I enjoy having two boys, but I also looked forward to having a daughter. Although it can be hard to remember which baby did what when clearly after 6 years of very little sleep, she seems to be more verbal than her brothers were at this age. Both my boys talked late though. She also is close to walking at 10 months. Neither of my sons learned to walk until after they were a year old, and I also don’t remember them getting into nearly as many things as she does. It is hard to tell how much of the difference is because of being a girl and how much is because she is the third child, with two older siblings to keep up with. What I didn’t realize until I had a daughter was how much more important many decisions seem when it comes to parenting a girl.
There are far less expectations placed on boys. I don’t feel like I have to agonize over every parenting choice and how it may affect their future. They can learn practical skills from their dad, so they will know how to drive a tractor, build a dresser, repair their truck, and remodel their house. They also are learning to sort laundry, cook, and take care of the dishes. They will be able to do housework some day, and not just expect their spouse to do it all. For the most part, other than making sure they acquire the academic skill they will need for their job, I’m not too worried about how every comment and parenting choice will affect them.
There is so much more pressure on women to do everything, that I find myself questioning how even choices made while she is still a baby will affect her long term. Should we buy her the pink toys marketed for girls, or is it sexist to buy her tea sets and her brother’s tool boxes? My sons do have a doll, and a toy kitchen, but we didn’t get any of the toys that are specifically marketed to girls until my daughter was born. How much can we just let her play with the princess toys and enjoy them, without setting her up to believe that someday Prince Charming will come rescue her from her troubles and they will live happily ever after? While talking trains may not exist, many of the character shows my boys watch promote good values at least. While the princess movies may be fun to watch, teaching little girls that all your problems are solved when you kiss a prince/animal that is really a prince does not teach them anything about how it is important to be smart, or kind, or any other important values.
My boys just wear pants and a shirt. No big deal. For girls, there are many more types of options. Will letting her wear skimpy clothes as she gets older mean that I am saying that all that is important is looking cute to attract boys, or is it wrong to cover up just because other people will see something sexual in the way you dress, even if you just do it because you like that type of clothing?
Although she is not old enough to understand yet, I also feel more pressure to be positive about my own body around my daughter as she grows up. Although it does happen, there are not as many boys as there are girls developing a negative self-image and viewing themselves as fat because they have heard their mothers making comments about disliking their own bodies. Although there are things that I would like to be different, I don’t want to give my daughter the idea that she has to be perfect to enjoy how she looks. I am more concerned for my sons that I raise them to view women as beautiful no matter what their size so that someday their wives will not feel that they have to be a certain size just to achieve the approval of their husband.
Although I am glad for the progress that has been made in women’s rights over the last century and more, there is still a long way to go. We live in an era when the ideal is the woman who can do it all. That is not really possible though, and it puts so much pressure on women, trying to have a career, take care of their children, keep their house clean, and have a happy marriage. I would like to believe that progress will be made though, and that by the time my daughter’s generation becomes mothers, things will have changed. Having more support in society for mothers, as well as changing our expectations, would go a long way toward making being a woman feel like less of a burden. My ideal would be that women can choose whatever path they want, whether that is staying home with their children, or being a scientist, or company executive, knowing that they will not be thought less of for choosing the path that they did. I hope that the choices I make as I raise my daughter will allow her to live the kind of life she deserves, where she never has to think that if she had been born a boy, she would have had an easier time in life.
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