Mixing It Up: parenting both boys and girls {guest post}

From the moment I met Angie, I could see that she was in love with her two gorgeous boys but she was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a little pink bundle to complete her family. As well as being a complete spunk, Angie is funny and honest and wonderful, so I knew she was the perfect person for the job of telling us all about raising both boys and girls. 

  1. Tell us a little about your family ~ ages, genders, etc.

We have three children. Luca, almost 9, is our beautiful eldest son. Ziggy is our darling second (to none) son, 6.5. And finally, Harlow, our precious 4-year-old daughter.

  1. Before you became a mother, what gender combo did you picture your future family would have?

I never gave it much thought apart from always believing that I would have a daughter first. If someone had told me Brendon and I would have all girls, that would have made sense. When you’re wrong, you’re wrong!

  1. Did you find out the gender of your babies during pregnancy or when the babies arrived?

Despite planning to wait, we found out the gender of all three of our babies during pregnancy. With Luca, we were only 12 weeks into our pregnancy when the sonographer detected a hole in our baby’s tiny heart. This condition eventually resolved at 17 weeks but in the interim, we were understandably terrified. We had an amniocentesis to rule out any further genetic anomalies and this test can also determine the sex. At that time, we decided to find out the gender as we believed it would be something positive to focus on. Both Brendon and I cried – him with joy and me with shock. I could not believe I wasn’t having a girl!

With each subsequent pregnancy, I chose to discover the gender because I knew how desperately I wanted a girl and if it wasn’t to be, I wanted to process my disappointment well before the baby arrived. And just to be clear, the disappointment is never for the child you DO have (once they’re in your arms, you know exactly why they were sent to you) but for the child you DON’T have. These are very, very different things.

  1. Did you ever hear comments from friends or strangers about the gender of your child while you were pregnant? Eg. (after having two boys “Oh, I bet you’re hoping for a girl this time.” etc) How did that make you feel?

Yep, after two boys, I heard those comments a lot but I also made them a lot! I was very honest about my desire to have a girl. I know some people find those questions really offensive but I knew that for the most part, they’re just throw-away small talk people make to pregnant women. I suppose it didn’t ruffle my feather because I DID want a girl but I can understand how some parents assume those questions insult their children or devalue the baby on the way. I don’t see it that way. I think we can all be a little over-sensitive about what is largely meaningless small talk.

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  1. During each pregnancy, did you hope for a particular gender (even subconsciously)?

Deeply and unapologetically! I know it is not PC to do so but I couldn’t pretend my heart didn’t want what it wanted! Because that’s how it felt for me on a cellular level. I yearned for a daughter with all my heart and soul. I know, I know, it’s ridiculously dramatic of me but that is how I felt. And now that she’s here, not a day goes by when I don’t marvel at her girl-ness just a little bit! I needed her in a way that is hard to explain.

  1. Did you, or would you have considered, following a particular diet or timing conception (or any of the other theories!) to help you have a baby of a particular gender?

That was the plan in the lead up to conceiving number 3 but as fate would have it, all it took was a bottle of sauvignon blanc and a moment of wild abandon! I fell pregnant about 5 months before we had planned to begin trying. A very lucky accident indeed although after I tested positive, my husband had a moment of disappointment realising that the trying-to-conceive period was over before it began. He had been looking forward to it!

  1. Did you or your partner experience any disappointment finding out that your child was a boy (if you wanted a girl) or girl (if you wanted a boy)?

Yes. I cried finding out the gender of all three babies – and admittedly only the last one was with instantaneous joy. For each of my sons, there was disappointment mixed with real shock. I was so certain I was meant to have a girl. Of course, as it turned out, I was right. And looking at my family now, everyone is exactly where they should be. The order makes sense. But at the time of my second pregnancy, I began to really fear that I would never have a girl. I felt so confused because every fibre of my being told me I would have a daughter and suddenly, there was a strong chance it wouldn’t happen. Apparently once you’ve had two of the same gender, the odds of having another baby of that gender increases. My faith was shaken.

When my best friend’s first baby was a girl, I had a moment of pure jealousy. And I already had Harlow! Why was I so envious? I suppose in some way, I do feel guilt for those fleeting feelings of disappointment. I love my sons fiercely and I would never change a single thing about them, especially not their gender. And so I envied my friend getting her daughter first because if that had been my experience, the pressure would have been off my subsequent pregnancies and I could have just enjoyed the surprise.

  1. What does a typical day in your family look like?

Colour and movement and SO MUCH NOISE. Eating, fighting, hugging, laughing, playing, fighting, eating, laughing, hugging, fighting, crying. REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT!

Ziggy, Luca and Lo

  1. How do you think your family differs from a family with children of all one gender?

In some ways, not at all. Individual personalities are what colour family dynamics more than anything but I do believe Harlow adds a nice dash of feminine into a boy-heavy mix! The great thing is that having two big brothers has given her the ability to be rough and tumble whereas having a little sister brings out a softer, more nurturing side in the boys. It’s a pretty awesome mix – when they’re not fighting! But kids are complex creatures and so much more than any gender stereotype could ever represent.

  1. Do you think you have it better / worse / harder / easier than a parent of all girls or all boys?

I think I have it exactly right for our family. I can’t speak for anyone else. Having three energetic boys in the house does not sound like an ideal situation for my blood pressure but that’s how it is for me. All three of my children challenge me on some level, but I do tend to find Harlow’s energy less exhausting than the boys’ energy. I have friends who feel the opposite! It’s very personal.

I know some women who only ever wanted boys, others who so enjoy their girls. I got Column A and B covered and I am so grateful. I think Harlow probably tempers the boy energy here a little but then again, sometimes she joins right on in with her brothers and to be honest, what’s not to love about that? I never wanted a princess. A girl who can keep up with the boys is the best kind of girl! Conversely, the boys will learn about the mysteries of women through Harlow which can only benefit them, too. As I said, we hit the jackpot for our family. This is exactly the family we needed. Funny how that can differ so much from the original picture of what you want.

  1. What’s your hot tip for a parent raising both boys and girls?

Be present. Life is busy and I am so guilty of never truly being invested in anything because I am pulled in so many directions, but trying to remember to come back to the moment is crucial. Kids know when we’re phoning it in and I admit this is the thing I need to work on most.

Also, run your kids regularly. This does tend to be most important with my boys but I think all children need open space to frolic in. Being active with the kids not only burns off energy but sets a great example. As much as I think I’ve got too much else on, a quick kick of the footy is actually fun. Truly!

And finally, listen. Listen, listen, listen. Staying connected to our kids is so important. I want them to feel heard. I also want them to know that there is nothing they can’t tell me. There is no safeguard against hard lessons and hurt for our kids, but staying in the loop with their lives at least gives us the best chance to help them through any struggles. Open communication is vital. I hope my kids will always know they can trust me and their dad.

  1. Anything else you’d like to add?

Three kids are so incredibly busy, a constant juggle and exhausting beyond words. But when I see my three together, I feel rich beyond words. Bren and I are forever pinching ourselves at how lucky we are to have Luca, Ziggy and Harlow. They drive us bloody mad but we were pretty crazy anyway so it all works!

Angie Maddison is a freelance writer and and blogger at The Little Mumma. Free with the truth and the swears, she writes about the challenges of motherhood, womanhood and staying sane through both. She lives in Melbourne with her husband and three kids. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Sugar and Spice and All Things Nice? Life with three daughters {guest post}

As a mother to all boys, I’ve often been on the receiving end of comments like “are you going to try for a girl?” I really love having boys, but sometimes I’ve been made to feel as though I’ve been given the runners up trophy, while girls are considered the prize! I was interested to hear from a mother of all girls to see whether they feel similarly, so a big thank you to the lovely Lucinda for sharing her thoughts of being a mum to three girls. If you’d like to read Peta’s take on life with three boys, you can read her post here.

  1. Tell us a little about your family ~ ages, genders, etc.

I’m Mum to three cheeky girls. My eldest is almost six and has just started school, my middle is three and has just begun kinder and my youngest is eight months old and hangs out with me all day… and all night…

My partner is eternally patient and lovely and works as a primary school teacher.

We also have an eternally patient and lovely old kelpie called Cassie and live in a house that is much too small for all of us to fit.

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  1. Before you became a mother, what gender combo did you picture your future family would have?

It seems so long ago I can hardly remember! I am one of four girls myself and as such grew up surrounded by girls and women. I was absolutely never against having a boy, but it was (and is) a concept less familiar to me. I had a dream while I was pregnant with my first baby, in the very early days, that I had a little boy with white blonde hair. I woke up convinced I was having a boy, but as the weeks went on I couldn’t quite imagine it. By three months I had swung the other way and was sure the baby was a girl. When she was born I thought I heard someone say, “It’s a boy!” and my first thought was, “What!? Are you sure?” Sure enough, I misheard in that post-labour blur and a rosy little girl was soon curled up on my chest. And another… and another…!

  1. Did you find out the gender of your babies during pregnancy or at birth?

At birth, always. I never even came close to wanting to find out during pregnancy. I so love the excitement of not knowing, of researching baby names of both genders, of imagining and wondering and holding that wonder throughout pregnancy (and labour…).

During my third pregnancy I was bailed up in the chemist one day by a pharmacist who was horrified I wasn’t finding out the gender, for the sake of people who might want to buy me gifts. She was very quick to tell me that Target make it very hard indeed to buy neutral clothing for babies and that my mother might want to start knitting for me and what was I going to do about these issues? I politely told her (tongue in cheek) that if people were so desperate to buy me a neutral gift before the baby was born, they could buy it from somewhere more expensive than Target! I also told her that I wasn’t opposed to putting blue on baby girls (shock!) or pink on baby boys (horror!). It was only then that she sighed and shrugged and permitted me to leave the store.

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  1. Did you ever hear comments from friends or strangers about the gender of your child while you were pregnant?

I managed to escape the house and take myself shopping for some post-pregnancy pyjamas while I was heavily pregnant with number three. The shop assistant was asking me the usual when-are-you-due, do-you-know-what-you’re-having (or more common these days: what are you having), and so on. When she heard it was my third and that I already had two daughters she grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye and said, “Oh I do really hope you get your boy!” Strangers stated outright: “So you’re hoping for a boy, then?” And someone at work even asked me, “Was it planned?” like, who in their right mind would actually have three kids on purpose!?

These three questions were pretty much on rotation during my entire third pregnancy. By the end I thought I might do or say something horrible if one more person asked me about “my boy” that I was apparently longing for in my supposedly unplanned pregnancy. Mostly I laughed these comments off simply as ‘things people say’ but there was a part of me that was upset by the suggestion that if I had another girl I would be disappointed, or that I was only having a third because it was an accident. How awful for my innocent little baby growing away inside me! You do get exhausted hearing the same things over and over and over again, it can be tough on a preggy lady’s delicate emotions!

There are two things that have cropped up since having my third. One: “Oh I could never have three, I am one of three and it was so awful! One of us was always left out!” Hmm, did you notice the number of children I am carting around? Yes, three…

And two: “So are you going to try again to get your boy?” Yes, I feel like saying, rain check on aisle three!

Ahhhhh!

  1. During each pregnancy, did you hope for a particular gender (even subconsciously)?

I really just wanted to have babies and be a mother, it didn’t matter to me if they were girls or boys or a combination. After I had my second girl I felt happy they had each other, as I think the relationship between sisters is very special.

The way it has turned out is wonderful, I think it’s lovely having a brood of women. Maybe don’t ask me when they are teenagers though, I do have a bit of a fear of teenage girls. Probably because I used to be one…

  1. Did you, or would you have considered, following a particular diet or conception timing (or any of the other theories!) to help you have a baby of a particular gender?

No! This concept seems a little strange to me.

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  1. Did you or your partner experience any disappointment finding out that your child was a boy (if you wanted a girl) or girl (if you wanted a boy)?

I asked my partner if he would have liked to have a boy. He said that once upon a time he imagined having a boy and thought it would be nice, but since having girls he can’t imagine it. He doesn’t feel like he has missed out in any way.

When I had my third and saw she was a girl I was shocked to feel a wave of relief wash over me. It was more to do with familiarity, though, rather than not wanting to have a boy. Having three kids and wondering what it is going to be like and how you’re going to do the juggle is already a bit overwhelming, so seeing she was another she I was immediately like, yep, I’ve got this!

  1. What does a typical day in your family look like?

Chaos! The main difference for me between two and three kids is that there is no dead time; there is always someone who wants something from you. For us things have changed this year with my eldest starting school, which is a new routine to get used to entirely. We have to get everything organised the night before if I am to have any hope at all of leaving the house: clothes, uniforms, lunches, snacks (never go anywhere without a snack, no matter how many kids you have! Lesson learnt.) and so on. If my partner is starting work early and won’t be around to help me I sometimes even get out all the breakky stuff for the next morning so that I can just throw the food at them and keep moving.

After school drop off (which I’m sure will get easier but right now feels nothing short of a military operation) the rest of the day is generally a mish-mash of cooking, breastfeeds, more snacks, sometimes kinder, playing peek-a-boo, general maintenance of home and sanity, and of course coffee, because, coffee.

Lately the girls’ favourite game is to be kittens without a home, I then have to be the lady who finds them and asks them to live with me. This includes giving them bowls of water and making cat beds. A considerable amount of my time is spent doing this, as it has to be done well. Homeless kittens can be very precise in their demands, and not any old blanket or bowl will do.

I also do a little writing here and there and some work for a not-for-profit gets squeezed in on some days too.

When I was a kid my Mum ran a pretty tight ship with four kids in tow. I try to be like her, but I’m totally not, so I just do my best!

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  1. How do you think your family differs from a family with children all of the opposite gender, or a mixed gender family?

We have a lot more stuffed toys I imagine. And pink… everything pink… everywhere I look: pink… despite me not being a pink person or encouraging this in any way.

It’s funny, I’m so bamboozled by boys, I just don’t understand them after a lifetime of girls. Friends who have kids of mixed gender tell me that their boys are so very different to their girls and I find that amazing.

I have quite gentle hearted girls who are content playing for long periods with gemstones or books or drawing or puzzles. I’m sure this is more temperament than gender as I have friends with girls who are more boisterous than my own.

Oh, just thought of something: hair. The amount of time I spend managing hair having girls… and I still only have to do two lots of hair, can’t imagine what I’ll do when all three need hair washed, brushed, done. Some people have a nanny? I’ll need a live in hairdresser.

  1. Do you think you have it better / worse / harder / easier than a parent of all boys?

I really think it comes down to personality more so than gender to be honest. Sometimes I think boys are maybe naturally more rowdy, but only from limited experience with friends who have boys. It’s just so different from child to child.

Maybe boys would eat more?

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  1. What’s your hot tip for a parent of all girls?

I’d love some tips myself actually! The main thing I am conscious of is to praise my daughters for being brave, clever, funny and kind, before beautiful, cute or lovely (although they are all of these things). I want to raise strong, kind, confident women who know themselves. I’m not entirely sure how to do this but I think being aware of and acknowledging how our society treats women is the first step in creating positive change.

Lucinda is the mother of three small girls and in between kinder drop-off and life, she writes. She is passionate about disability culture, community development, parenting, birth choices and simple living. You can find her at www.motherwho.com.au. Lucinda has a written a few posts on Mummalove about growing up with her sister, Emily, who has Down syndrome, which you can find here and here.

Four Years in Photographs

This is the photo montage video that was played during Nicholas’ funeral service on 6 May. You may recognise the first song from the video I made when we celebrated his second birthday. A very big thank you to our beautiful friend Roxanne for putting together the second song, and for the special guests at the end of the video with their tribute for our beautiful boy. I’m not entirely sure who managed to organise it, but it was a pretty amazing moment to hear a church full of friends and family singing along to ‘Rockabye Your Bear’. Given Nicholas was the most extensively photographed child on the planet, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve just chosen a small selection to share with you 😉

In just four years, Nicholas really did teach us of “hearts and dreams and all the most important things”.