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?