The "Perfect" Family: My Experience
What is the "perfect" family? Ask this question in terms of gender arrangement, and you'll almost surely be overwhelmed with people telling you that you must have at least one child of each gender to be "complete." Many families, including my own, have felt pressure to achieve a certain family structure. Since becoming a parent, I've often been surprised at the occurrence of something I've come to know as "gender disappointment" and how these feelings seem to rub off on other people.
When I found out that we were expecting our second child in the spring of 2011, I was just ecstatic! We had been trying for a few months, and we wanted our children to be close in age (they're 23 months apart) so that they would be able to play and grow up together. Up to this point, I had honestly not put much thought into what gender I might prefer, but I was quickly met with an onslaught of questions about what gender I wished our unborn to be.
"Are you hoping for a girl this time?" is something I was asked dozens of times by family, friends, and even people I had just met. My typical answer to this question usually included something about how a girl would be great, but it would be just as great for our son to have a brother. I honestly didn't care much either way, but it seemed that not having a preference was not allowed.
When the day of the big anatomy scan finally arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement! I know a lot of people like to wait for birth to find out, but not me! I'm a planner, and I don't care much for surprises. "It's a boy!" the technician told us with a smile. My husband and I shared huge beaming smiles. By the time we got in the car I was chomping at the bit to inform everyone I know that we were having another boy!
My excitement to let others in on our good news quickly diminished with every person I told. Each "You'll just have to try for a girl next time" or "You're really going to have your hands full with 2 boys!" made me more and more hesitant to tell people. I found that the less people seemed to approve, the less enthusiastic I became when questioned about what we were having. I started feeling as though maybe I should feel disappointed by this. That the way I should be feeling was sad because I'd be missing out on the "experience" of having a girl.
For a brief time, the pressure to have a girl even made me revisit our plan for only 2 children. Maybe we SHOULD try for a girl. My husband however, had his mind made up already. We agreed that 2 children was the right amount for our family, and after the second there would be no more! Did I mention that I'm a planner? Well so is my husband! It didn't matter anyway as shortly after our conversation, our second baby boy was in my arms. Our family was complete, and, in our eyes, perfect.
As I'm sure you have gathered, I think that my family is perfect in it's current configuration. Apparently though, other people don't share my opinion, and feel the need to let me know about it. The worst is when we're out grocery shopping with the boys, and a random person says, "Now you need to have a girl." I wish I were joking, when I say that this happens to us at LEAST once a month! With that kind of frequency, I know we can't be the only parents out there experiencing this. I try to laugh and be agreeable, or just say something like, "Oh, I don't think so," and smile. I do this because I know they don't mean any harm by the things they say, but every now and then I find myself wishing that I could say how I really feel, without the risk of sounding defensive.
Have you ever felt pressure to have a child of a specific gender?
Where Should We Draw The Line?
So where does this obsession with gender come from? Why can't we just be happy with the children we are blessed with? I don't think there's any single, easy answer for these questions. Some people believe that a male heir is important to carry on the family name. For others, they believe that no child can love their parents the way a daughter does.
With all of the pressures from society to fit into a cookie-cutter family mold, where do we draw the line? In some countries where male children are considered desirable, female children are either aborted, or killed shortly after birth. Right here in the United States people spend tens of thousands of dollars to select the gender of their children before they are implanted in their uterus. The process known Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis, or PGD, being used for "family balancing" has been a subject of debate for years. In fact nearly half of all people receiving the treatment are not getting it for medical reason, but for gender planning. Is this really necessary?
This post is is strictly about my own personal feelings, experiences and frustrations with gender preference. It is not meant to offend anyone who has ever felt disappointed by their child's gender. Just because I don't share those feelings, doesn't mean that I don't understand how someone else could.