The Danger of #GIRLMOM and #BOYMOM
Overcoming expectations, misplaced identity and finding gospel hope in Jesus alone
There’s something that’s been stirring in my heart, and until today I didn’t know what it was.
This morning was tough. Tensions were high for my husband and I on the way to church. This week we made the switch to a big girl bed for our 2nd-born and it has been much less “smooth” than our first daughter.
Earlier wake ups and worse naps have left me feeling “ill-equipped” to face the weekdays alone. My two-hour guaranteed work time feels threatened. My mornings are not as slow and structured with a 3 year old waking at [6:20] and no time to read, work out or drink my coffee. I know, I know. These are typical mom probs. But let’s just say I’ve had it really easy in the sleep department for… years… And I didn’t anticipate it getting tougher until #3 was born. SO this week has been a challenge – physically, emotionally, spiritually.
As I sat in church, crying all the way through the sermon, because of course the Spirit was speaking RIGHT to me through the preacher’s words on Revelation, I realized something had been weighing on me ever since finding out the gender of our baby.
Disappointment. But more than that – misplaced hope. I had secretly been hoping for a boy. We are expecting our third girl in November.
This realization, evidently from the Spirit, surprised me. I had no idea my frustration and difficulty surrounding the situation with my second daughter and the bed swap went that deep and far-reaching. It’s so easy – and not altogether wrong – to hope for one gender or another with a pregnancy. We all have been there, right? You have something in mind and you try to keep an open mind, but you still have hopes and dreams. imagination takes over and you think of names and it’s just hard to keep an open heart.
But what had begun to happen to me was more than just hope for a boy. It was deeper-routed. It was the belief that a boy would be better for our family.
The deep-seated feeling that a boy would “balance the scales” or add the needed testosterone our estrogen-filled household so desperately needs.
This thinking, these phrases, these hopes and dreams had started to take root in my heart, in just the 10-11 weeks I knew I had been pregnant before finding out the gender of this baby. I had begun to believe I knew better than God.
And today, sitting in church, I realized what I had believed. It was purely a lie. A lie I bet many of you are believing, too.
That somehow, the gender of this baby would make my life better. Easier. That the answer to my problems was in (fill in the blank).
We do it with EV.ER.Y.THING. do we not?
If only I had more money, a bigger house, more friends, more time, a more understanding husband, less to do, more sleep, more structure, a girl, a boy, a baby, less stress… THEN…
I’d be happier. More fulfilled. More balanced. More rested. More joy-filled. More able to glorify God. Better off.
The night before Joey and I got married, we had a rehearsal dinner. After dinner we were chatting with his former mentor Tony and his wife Amy.
They were a trusted and treasured couple who had done our premarital counseling and poured into my husband for years. I remember saying to them, an admission of sorts, “I mean I know it will be really tough,” referring to marriage.
Amy stopped me in my tracks and said, “You know what? No. You don’t have to go into it feeling that way! This is going to be awesome. Marriage IS hard, but it’s not ALL hard.”
She went on to explain that the world sells us a lie that marriage is ultimately just a long, rough trip. A difficult endeavor should you attempt it. One in which barely anyone makes it through unscathed.
I appreciated her honest and encouraging shift of the thinking that was clouding my hope and expectations. It wasn’t unrealistic pie-in-the-sky. It was, “You can expect better of it, because your hope is in Jesus. You don’t have to expect what the world expects and bemoan what they bemoan because you are called higher.”
I loved that and all these 8 years later, I still remember it often. It teaches me to hope, to look up rather than down and to live as though it’s true. Which many times, makes it so.
Just as Amy did for me the night before my wedding regarding marriage, I want to speak truth specifically to the lies surrounding gender, and there are MANY.
Here’s just a few. And I have CERTAINLY spoken them with my own lips, as well as believed many of them as Gospel truth. But today, I’m calling BS.
I’m calling Satan on his crap and the absolute garbage he wants us to buy as moms.
Here’s a few of the things I’m identifying as either full lies or less than God-given truth we should be believing and claiming for our children and our families:
“Boys are hard when they’re young, but get easier later in life than girls.”
“Girls are easier when they’re young, but booooy, just you wait come high school. Drama city!”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Girls will be girls.”
“Girls are always so calm and content and love to just color and play dress up.”
“Boys are so wild and crazy all the time.”
“A girl would be easier.”
“A boy would be easier.”
“A girl would balance our family better.”
“A boy would balance our family better.”
“A bigger family would be better.”
“A smaller family would be better.”
I mean you guys, I GUARANTEE you have believed at least one of the things on this list. And I certainly have as well. In fact, I’m STILL trying to untangle all the ways I have believed some of things regarding the gender of children.
Now, HEAR ME SAY: YES. Boys and girls are different. They were uniquely and specifically designed by God and he has gifted them differently with unique and beautiful purposes that are only theirs.
I am not trying to say there are no physical or emotional differences between the sexes. Absolutely not. But I AM saying, our children are not able to be boiled down to a trite saying. They do not fit inside the neat little boxes we often create for them. They are wild and beautiful creatures created by God almighty and how dare we simplify their existence by making them all of something or nothing of something else.
I refuse to take part in this practice anymore. It’s one that I believe is innocent enough in some mothers, but in others, is clung to and believed so desperately that it becomes identity-shaping.
Just think – #girlmom and #boymom are shared with either pride or shame in any given context. The problem with these simplified classifications is, they only work if we are proud in that exact moment of what we claim to be. When your daughter is coloring quietly, #girlmom feels like a fun thing to boast.
But when she is throwing an epic tantrum because you refuse to give her all 4 Aiden and Anais blankets she wants to sleep with at bedtime, you sure don’t wanna flaunt that #girlmom now, do ya?
When your son is playing in the sandbox with trucks and diggers, you feel proud of the fact that you’re a #boymom. Yet, when he feels “too much” and his behavior feels out of your control, #boymom is a shame-inducing trigger for you, and feels like an admission rather than a point of pride.
Can I just ask, that we STOP compartmentalizing ourselves as either one or the other? That we stop thinking so small of ourselves and our children? Of GOD?
It may seem small to you, and I’m not even blaming you if you’ve used the hashtag in any given context to describe a scenario or poke fun at your situation, I’ve been tempted to do the same.
But all too easily, this classification seeps its strong roots into our hearts and produces something other than playful jest or banter.
It digs roots of jealousy. Anger. Bitterness. Pride.
Jealousy of that girl mom that you think has it easier than you.
Bitterness at that boy mom who you feel justifies her son’s behavior because of his gender.
Pride in how your boy OR girl is behaving at that exact moment in time, instead of gratitude for the moments of ease and prayerful patience and persistence for the moments that PLAIN SUCK as a mom. Because, let’s be honest, they are PLENTIFUL.
The truth is, I think we all have it hard. We are all suffering. But we are also all being blessed. Moment by moment, minute by minute. We have access to the power of God through the Holy Spirit. He who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine is alive within US. (Eph. [3:20]-21)
And ALL of us who are children of God are being shaped from one degree of glory to another. (2 Cor. [3:18])
We are all in need of his lavish grace for the next moment with our girls, with our boys and with our mixed gender families.
Don’t buy into the lie that having one gender or the other equates to a better life.
That lie is from the pit of hell itself.
Why? Because Satan hates what God has created. He hates the beauty and purpose and intentionality behind each remarkable and wonderful difference in every girl and boy. He wants to pit mother against child and mother against mother and child against child. He wants to isolate us by pride and bitterness. And by the looks of culture’s estimation of men and women, he is winning. We know God has victory in the end, but the battles we face daily offer us an opportunity to sing a different song. To claim a different ending than one rooted in hopelessness and defeat based on the gender of our children. To claim full freedom for ourselves and our families as we raise them to love their maker.
So the next time you have a friend announce that she’s having “another girl,” don’t offer her “God only gives us what we can handle” and diminish the purpose God has for her in raising God-fearing women. (This colloquial saying is fundamentally untrue. God OFTEN gives us way more than we can handle so we have to turn to Him for help.)
And the next time you have a friend announce that she’s having “another boy,” don’t respond with “Oh, well, there’s always NEXT TIME! Maybe you can try again for a girl!”
Because here’s the thing: you can’t have both an all-sovereign and good God AND the wrong family makeup. Either God knows what He’s doing when he writes our families or He doesn’t. There is no in between. There is no space for gray here. If you have all girls, it is good. If you have all boys, it is also good. If you have a mix of genders, this is good too. Because it is part of His story for you and your family.
There are no mistakes. There is no room for error inside of God’s divine plan. There is no “imbalance” in your family’s hormone levels. There is only His perfect gift and our humble acceptance of it. So the next time you hear a mom friend struggling with her children, don’t point her to empty hope of genders or possibilities or a future unknown, point her to Jesus. To the rock, not to sinking sand.
Let’s stop making gender part of our pride or despair in the families God is writing for us. Let’s start setting His glory and our good before us as we seek to become more in love with Him so we can love our families well.
Let’s build each other up as the body of Christ. Let’s bear each other’s burdens and carry each other to the feet of Jesus. Let’s remind each other where our hope is found – not in the gender or good behavior of our children but in the finished victory of Jesus Christ.
Haley Williams is a podcast host, sometimes writer and all-the-time mom of two girls. She loves speaking and writing about the truth of the gospel and sharing true hope with women.
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