One of each

The jackpot

Earlier this week, after dropping Harry off at school, I stopped to talk to a woman I vaguely know. She’s the grandmother of a child who was at preschool with Harry. I now see her a couple of times a year and we have a little chat. This time, we ended up talking about whether I was going to have more kids and she said, “You might hit the jackpot next time.”

At first, I wasn’t sure what she meant, but once I realised and did a bit of gasping like a stunned haddock, I blethered something about how I’d be perfectly happy with another boy, thanks very much. She said, “Oh, of course, boys are great” or something. We chatted a bit more and went our separate ways, but I kept thinking about it.

Now she wasn’t being nasty – not like the woman who, when I’d been for the scan where I found out Joe’s sex, asked me what I was having and, when I said boy, looked at Harry and pulled a face – she was just saying the same kind of thing I’ve heard from lots of people over the years, before and after I had children. Things like “Are you trying for a girl?” or “If it’s another boy, will you keep going?” or “You could try for a girl, but you wouldn’t want another boy, would you?”

Even if it’s a boy…

The thing is, before having Harry and Joe, I may well have said that kind of thing myself. When I was pregnant with Joe, I really wanted a girl. I blogged about it at the time:

I do find myself wondering what would be the point of having another boy since we’ve got the perfect boy, but I don’t want to be disappointed if this hypothetical baby did turn out to be a boy.

But I just can’t seem to get past it, so I spend a lot of time thinking about families I know with same sex children (like, er, my own), thinking “If so-and-so had thought like me whatshis/hername would never have been born” (of course the fact that me and D are both first borns tempers this slightly!).

I need to keep in mind that every child is a blessing and no matter what happens, I will love the next baby (even if it’s a boy!) just as much as I love Harry. I just can’t quite imagine such a thing.

The “even if it’s a boy” was a joke, I promise you, but oh my god it actually causes me physical pain to read that now. It makes my stomach hollow out. Even if it’s a boy! Our beautiful Joe.

It’s a(nother) boy!


After I had the scan and found out it was another boy. I wrote:

Earlier in this pregnancy – or perhaps even before this pregnancy – I wrote about how I didn’t want another boy, didn’t see the point, etc. I’ve been changing my mind about that gradually anyway, but the weird thing this morning was that, when the sonographer said it was a boy, I cried, but not because I was disappointed, but because suddenly my baby became real.

He’s no longer an “it”. He’s no longer some amorphous mass of baby. He’s a boy. He’s another son. And, the more I think about it, the more I feel like I know him. And the more I think his name is Joe. 

He stopped being ‘a boy’ and became ‘Joe’. A person. And he just becomes more and more ‘Joe’ every day.

As my amazing friend Stella commented on the above post: “Even though we know Harry is the perfect boy, another baby boy of yours will be perfect too but in a completely different way. People assume that I MUST have a favourite out of my boys but honestly, I can’t say that I do. What I can say is that I love them all equally as much but for different reasons because all three are completely different people.”

Stella is wise

I had no idea at the time, but I completely agree now. Or, um, do I? (Yes, I do. But hang on.) Last year I went to LA with Stella and, on the way home, we saw a family with, I think, a boy and a girl and then baby twins. They looked like they were really struggling and so we were watching them and thinking “Poor bastards.” I probably said that the idea of having twins is one of the things that puts me off trying for a third baby. And then I said I couldn’t understand why they’d gone for a third anyway, since they already had one of each.

Stella in LA

And Stella said, no, that’s the same as you thought when you were pregnant with Harry and worried about having a boy. No, I said, probably looking at her like she was an idiot, that was two boys. This is one of each. Two boys are the same. A girl and a boy are different. Duh. She said something like, “No. You were thinking there was no point having another boy when you already had Harry and now you love Joe just as much. It’s the same for them, just with a boy and a girl.” And I probably said, “Er. No. It’s not the same.”

Even at the time, I knew there was something I wasn’t quite grasping, I could feel it just out of reach of my tiny brain. Quite some time later – like weeks – I was in the shower and suddenly went, “Oh! I get it now! The gender’s not important. They’re people. I now have two boys and they’re both amazing and I’d be happy to have another one. Or more. (I’m not going to, mind, but I’d be totally cool with that.) So why shouldn’t that family want more amazing children?

Pigeons learn quicker than me

The thing that freaks me out about this is that I am quite obsessive about this kind of thing. I read books about gender equality. I complain about gender imbalance in the media. I send angry tweets about inappropriate comments from acquaintances. And yet I had this big blind spot about how ‘one of each’ was the ideal. It made me think of a line I loved in Simon Amstell’s stand-up “Why can’t you be less judgemental? And be more like me. Which is judgemental.”


Probably for a couple of years after having Joe, I still wanted a girl (as well as, not instead of!). I’d look at friends’ daughters and think “It would be lovely…” I don’t even do that anymore. In fact, earlier this year when I was idly pondering a third child (trying to trick my brain into letting me know whether or not I wanted one), it just didn’t come up. I kept imagining another gorgeous, amazing, joyful little boy. You know – the jackpot.


16 thoughts on “One of each

  1. When I was younger and thought about having children, I only wanted boys. I’d pretty much decided boys were more fun because sometimes being a girl sucked (I think I was overly disturbed by menstruation and having PCOS, frankly). Then, when it actually came time to try for a baby, I didn’t care. Then I got pregnant and in a world where, like you, I read the books and tweet the tweets, I suddenly panicked at the thought of trying to raise a feminist boy (even though I married one and know plenty of good people – like you – doing just that).

    So I was a little bit relieved when the scan said ‘it’ was a ‘she’. Not because there was anything wrong with BOYS, but because I feared I wouldn’t be a good enough mother to one.

    Now I know mothers will always secretly fear they’re not quite good enough no matter what, so if we did go round again it’s fair to say I really wouldn’t care. Sure, it would be interesting to see things from the different perspective that being treated differently because you have a son rather than a daughter would bring. But, you know, they’re kids, not social experiments.

    Right now, I’m just delighted to be the mother of one completely fantastic daughter, and be grateful that my journey to motherhood was really, really easy, even if the motherhood itself is – as it must be – always interestingly challenging.

    So, just like you, I know I’ve hit the jackpot already, and anything the future brings – whether we decide to stop here or not – can only be a bonus.

    P.S. Stella rocks.

    1. Thanks, Alex. Yes, as you know, part of my reason for wanting a girl was “Rah! I’ll raise a feminist!” Took me quite a while to realise I can totally still do that.

  2. This is so interesting, especially coming from someone I admire for being so aware of gender issues. I love that you’ve shared it, because it goes to show how much of this stuff is so deeply ingrained that sometimes it slips past us even when it’s in our own heads.

    1. Thank you. And thank you for saying you admire me! Right back atcha.

      Yes, I was feeling shamefaced about it and then thought, well, that’s part of the problem – that it IS so ingrained.

  3. It’s funny, I’ve always thought I’d only want a girl because I’d relate to her more, but that’s ridiculous really. What would you get from a daughter that you couldn’t get from a son, apart from certain stereotypical behaviours that as a feminist, wouldn’t interest you anyway? Shame the general public is so slow to catch on — and feels the need to comment on whether we have babies, how many we have, what gender they are etc. (We’ll never get it “right” in their eyes!)

    1. “What would you get from a daughter that you couldn’t get from a son, apart from certain stereotypical behaviours that as a feminist, wouldn’t interest you anyway?” Exactly! Thank you x

  4. I am all welled-up and ridiculous now, damn you. Yes, your lovely Joe, as if you would ever have wanted anyone else… *sniffles*

    I’m not a mum and well aware that being an auntie is not at all the same thing (though very awesome), but I remember being utterly thrown by the prospect of my sister’s second child. I was about 14, and I adored my baby nephew so so much, and I just couldn’t imagine that I would be able to adore another one as much and wouldn’t that be awful? And then of course it was utterly lovely and brilliant.

    Oh, and of course being one of four sisters, we got ‘Oh, your poor father.’ Yeah. Thanks?

    1. My mother (who, in common with my father, both mildly preferred – and got – two girls) admitted that when she was pregnant with me she did have her doubts about possibly loving a second child of any flavour as much as the first.

      I’m pleased to say she does seem quite fond of me. 😉

      But oh, the traditionalist bollocks my dad has had to endure being a Greek dad with daughters. Daughters he wanted, and preferred and loved and didn’t just tolerate as a non-penisy consolation prize.

    2. Aw, sorry about that. Have you seen that Tim Lott column in the Guardian about being a man in a house of women? I’ve only seen the latest, but the title rubbed me up the wrong way (of course, it may be about challenging the stereotypes, but I haven’t got round to checking).

  5. Gosh, I’m a wise soul. 😉

    In other news, the picture of the boys at the top, “the jackpot” is just gorgeous.

  6. awww this is such a lovely post… I know how much you love your boys and I didnt know you before Joe was around so its really interesting for me to read this. I always told myself I wanted one of each but since I now have Lewis (who although he’s not mine, I still love and think of him as partly my child) I dont really mind what I have, I want a girl and a boy still but its not as much of a big deal, I will love my children no matter what they are…. However recently I’ve been thinking about what a crap environment it can be for girls in this day and age with the rubbish role models and media portrayl of women… but then again maybe its as bad for blokes but I don’t notice it as much becuase I’m not one?

    1. Thank you. I think it’s much easier for men because it’s still absolutely a man’s world (no matter what Beyonce says) but what bothers me is how many people seem to think equality is simply about making girls more like boys. You know, people are fine with girls playing with cars, but not with boys playing with dolls? It’s all part of the same thing – they don’t want boys to be feminine because they think girls are rubbish (“they” being “the patriarchy” *shakes fist* 😉 ).

  7. I’m always amazed when some people think it’s perfectly all right to be so outspoken and rude. Whether or not that woman was being nasty, it’s just plain ignorant. Having children (or in my case, child) was a responsibility I took really seriously, bringing a new human being – male or female – into the world. It’s really sad when the only thing some people want to focus on is the sex of a child. Scans weren’t done as routine during my pregnancy and I wouldn’t have wanted to know the sex in advance. As a mother of one, I always considered that I hit the jackpot anyway but I guess someone, somewhere, will feel the need to tell me that I fell short.

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