Saturday, April 27, 2013

Raising Boys v. Girls: It's All About The Hormones

I've been doing a TON of research (and when I'm not blogging on my phone I'll share it with you). I've been researching because of something my midwife said about the first few moments after birth.

She said it was the only time you could think of your child as just a person, without any gendered identification.

Initially I agreed with her. I've always been a big proponent of gender equality (and I mean gender). I want to raise boys or girls the same - to feel like they have options beyond what people associate with a penis or a vagina. I want children to know they can do anything they choose.

The problem is, mothers and babies already start to have a relationship long before the baby is born. Hormones are already telling the mother's body what will be. Hormones decided long before the baby could hear or see what it was going to be - in some cases, even before the baby was a sparkle in his or her parents' eyes.

We are, unfortunately for the thinkers among us, slaves to our hormones. Before birth, our gender identity has already been determined (and I say gender here on purpose). Our hormone levels are determined, which leads us to certain sets of choices and it's measurable - in your ring finger. Depending on how long your ring finger is compared to your index finger, scientists can tell how likely a person is going to have certain traits associated with estrogen or testosterone. These traits extend from physical things like muscle mass, to learning disabilities, and personality traits (I'll link a bunch of articles about this from my lappy later I promise!).

So...unless you believe souls choose their parents, you are not the captain of your fate... Not completely. This jury's rigged.

But what about the role of mothers? We're just as ensorceled by hormones as our fresh pink babes! Before they thought parents treated boy and girl babies differently because of cultural expectations (gender roles etc). Now they know it has to do with hormones. Women are just as responsible for choosing the sex of their baby as male sperm are for confirming it. Eggs are predisposed to X or Y based on the mother's hormone levels.

And guess what? Women with higher testosterone *tend* to have boys. Women with higher estrogen *tend* to have girls. This is because testosterone and estrogen are linked to personality traits - ways of being. Higher T makes you take initiative, more risks, and generally be more assertive. Higher E makes you more cautious, responsive and empathetic.  Women with higher T are better mothers to boys because they understand them better. Their personalities match. Likewise the opposite is true about high E women with girls.

Could you imagine the DISASTER that would happen if a woman with really high E levels tried to raise a son? Or the opposite? It wouldn't really work - not for the extreme ends of the spectrum.

As soon as babies pop out, mothers have already subconsciously started responding to their babies in certain ways, ways of which they are completely unaware. It just doesn't matter if you know the sex or not. All that gender stuff is predetermined.

Thanks hormones!

So where does that leave us progressively-minded ladies who want our children to feel more equal? Well, we do have some control. We can make our children feel more or less powerful. We can tell them they have more or less opportunities. We can tell them they have to stay in a narrow box or we can let them honor their preferences, skills, and talents.

All this is to say, finding out the sex doesn't seem to matter one way or another. Our bodies already know. Things are already in motion. It's a preference. And maybe it's related to not wanting monster truck onsies or frilly purple tutus as opposed to how we'll look at or hold our babies.

P.S. I really don't like monster trucks or frilly tutus. Let's keep it to yellow duckies and kelly green frogs shall we?

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