'Aren't you lucky you had boys?'

Why do we assume that men would prefer to have a son instead of a daughter?

Why do we assume that men would prefer to have a son instead of a daughter?

If I had a dollar for every time I've been in the park with my two boys and had someone tell me that I was so lucky to have had not just one but two male children, I would have amassed a lot of cash by now.

So much so that I could probably have afforded gender selection and then had the girl I was actually hoping for in the first place.

As it is, this unsolicited advice is usually offered for free and is just another reminder that I did not get my own way in the genetic lottery that is kids.

But how can that be? Every man wants a son, don't they? A male heir, someone to continue the family name, someone to look after them in their dotage?

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Well, perhaps that would be the case if it was the 19th century, or I was the king of somewhere, but the assumed superiority of a male child is now just one of our earliest forms of lazy sexism. It's tired and reductive and not really the best way to start a chat in the park. I would rather you commented on the weather, than presume to know my reproductive preferences.

Speaking to a dad of two girls recently, he pointed out that he gets the opposite. The pitying looks, the constant enquiries of "Are you trying for a boy?" - or, as he puts it, "The ridiculous assumption that to fully understand being a parent I have to have children that are the same sex as me." There is the inherent suggestion that there is something lacking in his current parenting situation, namely a penis.

In some cultures this desire for a male child is so insidious and entrenched that it is leading to gender imbalance. In the article Do Fathers Prefer Sons? from the National Bureau of Economic Research in the US, it predicts that in Asia as many as 80 million girls are "missing" from the normal gender balance having been aborted, neglected or, in extreme cases, killed.

The same report shows that, in the US, first-time mothers who are known to be carrying a boy are much more likely to be married when the child is born. As researchers Gordon Dahl and Enrico Moretti put it, "This evidence suggests that fathers who find out their child will be a boy are more likely to marry their partner before delivery."

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My own personal bias towards girls was less strident. I was hoping for female kids because I was not exactly the blokiest of blokes and I was very concerned that I would not be able to relate well to mini-males.

When my eldest son first popped out, my first feeling was one of disappointment, an indication of just how keen I was on a little girl.

When our second came, also packing equipment that I was all too familiar with, it was a similar sensation. The fear of a third boy outweighed any desire for a baby girl, so we are done now. The idea of attending football matches, collecting bugs and playing with race cars did not appeal to me on any level. Though, as you might have spotted, I was happy to indulge in a bit of casual sexism of my own.

Shockingly, my two boys turned out a lot like me. There is not a lot of football, though we do have a pair of frighteningly large stick insects. I cannot imagine loving them any more if they were girls, but nor do I feel that my connection is in any way reliant on their sex.

I guess, on current stats, I am lucky that when my two boys grow up they are statistically less likely to be murdered by their partners, or abused by people that they trusted. They will likely be paid more and be far more likely to sit on a company board.

But I am not lucky simply because I had boys - my experience of fatherhood is not inherently better, or worse, than a father of girls. If a girl had popped out, I would not have had to hand in my testosterone card.

I am lucky I had two beautiful, healthy and loving children. Maybe open with that next time you see me at the park.

 - dailylife.com.au


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