It’s an age-old stereotype – that women want a daughter and men want a son but as with most stereotypes it has a large degree of truth.
The topic was brought up again over the past few days by a Facebook post from our own Mia Freedman about “methods” to try for a girl. In the post she popped a random question. “I know fewer women trying to have a boy, what’s up with that?”
It made me wonder. What is up with that? I've noticed it too - for years now.
If you ask any pregnant woman what she is" hoping for" the majority of the answers will either be "just a healthy baby” or “a girl.” The cold hard truth is that really the only times you ever hear of a woman hoping for a boy is if she already has a daughter.
Before I had my own daughter and I was the mother of just two boys this used to infuriate me for reasons that rationally don’t make any sense. I felt outraged for the baby boys of the world that they were so maligned, so cast into second place. I would feel like my boys were being targeted. What’s so wrong with boys huh? I think my kids are pretty great.
But it always made me wonder.. Why do women have a preference for a daughter?
A study by British parenting site Mumsnet in 2012 found that 45% of mothers desire a baby girl, just 22% said they wanted a boy. The study found that the prime reason mums wanted daughters was because women felt they would “bond and understand” them better. 32% said they wanted to “dress up their daughter” and “decorate the nursery for a girl.”
Anecdotally I think the number is higher – especially if you reduced the survey size to just first time mothers. Somewhere deep in our psyches is the desire to have a mini-me, but it’s a desire that many women harbour and keep secret instead going with the universally pleasant “I just want a healthy baby.”
Researchers at Queen’s University did look at first time parents asking 2,300 men and women what sex they hoped their baby would be. Overwhelmingly men preferred sons while women preferred daughters. The researchers explained it as a desire to repeat ourselves through history.
“People may have an intrinsic desire to leave something of themselves behind for the future“ co-author Lonnie Aasrssen said. "Our results show that men today envision this through sons while women visualize it through daughters."
One co-worker explained it like this, “I'm using the word literally for it's actual meaning, I literally air punched in my ultrasound when I found out I was having a girl.
Mostly that's because I had a boy already and we were only having two kids. And, I dunno... like... I like tutus and ballet and dollies and dollhouses and STUPID DUMB PINK SHIT.”
Another said “For me it’s because I am the only girl in my family. My mum died when I was 22 and she was my best friend so for me, it was wanting part of that back. I saw how [her husband] was with the boys and all the plans he had for when they were older. I didn’t want to be the only girl going on the camping holidays and fishing at night. I wanted to have someone to create the memories that I had with my mum with and create new ones. Plus I wanted to buy heaps of pink shit”
I asked them whether in expressing such deep desires did they feel guilty for valuing one child more than the other?
The question took some of my colleagues aback..
"I don't value a girl more. I just... I wanted a girl. Do I value a girl more? I dunno. I 100% value my son, and 100% value my daughter. But, if we take the fact that their my kids out of it. Maybe. I'm questioning everything I understand about the world now."
Another said categorically no she didn't value her daughter more.
“I don’t value my daughter more than my sons, it’s just something that I really wanted to experience.”
But I still wonder whether deep down there is some level of valuing a daughter more and whether it is simply taboo to admit it.
Watch mums confess whether they have a favourite child.. Post continues after video..
A look through online parenting forums show that the reasons women want a daughter are fairly similar and universal.
Many say they want a child “for them” that their sons are "for Daddy" and they want "one of their own". Others with an almost sense of shame echo the Mumsnet findings – they just someone to dress in pretty clothes.
One woman writes:
“I love my boys more than anything but i dont see anything wrong with wanting a certain gender. I always wanted a girl because i'm a very girly person. Its safe to say both my boys are daddys boys and go to him for everything so now i want a girl more than even as its always them 3 and me.”
“I'd also like a girl to have a mother-daughter relationship with and to perhaps end up being more involved in the future.”
One who has boys says:
“Every single person I know is hoping I have a girl. It makes me quite cross and I either let them know that a girl wouldn't have been better than my two boys so it won't be better that this one's a girl either, or I just say, "you must think my children are awful to assume I wouldn't want another one like them." Maybe a tad extreme, but when you infer someone ought to be disappointed in their children due to their gender, then this is precisely what you are telling them.”
An older mother:
“I didn't just NOT want a boy, I was totally distraught at the thought of having one. I didn't want to be pregnant (an accident at age 48) and if I had to be pregnant I wanted a girl because I knew what I was doing with girls.“
“I always fantasied about a little girl to take to ballet, to go shopping with and to do girly things. There is nothing wrong with that. I was only having one child and all I wanted was a daughter. I love my daughter with all my heart.”
And she’s right.
While women struggling with fertility or those who have experienced a loss may find some of the reasons for desiring a daughter difficult reading, the fact is that no matter the reason for wanting a baby as long as the baby is loved and cared and valued when they are born then the motivation for having them really isn’t significant.
Did you want a baby girl?