does the gender of parents matter?

This is a hot topic. I am not writing an article, so I’m not citing references. I am also writing from my own place, as a queer, 20-something, educated, white, non-Christian. I was raised by a Christian grandmother in a relatively liberal Christian church, and practiced Wicca, Hinduism, and Buddhism with other relatives at the same time. My parents both struggled financially, and we often lived very humbly, and yet I would consider myself privileged as I had everything I needed, as compared to children who grow up in third-world conditions. That is to say, I had safe drinking water, enough food at all times, access to a good education, clothing that if not new, was very nice and in abundance, transportation that enabled me to travel easily from one place to another, and a grandmother willing and able to pay for and transport me to and from extracurricular activities. I was also privileged  enough to go to college, although I had to pay through scholarships and loans and work full-time to support myself while studying. I was then able to get a job in a career I enjoyed with health benefits and a decent, middle-class wage. I am able-bodied, able-minded, and despite many childhood challenges arising from abuse, I had the resources at my disposal to overcome most of their negative effects. I had the mental capabilities and hardiness as well as access to therapy, self-help books/tv, and other ways to empower myself such as through travel and education.

I start this post with that self-bio because I know that it affects my belief and value system. Environmental influences, heredity, and good or bad fortune dictated almost all of the way I think, my opinions, and my positions on divisive moral issues.Even my career as a nurse has influenced how I see my nation’s policies and how quickly I judge those of a different background from me.

The point I’m finally getting to, is that I have a hard time believing that fatherless children are at a disadvantage. It’s hard for me to accept because I don’t see my father as having played a parenting role in my life. I see my mother and grandmother as my primary parents, and feel that they did a more than adequate job. I don’t feel that I was disadvantaged by having two female parental figures. Nor do I believe that a child is disadvantaged by having two male parental figures. I believe that a two person household, or parenting team even if they reside separately, can effectively parent regardless of the nature of their relationship with each other or their gender.

Now, when it comes to raising boys, I admit to feeling confused and conflicted. I tend to think that having one strong male influence is important for a male child, and the same for a female child having one strong female influence. As a girl, however, I don’t think that I lacked in any way for not having a strong male influence in my life. My father’s role was minimal, and there was no uncle or or brother or male teacher of any kind to fill that gap. And I don’t have a hole inside of myself, or feel that I’m missing anything, or would somehow be more complete or psychologically well if I had had that.Certainly if I had had that, it would have been nice, and that male could have contributed greatly to my life, but not because of his gender, just because of his person and our relationship.

That being said, I do feel like I would have been lacking if everyone in my life had been male, with no primary female-to-female relationship. But I can’t say for sure, since I’ll never really know. Still, it’s enough of a belief that I fear raising a son, and thus have a strong preference for daughters. I fear that a little boy of mine would grow up without a strong male figure (I have no brothers, husband, close male friends, etc) and would end up on some Oprah-esque show describing the huge emptiness inside of him and the ways it impacts him negatively. I don’t want to take that risk.

I don’t agree that fatherless daughters are necessarily promiscuous or lacking in self confidence. I certainly wasn’t. Perhaps other factors are involved, such as over-worked and less available mothers as a result of being the only earner for the household. That’s just my hypothesis. This is just coming from a very narrow self-perspective. I don’t think that fatherless (or male replacementless) boys are necessarily going to be more violent (that too may just be a result of the burdens on the remaining single parent), but I tend to think they will feel a lack in some way.

I was watching Oprah’s show on fatherless boys and that’s what brought this whole post on. It’s a controversial subject, one that many many people will disagree with me on. I respect the roles that fathers can and do play. Like I said, I think a two parent household made up of two men can raise a girl without any issues resulting from the gender of her parents. But I am not convinced that she wouldn’t need a close female figure somewhere along the way to complete her sense of well-

Ok flame me if you want.

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Categories: mindfulness, parenting

6 Comments »

  1. Probably the gender of the parents isn’t crucial, but having active members of both sexes in a child’s life, are. Speaking only as a straight female…I think having had male role models was invaluable in teaching me how to relate to men as friends, lovers, and co-workers. Men are always telling me that they can relate to ME – I think because I understand how men think. This benefits me in MANY aspects of life, especially the workplace. I have no worries of having a son, if I do. There has to be a balance where we build experiences with both sexes as children, simply to best get along in a world full of 2 sexes. Perhaps you don’t notice the lack so much, because you just happen to be queer. But if you were straight, how easy do you think dating boys/men would have been when you were young? Awkward? Alien? I do have grown friends who were raised by lesbians, grandmas, and females, and they do have trouble relating to men and have some apprehension about it.

    Nonetheless, I don’t believe in dictating who or what makes for the best family. Obviously your family is full of love for your foster daughter, and that outweighs pretty much everything else. If you care to, you could expose her to male-dominated activities, maybe karate or somewhere that she can befriend boys and have male instructors.

    I grew up the only girl in a neighborhood full of boys, who became my best friends and equals. As such, I would never want to play games with or hurt my male lovers as an adult. I respect them. And they have always told me I am their only girlfriend who didn’t play silent treatment and “read my mind” games. It’s because I know how to communicate with them. I would say my childhood gender exposure balance was 60% male and 40% female, and I feel perfectly comfortable with each sex.

    • Good points, and much appreciated! Just wanted to note here that “queer” was meant here not as “lesbian”, but as a person who identifies as something other than “straight”. Personally, I can enjoy sex with either gender but so far have preferred females for long-term partners, although this has really mattered less and less to me as I get older. People are people, and it matters less with every passing year which gender the person I love is, except that I love their gender as part of who they are.

      Also of note, I would have to argue here that I don’t feel uncomfortable with either gender. The opposite, actually. In the workplace, I feel its sometimes preferable to work with male co-workers because they tend to back-stab and gossip less. I do feel that it’s important to treat every single person, regardless of gender, with respect. I have to say, though, that I think we can teach our children to communicate with either gender clearly and effectively no matter what, but I do think personality and personal experience can influence the degree of difficulty we have with communicating with one gender or another.

  2. I believe that gender of the parents can matter in one of two fundamental ways:
    (1) the way society treats the child’s family can influence how the child sees his or her own family. (ie. if you try to put the child of an SMC or Same-Sex Couple in a church school in the Bible belt that child is going to run into issues that will make a differnence) and (2) in recognizing how a person treats another person respectfully- and in this respect I believe it’s possible that a heterosexual couple is at a disadvantage – ie. if the child sees that parents take on gender roles and especially if there is a gender associated power imbalance in the relationship- I think it can form unhealthy ideas and tendencies in the child.

    • I agree that the makeup of your family, including gender, most definitely will *influence* how you see the world and how the world responds to you, along with a variety of other factors. But will it leave you with a hole inside of your soul that you are unable to heal?

      • Possibly, but I would like to think that’s only if you don’t have adequate refuge of those who understand. I think it can be deeply scarring to to see society treat your family as “less than” – it can put a chip on your shoulder in situaitiona where defensiveness isn’t helpful – or it can make you feel resigned to being “less than”. I would like to think that with enough of a community around that embraces diversity – and enough extended family that it can be a non-issue. That is a big part of why I left the religion I grew up in to join a more liberal church- to ensure that my child will have a religious community that won’t tell him or her that our family is “less than” because of the way it will be formed. While many in my past churches would never have said anything derogatory- there are those who would- and not enough who would have spoken up to correct the ignorant. It is my hope that will be enough to keep my child from being ashamed of his or her conception and single parent home- or from feeling the need to constantly defend what were MY choices. But, i absolutely think that if were to try to raise my child in a more conservative church that the child would have been deeply scarred by trying to be in a family that’s different and in a church that worships the heteronormative ideal. (And the same thing goes for religious schools and possibly even for small towns that don’t have enough non-traditional families and/or liberal progressives.)

  3. I grew up in a Male + Female parent role, but my father was never around. He worked the night shift at a factory. I never saw him except once every few weekends when he would take time off.

    I have no “male” issues, I know how to have make friends (which I do), and I have an amazing relationship with my husband. We have male and female influences in our lives through various relationships, teachers, friends, siblings, parents of friends, the mail carrier, etc. So does that mean a single mom doing the best she can when the father ran out on her should feel like she has to go out and find any guy she can ASAP to make sure her child does not have a lack of a male aspect in her baby’s life- HELL NO. That can lead to abuse and another abandonment.

    Would this mean that sending a daughter to a Catholic All Girl school would mean the girl would have strained relationship all her life because she didn’t have a male educational influence growing up or male friends?

    What about all male military academies? Does that make them all brute men who believe woman have no rights and are inferior? I’m sure some might, but that doesn’t mean they all would.

    What matters in a child’s life is love and safety. I had that. I am fine. My niece being raised by her two fathers has that. She goes to church with her family, and they are welcomed with open arms.

    The problem lies in that all families have problems and issues, but everyone tends to try and find a focus and a blame, so they attack the gay and lesbian community. Kids in a heterosexual parent household grow up with some of the same ‘social problems’ that some of the children growing up in a homosexual parent household do. But you can’t blame that on gay parents, can you?

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