This is something I've always thought. In the overarching scheme of things, raising girls is harder for women. And raising boys is harder for men. Maybe this is different if you are a single parent because then you're in the position of being mom and dad. But if two parents are together, raising kids together - I think that raising girls is harder, for women.
Because we get them…maybe too much.
With little boys - any little boy - they are an enigma. I'm not a man. I never was a little boy. I don't understand the male experience. There are just "things about being a man" that I do not get. And therefore, I don't have the burden of teaching my son to be a man. That is my husband's job. He has the unique perspective and experience necessary because he is a man.
Of course, I have an important role, too. I need to protect and shield boys - especially when they are older and think they are no longer vulnerable, and perhaps their fathers are too rough on them. And of course, especially because I am usually alone with my kids all day (as are many moms), it is my job to teach, train, and discipline my sons, too. I'm the mom. I need to be fair and loving and train them up. But the real stuff of "how to be men?" That's a guy thing.
But a daughter….
I get that. I am a woman (as she will someday be), and I was a girl. I've been through what she's going through. I can feel as she feels. And I see her where she is, and I know where I want her to be. I know all the "stuff of women." I know that women are emotional, and sensitive, and have unique roles and abilities. It's my job to show them how to handle stress, how to treat others, how to become mothers (if they so desire), how to be caring, compassionate, and the ultimate multi-tasker. There are an insane amount of "women's issues" that I have to teach and impart when the time is right.
That is not an easy burden to carry…for any parent.
When we have our first girl, we realize this. (Or I did - and it was a huge realization!) And it's caught up in learning how to be parent, getting to know this individual person, and even dealing with our own issues from our childhood. "I don't want to ____ like my mom did." "I have to _____ because it was great." It's easy to overcompensate, though. It's impossible to sort through all of this information and see what the truth is - are we really making parenting decisions based on what is best for us and our child, or are we doing it in reaction to the way our parents raised us? And are we unconsciously reverting to the behaviors that we did not like in our parents? Have you ever had that sudden, "Oh, I sound like my mom!" moment?
I think this is often harder for parents with kids of the same gender, than the opposite. There is a natural, slight disconnect between opposite gender parents and kids because they have different life experiences. And this disconnect can push them closer together (because there is no friction from "similarities"), or push them further apart (because they just don't "get" each other).
I'm not any different from any other mom. When I was in labor with my first, all I could think was the overwhelming and terrifying thought that, "I'm not a mother right now…and in a split second when my daughter is born, I will be a mother for the rest of my life." It was too huge to contemplate; I could hardly breathe. The act of becoming a parent is the scariest and biggest moment of your life. One that you dread and anticipate, and just don't even know what to think.
And then it's there. If you don't bond with your baby immediately - which is more common than we think - you feel like a terrible parent. I belonged to a message board at the time and all the moms on there talked about how much they instantly loved their babies. That they were in love with them. I didn't get it. I loved my daughter, I was so happy to have her. But I was overwhelmed. She was this person that I did not know, and I needed - and wanted - to get to know her. But that would take time. And of course, a few months later, I did fall in love with her. I had "mommy guilt" over that for so long…I was afraid to say it, afraid to share that I just didn't get the "instant love" at birth.
But motherhood isn't about the beginning, or a series of moments. It is possible to overcome whatever you have faced.
As a new mom you don't know what to really expect from your child…what are they capable of? What is really developmentally appropriate? It's hard to be really sure even if you read every parenting book out there. Because you don't have the experience. Then, having to confront your own hang-ups from your upbringing, trying to sort through this sea of uncertainty to find the answer? Impossible. At first.
As our girls get older, we gain confidence in ourselves as mothers. We find our stride. We get to know who they are. We look to them for clues on what they need. We have bad moments - those "OMG I am my mother!" moments - but we take a deep breath and move away from them. We try again. We keep the end in mind - teaching our girls to be loving, caring young women. We constantly reevaluate what we need to do.
Does it mean, sometimes, that maybe we're tougher on our daughters? Yes. Because we can see that future. We are looking at the overarching goal and we know what they're going to face on the way. We're worried that we won't be good enough, that we won't help them to be as good as they can be. It's easier not to do it to boys, because that is not our job. If our husbands are there, we are not responsible for them "becoming men."
As long as we are loving and fair - most of the time - then we will be fine. And if we apologize to our daughters for our shortcomings, we will help them to develop compassion. Do I wonder what raising another girl would be like, now that I'm an experienced parent? Yes. I hope that it would give me additional perspective into how different girls are, and teach me to appreciate each of my kids and their uniqueness. That it would shape me as a parent and give me more patience. That, as my patience and appreciation expands, that I will love all of my children more. And I want that so much.
For more about the difficulties of raising a daughter, visit Babble.
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