This is a guest post by Jamie Huston.
Last fall my wife and I learned we were having another baby. Since I already have three boys and three girls, I don’t have any preference about the new baby’s gender. As the time drew nearer to find out what we’re having, I still found myself having separate worries based on gender.
If it’s a girl, she might have a harder time finding a devout Mormon mate when she grows up. Most of the single adults I know or know of are women, and there seems to be a regular meme out there that laments a young woman’s chances for finding a worthy husband these days.
Of course, she’ll be in good company. If she’s unable to marry, she’ll have plenty of friends with whom to commiserate. She and those friends will most likely also be more educated than the would-be suitors around them. Far more women than men go to college (last semester I taught a college class with seventeen students, only four of whom were male, and three of those young men failed).
In fact, in education generally women now dominate. I also teach at a magnet high school for the arts (we just won our 11th Grammy award), a school where the student body is more than two-thirds female. But that’s an arts school—surely the magnet schools for technology and science are mostly male, right? I just checked the accountability reports for those four magnet schools in my district, and the female population at each ranges from 54% to 59%.
Also on the plus side if the baby is a girl, she’ll get to grow up in a world fanatically devoted to building her up and offering her every opportunity it can dream of. How many TV shows and movies have my current daughters seen where the explicit message is “make your dreams come true?” Everything from tween pop music to the logos on the only shirts available at the major retail outlets coach girls to believe in themselves and do whatever they want to do.
And these messages are wonderful. I’m grateful for them. But there is very little such reciprocal encouragement for boys. The messages geared towards them tend to focus on sublimating themselves in some way to better celebrate others.
If the baby is a boy, he’ll have his pick of the litter when it comes time to marry, but if he’s active in church and school, he’ll always feel like a minority. Luckily, we live in Southern Nevada, where there are enough Latter-day Saints that a religious and academically-inclined young man can still find some peers.
But a baby boy will spend his childhood with scant encouragement from society at large. A media empire and public education hegemony that are zealous in their proselyting about the need for girls to rise above everything around them cannot even logically do the same for boys.
That actually doesn’t bother me much. Too often in the “war on men” commentary these days, I see self-pity and excuses for male failure, perhaps ironically justifying the assumptions of those who belittle men. I’m comfortable with the idea that a young man may have to find his way in the world in the face of prejudices and burdens working against him. A real man won’t have a problem with that—he’ll just get his work done and live his life, anyway.
In summary, I see these as issues for parenting now: girls will have more opportunities but fewer mates; boys will have more mates but fewer opportunities.
A baby of either gender will have its own special challenges in the America of the 21st century. Parenting that baby will require some modification for one or the other, but I suppose this has always been true. Based on my work with young people so far, a girl might need to have her confidence shored up in the face of such high expectations and so much competition (or, conversely, be guided away from pride and complacency due to the same—surprising how much of that there is). A boy may need extra mentoring in finding the place he makes for himself in life while struggling against what the world has become—finding the sweet spot where he doesn’t abandon the fight while still being a Christlike gentleman along the way.
None of this changes the majority of what I’ll teach this new baby, anyway, regardless of its gender: to do and be your best in everything, to anchor your life in the gospel, to enjoy this mortal season as much as possible. I hope my sons and daughters are equally driven from within, and find immense satisfaction in that—I want all of them to be aware of their power to contribute to our world, and that they should do all they can to serve and experience the best of it all.
We went to the doctor recently and were told that our new baby this year will be a girl. I couldn’t be any happier.