When we went in for our second ultra sound, and learned that we were having a boy the second time around, a little part of me (although I didn’t want to admit it at the time) was sad – afraid even. I thought I had this “parenting a girl” thing down (the thought that you ever really “have parenting down” – let alone parenting of any given gender – is hillarious to me now but I was pregnant, so cut me some slack) and I, again, didn’t think I had what it took to raise a boy. Tim’s reaction, on the other hand, was quite different: “I hope he likes cereal,” he said. “I have a lot to teach him.”


8 thoughts on “on gender

  1. Yes, I can relate. I definitely leaned ‘girl’ with number one mostly b/c Roger’s whole family only produced boys and I wanted to break the trend. For round 2, I must admit I’m learning ‘girl’ again, mostly for the same reasons as you mention – I got it under wraps. Ha! Plus its things like girl toys and play just make sense to me, and as primary parent, I dunno, doesn’t that mean something? I might as well be staring at Mandarin when my nephew puts a Transformer in my hand is says ‘Play.’


    1. I think the good new,Rebecca, is that you’ll have time to figure out what to do with those Transformers before your own son (if it is one) is thrusting them in your hand; and, if all you can think to do is dance them around on the table (or give them a pedicure!), I’m sure he’ll think it’s pretty cool. Another bonus, I’ve been told, to having #2 be a different gender, is that there is less competition. But, having never had a sister, I can’t speak to that in person.
      So…will you find out what you’re cooking in there?!


  2. Interesting. Like you, I was hoping for a girl – because I was worried I wouldn’t do as well raising a boy. I am quite the tomboy but I was still worried that I would turn him into a “sissy.”
    I can understand the researcher’s theory. That may be part of it – especially when it comes to men. But I don’t think that we should discount the feelings that you and I seem to share. I think that most people want to be good parents and if they think that they can be a better parent to a child of the same sex then that is what they hope for.


    1. That’s an interesting thought- so people want to be good parents and feel that they can best do this with the same gender because they can most relate to that gender. Certainly possible. What about the fact that the mother-daughter relationship is so complicated and tenuous at times; as daughters might that affect our interest/excitement in/about having one ourselves?


      1. Honestly, I wasn’t thinking much beyond the first years when I found out I was pregnant. I am Montessori trained for ages 3-12 and enjoy the elementary years the most. 0-3 scared the pants off me! Dealing with a teenager of either sex wasn’t even on my radar. Nor was I thinking about the possibility of a more difficult relationship with either one.


  3. I imagine there’s something to be said about parenting different genders at different times too. It seems to me that boys and girls are going to go through rough patches at different times and that these times may be harder or less hard for Moms vs Dads to handle.
    Along these lines – I wonder what age people imagine when then think of children’s ages. I thought of 13 year old boys and 7 year old girls.


  4. Well, not all I can image are those ages. But generally when I think of kids these days I think of toddlers- probably because they are everywhere in my life and becoming such fun little people.
    I think that your comment that the rough patches boys and girls will go through are going to be more or less difficult for moms vs. dads to handle is pretty true.


  5. As an old boss of Matt’s told us “with girls you have to worry about all the penises; with boys you only have to worry about one”.I also think that there is sort of the opposite effect where you get “daddy’s girls” or “momma’s boys”. I think since as a parent you are one gender you maybe think that you can learn about the opposite gender through your opposite sex child and it creates a very different dynamic (not sure I’m explaning it well).


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