Saturday, May 12, 2007

Boys will be boys...

People who have a passionate preference on the gender of a child should not consider becoming parents, having only a 50/50 shot of getting what they want. For most parents, the “it doesn’t matter, as long as they are healthy” belief is the one they live by and that is the best camp to belong to avoid disappointment. There is a large contingent of people who attest that “boys are so much easier then girls.” I, however, belong to a different group on the matter. Controversial as it might be, among the top 10 reasons for my personal decision to be childfree is the knowledge of utter devastation and paranoia I would experience if I were to bare a son.

Having come from a family of three girls, I have an intimate awareness of all the drama in a household of daughters; slamming doors, hours on the phone, catty friends, screaming arguments and flowing tears. The issues parents face with daughters are certainly different then with sons. One could argue that the turmoil associated in a household with daughters is the different set of standards parents often place on girls. It is unfair to say all parents do this; however, in most families, girls have a stricter set of rules to adhere to. From earlier curfews to higher expectations on their role in the household and family, gender roles place a greater level of active parenting on mothers and fathers, and position more barriers and boundaries on the lives of girls, giving them more to fight about.

To the defense of parents, the consequences in following a relaxed parenting style with girls are more immediately recognizable. Society accepts that “boys will be boys” and their bad behaviors are often dismissed, whereas girls are expected to “act like a lady” from a very young age. The pressure to be a good parent is tremendous and the manners of little girls are held to a much higher standard, giving parents more to do. There is also the obvious challenge parents with girls face during the teenage years; unwanted pregnancy. Although it takes two to tango, the effect a pregnancy has on the life of young woman far outweighs what it does to the male involved. Essentially, a boy’s life is rarely “ruined” if he parents a child at a young age.

In the past, there was a tangible value to favoring sons over daughters. To apply financial terminology to the situation, families viewed sons as an asset, and daughters as a liability. The best thing a daughter could bring the family is a grandson, which was dependant on getting her married and out of the house to transfer the financial burden to another man. Other reasons people preferred to have boys are no longer valid due to how gender roles have evolved. Nothing will prevent daughters from taking over the family business, throwing a ball, or watching the game with their Dad. Even as a feminist, I can admit the value of having sons on the family farm, however, only 2% of the US population lives on a farm these days.

In today’s society, daughters can provide their family with the same advantages as a son, but the same cannot be said for sons. Females still bare a brunt of the burden of caring for their aging parents and are more acutely aware of the needs of their family and friends. Daughters are more likely to take their parents shopping, or to the doctor, or into their homes in their later years. Additionally, many of life’s major events revolve around women, from weddings to childbirth; parents of daughters are more involved in these life events.

Those who would choose the difficulty of boys with their broken bones, tempers, and bad selection in baby clothes over the drama of girl do have some merits to their argument. Analyzing the work associated with the first 18 years, boys would come out on top in the easier to deal with category. However, children grow up, and parents are ultimately responsible for raising children who become solid human beings; contributing to society, respecting their surroundings, challenging wrong, upholding values, providing to the greater good and helping their parents in the golden years, and these long term parental goals are more difficult with a boy.

While the issues associated with raising girls do seem daunting, the consequences in screwing up a boy are far greater then a girl. A hatred of boys is not what influences my decision to prevent parenthood; it is the fear of poorly raising a male child and what that means to society. While a female who is the product of poor parenting might commit some crimes, drain the welfare system or become estranged from her family, boys raised in questionable environments can yield more disastrous results. This is brought to light with reports of a school shooting or murderous rampage, when news agencies flood our airways with stories on the males or group of males who committed the heinous acts. We hear commentary blaming schools, law enforcement, Hollywood violence, gun control laws and side-effects of psychiatric drugs, but too few question the first line of defense between a violent person and the world; their parents.

Having children makes you no more a parent than having a piano makes you a pianist.
-- Michael Levine, Lessons at the Halfway Point

While producing a child is easy; being a good parent is a tough job and a lifelong commitment. Many people lack the skills, desire, time, resources and knowledge to effectively raise children, yet they keep having them. Until the time when all people assess whether they would make good parents before making babies, when people raise their children to respect adults and peers, when a common goal is rearing the next generation’s responsible adults, when parents raise their sons to be as well mannered and obedient as their daughters and when the decision on having children or not can be made with adequate access to family planning, then we should all hope those who are like me and not equiped to be good parents are having little girls.


Husband said...

As you know, I disagree with you across the board on this one. But since we're not having kids the point is moo... you know, like a cow's doesn't matter.

Elaine said...

I'm sorry to hear that your choice not to have children is a fear of having a son. Although I can't tell you what it's like to have one I can tell you I appreciate my two sons in law greatly. Their parents did an excellent job raising them and seeing them I know that it is all about good and bad parenting.

Steve said...

It is a very personal decison to not have kids. It is not for everybody. Goodness knows with my job as a pediatric nurse, I see way too many parents who had no business bringing children into this world. I guess I would say that as a society, we are letting our boys down. For the most part, special education and juvenile detention centers have a huge desparity of boys versus girls. If you look at most schools with their top academic performers now, the overwhelming majority are female. Most of the students at the University of Minnesota medical school have been women the last couple of years. I would say that there are a whole lot of people dropping the ball on educating and raising boys-with grave ramifications to us as a society.