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.

013

  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.

866