My friend Maggie just had her third child, and more to the point, her third girl. As the mother of two boys and no girls, I joked to her husband that if he ever wanted to start an Outnumbered Club, I’d join him.
I always assumed I’d have a boy and a girl because that’s what my parents had. So during my second pregnancy, when my husband and I saw a penis on the ultrasound, I couldn’t help feeling a sense of loss. Because we wanted two children, I knew I’d never have a daughter, and I felt sadder than I thought I should be. What was my problem? Did my girl-mom fantasies—wearing matching velvet Christmas dresses, visiting the American Girl store, getting facials—really carry that much weight?
Talking with a friend who has two sons helped me grasp the root of the issue. “There’s a part of me that can’t believe I’ll never share the experience of having a daughter with my mother,” she told me.
Need I say this? I love my boys. I have yet to meet somebody else’s daughter and think, “I wish she were my child.” And there are certainly lots of boy-mom perks: I’m afforded a small shroud of mystery as the lone female in my house. I can slink off to my Fortress of Solitude (the gym, the spa, or out with girlfriends) every once in a while, and I get precious three-minute breaks when my husband takes both kids to the men’s room.
However, there is a lot of Star Wars in our house. All their clothes seem to come in three colors. I donate monthly to a gun-sense organization and yet my 2-year-old whispers, “Pew pew pew! You’re dead,” to his Lego guys. My 5-year-old begs his dad to “battle,” but inevitably cries when the roughhousing gets to be too much. Then he begs for more.
And it can be exhausting to serve as the example of what all women are like and how we prefer to be treated. Once I dismissed a dress in a catalog as “too girly” in front of the boys and instantly regretted it. I often find myself performing literal feats of strength, such as different types of push-ups, just to remind them that the person folding their undies is secretly ripped.
Every now and then, I wonder what I’m missing and what the future holds. While the guys are screaming and thumping around in the living room, would a girl sit quietly next to me? Will my sons be as close to me as I am to my mom? If they have female partners, will we get along? Who will notice the new carpet in the powder room or chat with me about gowns after awards shows?
Then again, I know that having a daughter wouldn’t necessarily be anything like what I expect. Plus, my boys are my boys—they call out, “Are you okay?” if they hear me drop something. One time, my older son ran into the kitchen to tell me that I really should consider watching Spider-Man with him because it had not one but two girls in it. And their love for each other is a type of intense bond that I don’t think my brother and I had. Like whales with sonar, they use their own form of echolocation to make sure they know where the other one is at any given moment.
When you’re an outnumbered parent like me, strangers are quick to comment about “going for another” or “being happy with what you have,” implying that either you don’t have enough or you should be ashamed to want anything different. So if that’s you, too, come join my club. There’s beer, gendered toys, and the unspoken acceptance that thinking it would have been nice to have a son or a daughter doesn’t mean you don’t love your children exactly as they are. We rolled the biological dice and this is our reality, one where we appreciate the miracle that is our family and can still dream about what might have been.
This article originally appeared in Parents Magazine as '#BoyMom For Life.'