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Why Can't My Daughter Have It All?

Photograph by Twenty20

We want our kids to follow their dreams and be passionate about something in their lives. But should these dreams and passions be any different for my daughter than for my son? A recent conversation I had with a friend has me wondering if our opinions on the subject are determined by the sex of our kids.

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I have always encouraged my daughter to pursue any career or path in life that she might be interested in. But how much of this "girls can do anything" mantra has to do with the fact that I am the mother of a girl?

My friend has only boys and I have one of each. She shared about traveling to Parent's Weekend at her son's college and meeting his girlfriend for the first time. Like her son, this young girl aspires to be a doctor one day. The girl mom in me said, "That's awesome, good for her!" But my friend's response was not what I expected.

She told her 21-year-old son that his girlfriend "can't be a doctor and a mom." She is adamant that her son can't be a doctor and marry a doctor because divorce, nanny, etc. What the hell? So in my friend's eyes, this incredible young lady has to make life choices her son doesn't; she has to choose between being a mother and being a doctor. My head was racing, trying to figure out how exactly to respond. If she felt this way about her son's girlfriend, obviously the same applied to my daughter.

To imply that my daughter isn't capable of figuring out how to balance her life on her own seems insulting.

I was speechless.

I want my daughter to see a life full of possibilities ahead—and why not? Ever since she was small we have encouraged her to dream big, just as we have encouraged our son. And if her passion involves a career that takes her away from home and family she will find a way to make it work. Do I think it would be hard to be a physician and a mom? Of course—just as it is hard to work in a retail job, a corporate job or any other endeavor that pulls your time away from your family. But carving our lives out of family, career, down time, hobbies and friends is part of what life is all about.

To imply that my daughter isn't capable of figuring out how to balance her life on her own seems insulting.

But is this a girl mom/boy mom thing? If you only have sons, are your expectations of the young women your son might date—or potentially marry—different than those you have for your son? Studies do continue to show a difference in parental influence and perceptions when it comes to sons vs. daughters. One study indicates that parents have different expectations of sons and daughters as early as 24 hours after birth.

Having both a son and a daughter I honestly feel that both of my kids should be able to pursue their passions career-wise and still have a family if they choose to. It had never occurred to me that I should limit her career options because she might one day want to have children.

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So I added a few comments like, "Well it would be hard to be parenting in a two-doctor family!" and "I'm sure it would take some strategic planning," and left it at that. But for days afterward, my thoughts kept returning to the same conversation. Because if my friend believes women can't have it all, who's to say my daughter won't meet someone who thinks it, too?

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