Does Your Dad Wish You Were A Boy?

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as you may know, my husband and i just returned from a 17 day trip to six different cities in china. it was our first time traveling there and i did not want to venture there with too many expectations or preconceived notions, especially when it came to women or relationships. i wanted to arrive with an open mind and experience things for myself.

during one point in our trip, i was having a casual conversation with a woman who was asking about my family. i told her about my parents living in colorado, that i have one sister (remember when she handled torrential downpour on her wedding day like a champ?) and now my husband and i live in oregon.

in a very casual tone, the woman asked “is your father disappointed by this?”

at first i was confused because even though i know my dad (and mom) probably miss me not living in colorado, i wouldn’t say they were disappointed. i then understood what she meant when she followed up with,

“isn’t your dad disappointed that he had two daughters and no son?”

Does Your Dad WishYou Were a Boy- (1)

i am pretty sure my eyes got wide because that had truly never crossed my mind. for a hot second, it made me briefly question if maybe he was disappointed? does my dad wish i were a boy? what about my mom? then i remembered that i know for a fact that my parents are quite happy to have two daughters and all they cared about when they found out they were expecting was that we were healthy babies and now good people.

never once have i been told “i wish you were a boy or a son” and never once have i felt like i disappointed my parents based solely on my reproductive organs.

it was then that i realized how fortunate i was to reply to her question, “nope, my dad and mom are happy to have me and my sister. i don’t think they are disappointed we aren’t boys.”

it was then i realized this is not her reality. unfortunately our conversation was interrupted and i could not hear more of her experience and upbringing nor share more of mine.

this wasn’t the only time this came up while we were there. i heard two other stories shared publicly that related to this.

one woman shared that she lived a happy and loved childhood, until her younger brother was born. after his birth, her parents’ and grandparents’ attention and love went to him. he was pampered, spoiled, sent to the best schools and while she knew her parents loved her as well, she knew they loved her brother more. this woman went on to say that she feels happy with her life and still feels deep love for her family but there will always be a piece of her that doesn’t feel good enough, a luxury her brother has never experienced.

another woman shared the dreams and desires she held for her future daughter, should she have one. she shared that she was loved by her parents and they told her she could do anything with her life, but she also understood that she disappointed them by not being born a boy. she remarked that things for girls and women in china are much better than they used to be but unfortunately not where they should be. she expressed wanting to make her daughter feel valued as a person and to pursue the education, career and life she wants. she wants her future daughter to not feel like she’s “leftovers” as many women are called if they aren’t married by 30, even if it’s by choice.

i found these women to be courageous to share so openly about their thoughts and feelings. i also felt a deep sadness to hear that they aren’t valued the same because they are women.

of course the united states isn’t perfect and we still live in a patriarchal society, but i do feel grateful that my family has never made me feel less than because i’m female. this happens enough in larger society so i’m thankful it’s not something i feel with my family too. i also recognize that there girls and women in the united states who sadly may feel less love from their family because they weren’t born a son and that perhaps not every woman in china feels that a man or her brother is significantly more valuable than herself.

we cannot and should not make broad generalizations but i was moved by hearing these stories, that i needed to share.

what are your thoughts on this? have you experienced something similar? please feel free to share your respectful thoughts below.


  1. Paula Howley

    November 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

    I’m glad you brought this up Chelsea. Next time you go to China, it would be interesting to go more in depth about this with the women there- if you are allowed to of course. I would imagine it’s a little daring to even talk about this kind of stuff. Really glad to hear things are changing there though.

    I don’t have the best relationship with my parents but I do remember my dad telling me that I could grow up to be anything I wanted. I also remember when I was 7 and my brother was born, my dad bought my mom flowers and the card said `My son, my son. Hazel, you have never made me more happy.`
    My sister and I (as you see) never forgot those sentiments and yes, we were hurt by it.
    When I was pregnant with Meaghan, Lloyd thought for sure that she was going to be a boy. (My inkling from the get go was girl)
    When Meg was about a year old I remember Lloyd saying `you know, I don`t even care that Meg wasn`t a boy. She`s so cool.`
    Even during the year that we explored adoption, we both wanted to have another girl.
    Glad you have you back Chels. Missed your comments on Social media.

    • chelsea

      November 18, 2014 at 7:52 am

      thanks for your comment paula and i would really love to have more in depth conversations around feminism and marriage there too.

      thanks for sharing about how your father reacted so differently when your brother was born, i can only imagine how hurtful that must have been. so glad you and lloyd have a super cool daughter now (looove that she’s so excited and inspired by the ted talks!).

      thanks for being excited i’m back on social media because i missssssed it (although i will say it was freeing to not obsessively be on it) 🙂

  2. Vivien

    November 17, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    Experiences, where shall I begin? I know of friends where their parents would keep trying to have kids until they had a boy. I know of another friend that brought her four kids (eldest was obviously the son, and the other three were daughters) on a tour to China, and the tour guide asking her “What were you chasing?!” (aka your oldest was already a son, why did you continue having kids?)

    My parents knew beforehand I was going to be a girl. When I was born, well, everyone else knew as well. As I was told, there were some people that said the equivalent of “I’m so sorry” to my dad, and there were members of my extended family that wished things had turned out differently. And when it became clear there weren’t anymore kids coming…well I’m not sure what happened, to be honest.

    At some point, I knew. Can’t remember how, but I just knew. Over the years I remember feeling 1) how ironic it was that I turned out to be a carbon copy of my father (remembering the saying like father, like son) and 2) the one thing that could have “fixed” all of this was the one thing that could never have changed.

    I wanted to be a tomboy when I was young. I think a part of me wanted to show I could be just as tough, just as good as the guys. Nowadays I ask myself if that knowledge heavily influenced my decision to try and be a tomboy or if I would have turned out like that, regardless.

    The thing that gets to me the most, is knowing I have it very good. My mom didn’t care one stitch. My dad has never hinted he wished I was a boy (not once). Even when he knew I would turn out to be a girl, he didn’t care. When they were saying “I’m so sorry”, he just brushed it off. He told me I could be whatever I wanted to be (as long as it was legal). I like to think most days, I make him proud.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences around this chelsea.

    • chelsea

      November 18, 2014 at 7:57 am

      thank you so much for sharing YOUR experiences about this topic, vivien (ps. i totally did MUCH better with my workshop thanks to much of your insight)! how sad to hear of people giving your father condolences and the tour guides wanting to know what that family was chasing.

      it’s really great to hear that both your father and mom never made you feel any less for being a girl and that you could be anything (legal-HA!). i am certain you make both of your parents proud 🙂

      interesting about wanting to be a tomboy when you were younger and now thinking about what influenced that. like most things, i suppose we will never know (i was very tomboy and antiestablishment as a child too)

  3. Amanda

    November 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Cultural differences are soo fascinating, and sometimes really sad and confusing. I have heard this before about China but never knew too much about it. I think to some extent my dad would have loved a boy because he and I just never were able to relate on many levels, but I’m sure he still loves me all the same. That’s so sad that women in China don’t always feel that way.
    Amanda recently posted…Going Natural: Medicine, Vitamins & Alternative Remedies

    • chelsea

      November 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

      totally agree about cultural difference having so many layers to them-especially the confusing part! it just goes to show that we are so sheltered and influenced by what our immediate environment is and a realization that the rest of the world doesn’t experience the same. glad that your dad does love you the same, even if at times you felt like maybe he wanted a son. thanks for your comment amanda!

  4. Rachel G

    November 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm

    When people in Malaysia met my family, they would always immediately single out my brother and say, “Oh, you are the king of the family, aren’t you?!!” Especially interesting is contrasting that to when new people would meet my family in America and say, “Oh, you have 6 sisters? You poor boy!”
    I’d say he was neither a “king” nor a “poor boy”, but more like a brother?
    A completely different issue–all of the girls in my family are skinny, and my brother has always been heavyset. He’d tall and wide and solid, while most of the girls are very frail-looking. People in Malaysia often commented, “Your parents must take all the food away from your sisters and give it to you!”
    Those comments made us laugh…but they definitely do reflect an opinion of women as less-valuable. Wife-abuse, as well as maid-abuse, is fairly common where I used to live, and that breaks my heart.
    From my experience of China thus far, I’d say that it’s actually much more progressive in gender equality than in other Southeast Asian countries.
    Rachel G recently posted…My Christmas Wish List

    • chelsea

      November 18, 2014 at 8:02 am

      wow that is a super interesting contrast about your brother and sisters in malaysia compared to america! also interesting that some people in malaysia assumed your parents gave more food to your brother-that would have never crossed my mind!

      glad to hear that china is more progressive in ways around gender equality but also heart breaking to hear that it’s much worst in other SE asian countries-especially the abuse of women. appreciate your thoughts and insight into this, rachel!

  5. Lindsay @ The Newlywed Notebook

    November 17, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    So crazy to hear stories like this, but I know that it’s just because of where we live, and in other countries that kind of response would be considered pretty normal! Always interesting to be able to put yourself into other people’s shoes, or get a little insight into another person’s very different culture! Even though I know it’s “normal” there, I still can’t help feeling so bad for the poor girl…
    Lindsay @ The Newlywed Notebook recently posted…Unique Christmas Cards on Etsy!

    • chelsea

      November 18, 2014 at 8:04 am

      yes very interesting to travel and try to imagine putting yourself in someone else’s shoes for sure, lindsay. it really goes to show how sheltered we are by our own environment and society compared to other places around the world. sometimes i get so caught up in what’s going on here, that i forgot that much of the rest of the world does not have the luxuries we have. thanks for your comment