I’m not sorry I have daughters

The Murphy girls at home.
The Murphy girls at home. Courtesy of Kate Murphy

I’m not sorry I have daughters.

Today I ran into an old acquaintance who congratulated me on the birth of my third child and then shook her head and exclaimed, “Three girls – whoa. I’ll be praying for you. I’d take ten boys over one girl any day.”

That isn’t a remarkable statement because I hear it too often. At least three times a week, people console me for my misfortune in having three female children. They say “boys are so much easier and kinder” or “girls are just so much drama” or “I’m not going to sugar-coat it, when they become teenagers those girls will ruin your life.” Often they say these things while my children are standing next to me, listening to every word. Which is akin to looking straight into their eyes and saying, “too bad you’re not a boy.”

At first I laughed these comments off. Then I tried earnestly explaining my delight in each one of my daughters. But these comments are so ubiquitous, from men, women, friends, extended family members and perfect strangers, from people of every race and socio-economic status – now I’m just trying to understand where they come from.

On this weekend when we celebrate our mothers, why in the world are we so comfortable joking that we hate our daughters? Why does everyone assume I’d be better off if at least one of my girls were a boy? How can I interpret these comments as anything other than evidence of a bedrock cultural assumption that male is inherently better than female?

Raising children is always hard and often terrifying. Our little ones delight and break our hearts in equal measure, and when our children go through adolescence and begin the difficult work of forming their own identities and differentiating from their families – even a healthy process can be incredibly painful for both kids and parents. Why is it, though, that when a boy causes his parents pain it’s a result of his individual story, but when parents have difficulties with their daughters it’s because “girls are terrible”?

For the record, here is what I wish people would say to me about my daughters. “How wonderful that you have three spirited children – what a blessing!” “Three girls, how extraordinary – tell me about them.” Or how about, “Raising teenagers can be tough – if you feel like any of your kids could ever use a friend in their corner, give me a call.”

Kate Murphy lives in Huntersville and is pastor of The Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.