Thoughts on having a baby in 2014

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.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

8 thoughts on “Thoughts on having a baby in 2014

  1. “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?”

    My kids, husband and I still can’t seem to ever watch shows that pass the Bechtel test. Two female characters who actually talk to each other about stuff? Why is that so rare?
    It is easier to be male and it is easier to raise a male, even if you do have to help them with learning disabilities that are more common in males.
    I don’t care how many slogans to believe in yourself there are. A slogan doesn’t work as well as real life examples. Talls girls slouch, tall boys don’t. My teen boy loves being taller than everyone….it feels natural to him. Just like so many things will feel natural to him. Even though he is the one with the learning disability, he will be the one who people will expect to be a leader.
    Being tall, smart and being educated (which he will be because we’re an educated, intelligent family) will always be an asset for both my sons. Being a tall, smart and educated female will not always be an asset for my daughters.
    While I view having daughters as more complicated for them, I love that having daughters usually means they communicate more with their mothers as adults. That will be wonderful.

  2. When my husband and I were expecting our first child in 1994, we looked to the angst of our day and talked about what we would do.

    As gender issues and strange sexual outcomes were a hot topic, we talked about what we would do if our child came out a hermaphrodite or any lesser sort of atypical gender affiliation (e.g., body of one gender, mind believing it is the other gender).

    As far as I’m aware, all our children are pretty typical when it comes to gender.

    One is autistic, and we are looking at having someone who can talk and read but often acts like a 3 year old in a grown up body.

    One had heart problems and died.

    All the ones who lived long enough to manifest it are intensely anxious.

    They sing like angels, are witty, and are helpful.

    One has married and I’ll be sad when my child and her spouse eventually move out of my basement.

    My youngest is approaching the age when she may start dating and driving. Apparently she’s already had school friends who have expressed sorrow because they know she won’t date until age 16, and they were going to graduate before she would reach that milestone. I’m not terribly surprised, because she’s cool and snarky and talented. But I’m also a bit surprised because she grooms herself like a graduate student, which is to say no makeup and as little hygiene maintenance as she can reasonably get away with. We live in the east, though, so that just means she’s too cool to care about such things, with her Dr. Who T-shirts, nailbound cap, and hand-knit socks (with pockets).

    My mom was told she would never have children, and her patriarchal blessing told her she would have children given under her. Then she proceeded to body-birth ten of us, mostly girls. The doctors forgot to tell her she wasn’t supposed to have children, because of her kidney disease. All but my autistic brother has married.

    Because my mother has this intense perspective that we are God’s children, merely gifted to her keeping, that is how we were raised. I love the poem Mom wrote (which amusingly has been published various places and attributed to “anonymous”):

    If you were a gardener,
    your child a seed,
    your task it would be
    to garden and weed
    ‘way wild things that threaten destruction and strife
    and prepare the young plant for the rigors of life.

    But a daiy’s a daisy.
    A rose is a rose.
    The child must be true
    to its form as it grows.
    True to the form from the maker sent.
    And not to the will of the gardener bent.

    May all your children, male and female, typical or not, be cherished. May you lay the world before them as a precious gift full of opportunities, rather than gift them with your angst. May they grow to be strong, with a sense of self that does not depend on the mate they can dangle like a prize on their resume. If or when they do find another they can cherish for eternity, may they live together in love and honor, facing whichever of the inevitable trials we all must face. And if they find their journey through life seems destined to be without someone at their side, may they know they are still part of a rich community that does love them, and their worth as a soul is not diminished merely because they walk alone.

  3. Thanks for the additional thoughts, jks and Meg. Hadn’t considered height as a worry with this baby, but I do have a son who used to be very short for years, until a teenage growth spurt, and it made him as miserable as being tall might make a girl. A short girl is seen as petite, but a short boy is seen as weak. I’ll keep this sensitivity in mind should any of my girls sprout up.

    The big take away here, of course, is that apparently socks with pockets are a thing. How in the world I made it this far without anybody cluing me in to the existence of these little miracles is anybody’s guess. I likewise have daughters who are enamored of all things funky, and it’s safe to say that socks with pockets will make their debut at Casa Huston posthaste. Much obliged!

  4. Here’s a post someone else made talking about the socks with pockets:

    Awesome if you don’t use a car and just need a place to stash your metro card.

    If you get a door knob with a combination lock, then you wouldn’t need a house key either (i.e., no getting locked out of your house).

    One could call it the care free Mormon woman lifestyle – look Dad, no keys! And yet all the functional needs of life are still met.

  5. I think you’ve got it right here … no matter boy or girl, kids need parents to guide them thru the world. That’s why families are so important.

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