Ahhh, parental guilt… just when you think you knew all the sources of possible inadequacy and insecurity when it comes to creating and raising your small people, here comes another! Are you familiar with the term ‘gender disappointment’? It’s where parents are hoping for a particular gender for their impending bundle of joy, to only be disappointed with the exact opposite of what they were wishing for.
This disappointment can then be a major source of guilt, when the parents are reminded they should be grateful that their new baby is healthy and that they have children at all. Gender disappointment is seen as a great taboo, and something many parents will not admit or discuss for fear of any backlash. As the mother of three gorgeous girls, I often get asked if we’re looking to add a boy to our estrogen-heavy brood. We are pretty happy with what the stork has delivered so far, but I’m not surprised to get this question. It seems to be human nature that we focus on what we don’t have, rather than what we do.
It can also be incredibly hard to reconcile what we imagined or dreamed for ourselves and reality. If you always pictured yourself with a pigeon pair and end up with triplet boys, it can feel like having to completely readjust your plans and expectations for the future.
While I haven’t experienced gender disappointment, I can appreciate how it can very easily happen. And it’s sad to see that these folks feel so guilty. I’m sure they are incredibly grateful to have a child, or another child and that they are healthy and happy, but this nagging feeling of disappointment must tarnish what should be such a special time.
I believe empathy is the key here. There is so much guilt involved with parenting – it seems guilt is an emotion we parents just need to become familiar and comfortable with and the sooner the better! While we might not necessarily understand friends or family who are experiencing gender disappointment, we should support them and let them talk it out. Guilt is the most useless emotion, so anything we can do to help our friends avoid this and move towards accepting the cards they have been dealt is a positive approach.