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Why Do People Assume Women Want Daughters More Than Sons?

Photograph by Twenty20

A year ago this month, I gave birth to a daughter—my third daughter, actually.

Occasionally, if my husband is with us in public, someone will make a comment about him being terribly outnumbered in our home or that, "Wow he really needs a son." But I very rarely hear someone suggest that I ought to try for a boy or ask if I wished one of my girls was a boy.

Most people just don't seem to think I'm secretly dying to have a little boy.

I didn't think much about it until my sister, who has two boys, announced her third pregnancy. The onslaught of comments began immediately.

"Oh, I hope you have a girl!"

"I bet you're hoping for a daughter."

"Crossing my fingers that you finally get a little girl to dress up and braid her hair!"

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And then, at the 20-week mark, her ultrasound showed that, in fact, she was not having a girl. Boy No. 3 was on his way.

People seem to assume that mothers with boys must be dying to live out her dreams of mother-daughter manicures and shopping sprees with a future little girl.

Unlike me, she's gotten quite a few comments about how she'll have to try again so she can get herself a little girl or people will express, on her behalf, disappointment over a third male child.

After that, I started noticing that those of us with all girls seem much less likely to get those comments. People seem to assume that a mom with all girls is perfectly happy to have all daughters, while mothers with boys must be dying to live out her dreams of mother-daughter manicures and shopping sprees with a future little girl.

A 2012 study in Canada found that no matter how they worded their questions about gender preferences, women strongly preferred having a daughter while men really wanted sons.

Of course, I would never pretend to know all the reasons someone wants a son or a daughter. Perhaps they came from a family of all boys or all girls and want the same (or the opposite). Maybe they have deep-rooted feelings about what they want their family to look like. Possibly, they already have one and really want the other. Maybe they're just hoping to get another round of use out of the baby clothing and gear they already have.

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But just because the majority of people want a child of their same gender, doesn't mean everyone does. When we found out our third baby was a girl, both my husband and I sighed a little bit in relief, because with so many unknowns in parenting, we at least know something about having baby girls.

My sister, for her part, loves being a boy mom and has never expressed any disappointment about having no girls. As for our family, we may try for one more baby in the future. But it won't be because we're hoping to finally get a boy.

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