First let me say I am a militant Mom o’ Boys. I love being the mother of sons, and get pretty frosted when people make comments about what they think I have missed by not having daughters. I had one former friend who invited me to come over to polish her baby daughter’s nails, as though I was someone from another planet. Well, first of all, I have my own freaking nails to polish whenever I want (which is never). Secondly, this particular ex-friend had another child who was born with a genetic condition that affected his physical health and intellectual development, so you would THINK she would have an appreciation for the miracle of having a healthy child no matter what the gender was. But people can be quite petty and even stupid.

My sister, who has three sons, got a lot more crap than I did, because she has an invisible “kick me” sign on her back and people say outrageous things to her that they would never say to me. She was constantly asked, “Are ya goin’ for the girl?” when she was pregnant for the third time. I came up with a lot of snappy retorts for her to use, but she just took the rude comments in stride and didn’t ever say, as I had suggested, “What on earth would make you say such an offensive and ignorant thing to me?”

So is the experience of raising sons all that different from raising daughters? There are certain clear differences but also a lot of myths. Here is what I have observed:

1. My daughter will be my best friend. I don’t believe mothers should be best friends with their children, no matter what gender. As a girl, I wished my mother was my best friend, but I now realize she had a job to do – creating rules and boundaries and instilling morals. Being my best friend would have interfered with that mission. At the same time, she and I were very different from one another, and I was never going to be HER best friend, since we disagreed about almost everything. So sorry, folks, no guarantees that you and your Mini-me are going to be wearing the matching outfits while you garden together.

2. Sons are not at all curious about what their mothers are doing, thinking, wearing, etc. This I have found to be true. I could have dressed in a clown costume and my sons wouldn’t have noticed. I could have left my diary open on the kitchen table and they never would have looked at it. They did not care or even notice if I cut my hair, changed the color, got a perm or shaved it all off. I never heard a word about how unflattering my outfit was, or how I was embarrassing them by wearing my Pretenders t-shirt in public. I could have worn kabuki makeup when we went to McDonald’s and they would not have seen me any differently than they did when I rolled out of bed in the morning. The only thing ever mentioned about my appearance in 33 years of motherhood was when my second son would say, “No yady shoes, Mommy!” meaning he didn’t want me to wear my “lady shoes” – which were pumps instead of my usual sneakers or clogs — because it meant I was going to work. He said that in 1990.  Since then, no comments by any of them.

3. Boys do not provide information without first being waterboarded. It’s amazing to me that so many journalists are men, because my kids were terrible reporters. Whenever I wanted to find out what was going on at school, I had to call the mother of one of their female classmates. But this is not shocking, considering this heritage: their father had a guy who worked for him whose wife was pregnant, and very overdue. Every day, I would ask him if Brian’s wife had had the baby yet, and every day, he said he didn’t know. “HOW COULD YOU NOT FIND OUT?” I would say. So finally, he came home all excited, telling me that Brian’s wife had had the baby that morning! “And what was it, a boy or a girl?” I asked. “Oh,” he said, “I forgot to ask.”

4. Boys aren’t good with household chores. Well, this one is definitely not true. My oldest son was the Vacuuming King, so much so that after a while, he demanded a better grade of vacuum cleaner, as he took great pride in his art. All of my sons LOOOOOVED baking with me, and just this weekend, my grandson helped me prepare tuna fish sandwiches for lunch! He had a big spoon and he mixed and chopped and had a great time flinging tuna all over the place (this is why I have dogs). My boys all learned how to do laundry at a tender age, although I had to coach them over the years not to mix whites with darks, not to cram 12 pairs of jeans in the washer at one time, and not to fry t-shirts until they were permanently wrinkled. They do not know how to iron, though, because they never saw anyone do it!

There are so many stereotypes and assumptions about each gender that we have all worked so hard to eradicate, but some of them may actually have a basis in fact.  I am interested to know what the rest of you moms think about gender differences.

  • Do you get gratuitous comments from other people if your children are all of one gender? Do YOU feel you are missing out on something?
  • Do you see a big difference between your children of different genders? Do you feel they would be closer to one another if they were of the same gender?