A few days ago, I read an article on the Daily Mail that at first, enraged me. In it, a mom of four kids — three daughters and one son — admitted that of all of her kids, she preferred her son.
How could you prefer one child over another, I wondered. Especially knowing that, hand on heart, I love my kids equally. But then I really thought about it and realized that I understood the writer more than I first thought.
Perhaps this is because my son is the easier child to parent and he was my firstborn. Normally, they say firstborns are harder work because you’re still getting adjusted to new motherhood, but this wasn’t the case with my son. After the first three months, he was just the easiest, sweetest kid.
He still is the most empathetic person I know. In fact, he makes me a better parent: the other day my 4-year-old daughter was refusing to get dressed post-bath, running around the house naked holding an empty cardboard tube up high.
My solution? I yanked the tube from her and bent it across my legs, folding it in two.
My son, aged 8, said, “Great, mum. Now you have upset her and just made things worse. Well done.”
I was ashamed. I fixed the tube, cuddled my daughter, and tried to de-stress.
This story aside, I do not prefer either one of my children. As I said, I love them both equally. But out of the two, my son is simply easier to hang out with. My daughter asks a million questions. In three minutes. She is determined to visit the bathroom every place we go — even if we’re just popping into the post office. She whines for Kinder eggs, toys, sweets, and often goes on and on until every shred of my patience is tested.
My son accepts “no is no” immediately. He shares everything, is relaxed, and is fun to be around. None of this means I prefer him, but I do gravitate towards hanging out with him, and I think if all parents were pushed, they would admit that one of their brood is easier to be around than the other.
Maybe boys in general are just easier in childhood to raise? I’ve heard that boys are easier as children but can be more testing in their teens — I’ve yet to find that out.
Maybe when we look at our daughters, we see our own flaws? My husband regularly points out that my daughter and I are “twins.” Yet, he usually says this when he’s commenting on our shared flaws. My daughter’s tendency to nag over and over again? Apparently I do the same.
“Husband, are the bins in yet?”
Ten minutes later, “Did you bring the trash in?”
Half an hour later, “So are the bins back inside their place?”
He rolls his eyes and says, “You are exactly like your daughter.”
Maybe that makes me tougher on her, unconsciously. I see myself in her spirit, her determination, her ability to talk a glass eye to sleep. I know how girls think and how manipulative my daughter can be, so perhaps I am more wary of her without even realizing it.
With boys, everything feels less complicated. There aren’t the same levels of emotion that you get with girls. My daughter cries at the drop of a hat and takes a while to stop. My son just shrugs his shoulders and juts out his bottom lip for five seconds before forgetting his grievance.
I’m a feminist, a girls’ girl, and I love and support my daughter in all she does. But I I have to admit, my son makes me feel like the better parent. I seem to have less patience with my girl — less ability to not shout or get stressed — and I honestly don’t know why that is. She pushes my buttons in a way that my son never did.
However, she’s also the most helpful child, who gives the best hugs and is sharper than a knife. Perhaps because my relationship with my own mother was fairly fraught all my life until I became a mom, I haven’t ever had a successful template to emulate mothering a daughter. Whereas mothering a son is a totally blank slate, a new page.
Oddly, I “get” my son. I can read in his expression what he wants or needs, if he is sad or tired or has something on his mind. He is completely honest and without any side, and I feel I understand his motivations so much more than my daughter.
If you think that I’m alone — I’m not! A NetMums gender survey of 2,500 moms discovered that a staggering 88% admitted that they treated their sons and daughters differently, and they were twice as likely to criticize their daughters.
One in five admitted to letting their sons get away with more than their daughters. Perhaps the most revealing statistic is that more than half of all respondents (55%) even went as far as admitting that they have stronger bonds with their sons.
I honestly try and treat my kids totally equal: I encourage my daughter to veer towards sports as much as my son, I allow her to dress however she wants (she is a total tomboy), and they receive equal (age-appropriate) punishments. I definitely do not want to point out any differences between my kids or in any way criticize my daughter simply based on her gender.
My own mom had a way of always pitting me against others and I always came out looking worse. This sense of never quite being “enough” haunted me right through childhood and into adulthood. And my dad was obsessed with football and made it obvious that having a daughter was a disappointment.
I am determined to not repeat these mistakes my own parents made. So as much as my son is easier to parent, I won’t be giving him a single second more of my time than my daughter or in any way make him feel like he’s my favorite child.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s up to me to make sure my daughter doesn’t prefer hersons to her daughters later in life.