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Boy or girl? What needing to know might say about you

A recent study reported that out of a group of 182 expectant moms, those who chose to not find out the sex of their baby prenatally were more likely to believe that shared parenting roles between mothers and fathers were important. These moms seemed to put less stock in the traditional gender roles of childrearing. 

One of the authors proposed that since these women found gender to be less important in their babies, the usual gender stereotyping (think: pink ruffles in abundance for girls, and trains and superheroes for boys) might not feature as prominently in these families.

Conversely, the authors also wondered if the families where the baby’s gender was known would place more emphasis on gender from the very beginning. Would they push their daughters into more “feminine” careers? Would they support the “toughen up” mantra that boys are told so often?

I’m not so sure the story is as simple as this study makes it sound, but as a “boy mom” myself, I know that the idea of gender and how it affects how you parent is a very common topic. Just listen in at the playground: how often are the little girls told they are so pretty, while the boys are referred to as strong or tough? Even with toddlers, we tend to let a child’s gender affect how we talk to kids, even if by accident.

We’ve always tried to raise our son in a more neutral way (and yes, even though we knew his gender when I was pregnant!). Despite this, my son discovered the world of trains and planes all on his own, without any prodding from us. In the same vein, he’s also had a baby doll and has been known to say, “Mommy, I can’t talk right now. I’m busy taking care of baby.” As a boy who might choose to be a dad one day when he grows up, I can’t be more proud of him when he says that. However, I know some parents would never buy their son a doll because “dolls are for girls”—but there’s another case of gender pigeonholing our kids into traditional roles.

I think as parents we should always be mindful of the trap of gender roles. Insisting that girls only wear “girly”  colors or boys have to only have “boy” toys really limits them. It perpetuates the idea that girls should be playing with dolls and kitchens, while boys need to be tough and play with tools. What message are we sending when we do that?

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About Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, Bundoo OB/GYN

Dr. Jennifer Lincoln is a generalist obstetrician/gynecologist and attending physician at a tertiary-care hospital in northeastern Pennsylvania. She spends the majority of her time on labor and delivery, but manages to fit in some outpatient clinic and operating time.

Comments

  1. So the authors of the study must have a lot of time on their hands, huh? I think sometimes this society is becoming a little too sensitive to gender differences. Gosh I can almost see the proposition for making everyone transgender just so there is no differences! Next Si-if movie??? Joking, but c’mon folks. Obviously some parents go overboard with making sure their boys are “manly men” and girls “pretty princesses” but for the most part I’m sure we all want our kids to be normal boys and normal girls… Maybe I’ll just paint my next child’s room white and tell them to figure it out!

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  2. I needed to know with my first for all the same reasons everyone else is mentioning, but we don’t plan to find out gender for future pregnancies. I feel like it’s one of life’s greatest surprises, and I can’t wait to experience that excitement at least once! We, too, decided on a gender neutral nursery palate despite knowing we were having a boy the first time around. It will definitely save us some dough (and decorating headaches) in the future!

    Our boy also discovered all things wheels and engines on his own, and he loves every bit of the typical “boy” experience, but he also loves his stuffed animals (close enough to dolls) and his cousin’s play kitchen. I definitely plan on getting him his own kitchen in the near future…with any luck, I may have a future chef on my hands! 🙂

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    1. I’ve got a baker too, and I am hoping this will continue as he grows!

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  3. I couldn’t wait to find out what we were having with either of my girls. I even bought Intelligender which is a kit that allows you to pee in a cup and tell you what you are having as early as 10 weeks. It was correct with my first but wrong with my second. Even though I knew we were having a girl with my first pregnancy we knew we wanted to have another child so we made everything including the bedding and toys gender neutral so we could pass it down to our second child if it was a boy.

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  4. I was dying to know what I was having because I wanted to give the baby a name. And yes, I’ll admit I also wanted to get the nursery ready for his/her arrival. I was way too impatient to wait until the delivery to find out, but I totally admire those who are able to wait for the surprise.

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    1. I was the same – couldn’t wait to find out! I am a planner, so I was happy to learn at our anatomy ultrasound.

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