The difference between raising sons and daughters

Dad playing with baby daughter

Photo by Mikael Stenberg

One of each – that’s what I’ve got. One boy, one girl. A son and a daughter

As someone who likes to consider himself as ‘on the path to woke’, I thought that, when it came to writing an article about the differences between raising sons and raising daughters, it would be a pretty short piece. 

In my mind, there were none. With my six-year-old son, I bake bread. We talk about emotions. We colour and draw. We dress up (him more than me, but still). And with my one-year-old daughter? We rough and tumble. She loves being thrown around. We play drums together. It’s all very loud, and very in-your-face.

But ‘none’ is oversimplifying the issue. And – as I’m discovering – it’s not strictly true. Here’s an example.

‘Would Xanthe like a little pram with a doll that she can push around the house?’

At the weekend I spoke with my mum. Christmas is looming, and as she’s in Tier 3 lockdown she wants to sort the presents earlier this year. ‘Would Xanthe like a little pram with a doll that she can push around the house?’ my mum asked. 

It was hard not to dive straight into a monologue about how impressionable kids are, and what kind of message we are sending – even if only subliminally – to our daughters if, before they can talk, they’re pushing miniature versions of themselves around. Hey sweetie, this is what you’ve got to look forward to, so better start early.

However, I didn’t do that. Instead I politely said no, and suggested I follow up with a few ideas in the week.

I realised I have to double down on my messages and actions

If I’m honest, it caught me off guard. I’m so conscious of trying to raise both of my kids to believe in a world where either can accomplish anything that I expected everyone to be doing the same. News flash: they’re not.

I realised that in order for me to make sure my daughter has the best shot, I have to double down on messages and actions that I wouldn’t even consider with my son. I have to protect her from societal expectations about ‘what girls do’.

That. That right there. That’s the difference between raising sons and raising daughters. The horrible realisation that to create a level playing field for my daughter I need to make a conscious decision to do so.

I’m hopeful that in the future when people think on the differences between raising sons and raising daughters they’ll come to the conclusion I originally envisaged: that there are none, obviously. We’ll get there. One positive thought, one positive action, at a time.

Can Reed Career Dad

Dan Reed

Career Dad

2 Thoughts to “The difference between raising sons and daughters”

  1. Andrew Dawson

    I love that you’re thinking like this. More people should be. I hope your mum also reads this!

    1. Thanks Andrew! I don’t think my mum reads this… but we’ve had conversations in the past. I can see the eye-rolling now.

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