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Discussion/Debate thread- Expectations

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I'm starting this thread in hopes that the stimulating discussion that began in the gender disappointment/expectation thread might continue. I will start a second one, too, in hopes that those who want to continue the lighthearted discussion about thoughts of the future can do it in a supportive environment.

There were some great posts about the meaning of sex vs gender, and the unrealistic expectations parents may have of their offspring based on sex. Also, the commonly expressed desire for a "healthy baby" was put in a new perspective.

With that last in mind, I will say that I have no problem wishing for a healthy baby. I will love my child no matter what, but I don't feel conflicted, judgmental, or discriminatory saying that I hope the baby is born healthy! It was interesting to read the ideas behind eschewing such statements, and I do understand why one would.

Anyone else have thoughts to explore on these topics?
post #2 of 18

Thanks for doing this in such an open way.

 

I was also really interested in the ideas about just wanting the baby "to be healthy."

Like you, I certainly hope for that, but I also really appreciate the insight that there are lots of ways to have fulfilling lives!

post #3 of 18
Nobody wishes for an unhealthy baby, but every parent I've known who's had an unhealthy baby has loved them to the ends of the earth!

Having a desire for boy or girl is not an indication of the parents love for their baby. There is nothing wrong with preferring one over the other, doing that does not mean that they won't love their baby if its born opposite of what they would have preferred, it doesn't become second best, like "*sigh* I wanted a boy, but sure this girl will have to do, I'm sure I can learn to love her" :-/ Said no loving parent ever!

My sister had 4 boys, each time she hoped she could have a daughter. She still grieves that she never will, I see nothing wrong with that and have always admired her honesty about it.
post #4 of 18
Honestly, the only context I have ever heard the desire of a healthy baby isn't "as long as its healthy, but rather, "we're not concerned either way about gender, we just hope the baby is healthy." My dearest friend's second child was stillborn, her fifth was lost at 25 weeks. I don't think it was the least bit ignorant for her and her husband to say of her last pregnancy (of which a healthy baby was born of) their only desire was a healthy baby.

I think one point everyone needs to remember on each side of any discussion or debate that might go on, is that this is a group of pregnant women. Obviously, hormones and emotions are subject to run high, and we should all try to remember it's doubtful anyone's intent is to offend, and also try to not be defensive when our thoughts or feelings are met with disagreement or different perspectives. smile.gif
post #5 of 18

I have some things that I hold in the back of my mind when it comes to expectations regarding this (and any future) child(ren):

- related to the sex/gender issue: I am very much aware of the fact that I expect my child to be heterosexual. It's just what I assume. I am in no way opposed to a child who prefers same sex relationships, just saying that my expectation is one that I would consider "normal".

- intellect: DH and I consider ourselves to be above average intelligence and I expect my child to be on the smart side too. Now we can go into a whole debate about measures of intelligence etc. so I'd like to clarify that I myself was raised with a heavy emphasis on academic performance. Again, just saying that I am aware of having this expectation and hopefully conscious enough of it that if my child is a C-student I will emphasize to him that I love and support him regardless of academic performance.

- special needs: yes, I think I would be disappointed if it turned out my child was developmentally delayed in some way. I think the other thread was starting to point out that disappointment doesn't necessarily mean you will love your child any less.

Ultimately is it so bad, should we feel guilty, to admit that we have expectations and if they're not met we will be disappointed? Isn't it more important to be aware of the expectations we have and know that they inform our behaviors and interactions in our relationships with our kids and the world around us in general.

Did I just open up a whole other can of worms?

post #6 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by dakipode View Post

Ultimately is it so bad, should we feel guilty, to admit that we have expectations and if they're not met we will be disappointed? Isn't it more important to be aware of the expectations we have and know that they inform our behaviors and interactions in our relationships with our kids and the world around us in general.

Did I just open up a whole other can of worms?

 

 

Good question. Makes me think about the difference between expectations that are for ME versus expectations that are for the well-being of my kid. If we're talking about sexual preference, for my own visions of my kid, I don't care. But I also know their life will likely be easier in some ways if they are heterosexual (though I think by the time our kids are sexually active, they will have gotten considerably better, considering the direction things are going!). 
 
Gender is an expectation for ME-- what I think or expect or hope a kid will be like based on their sex, and that expectation could actually make their life harder if they don't meet, or want to meet that. So that's one that should go.
 
Health and intelligence are somewhere in the middle-- they play into my ideas about what I'd like my child to be like, but are also about them having an easier life in some ways. So is it possible to let go of, or examine more, the parts of it that are about my side of it? Hmm
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by dakipode View Post

I have some things that I hold in the back of my mind when it comes to expectations regarding this (and any future) child(ren):

- related to the sex/gender issue: I am very much aware of the fact that I expect my child to be heterosexual. It's just what I assume. I am in no way opposed to a child who prefers same sex relationships, just saying that my expectation is one that I would consider "normal".

- intellect: DH and I consider ourselves to be above average intelligence and I expect my child to be on the smart side too. Now we can go into a whole debate about measures of intelligence etc. so I'd like to clarify that I myself was raised with a heavy emphasis on academic performance. Again, just saying that I am aware of having this expectation and hopefully conscious enough of it that if my child is a C-student I will emphasize to him that I love and support him regardless of academic performance.

- special needs: yes, I think I would be disappointed if it turned out my child was developmentally delayed in some way. I think the other thread was starting to point out that disappointment doesn't necessarily mean you will love your child any less.

Ultimately is it so bad, should we feel guilty, to admit that we have expectations and if they're not met we will be disappointed? Isn't it more important to be aware of the expectations we have and know that they inform our behaviors and interactions in our relationships with our kids and the world around us in general.

Did I just open up a whole other can of worms?

Interesting topic. A good can of worms!  Dakipode, you mentioned being aware of your expectations, and I agree that it is important to be aware, but I would take it a step further and move from awareness to action/changes in behavior.  Expectations do not have to stay the same.  When I was younger, I did not think about whether my future children would be heterosexual, but I assumed they would be.  Once I had children, I took that expectation and kicked it to the curb, because it was not in line with my beliefs about how I wanted to raise my children.  Since she was born, I do not say to or about my daughter "When you (or when she) get(s) married."  Because that is delivering the message that she will get married, and that I prefer/expect that she marries one day.  I say, "If you decide to marry....your husband or wife......" hoping that my child always knows that who she is will always be respected and embraced by her parents. 

 

The intellect piece is a different story.  I expect my children to be "smart" but academics mean nothing to me, because I see little value in grades.  I care about critical thinking and analytical skills.  I want my children to think about things and draw their own conclusions based on the information they gather.  Luckily, these are skills that can usually be fostered through daily interactions (I am an early childhood teacher/special ed teacher) and I think children of various intelligences have the ability to think on this level, barring significant cognitive delays.  So when my kids come home from school, I am more interested in hearing what they might have learned/what was interesting or what made them think vs. how they performed on a test, because the two are not always congruent.  That said, if a child comes home with "F's" and says, I just don't care about school, I will feel that I did not do my job...and/or that the school has done a good job of squelching my child's interest in learning by turning her or him into a test-taking drone.....

I am realizing now that when we add the special needs piece in, that I expect my children to be smart, but also am aware that they may have special needs.  The one thing I never prepared myself for is that I will have an average child with average intellect.   I should prepare myself for that possibility with our second child.  

 

See---these conversations are opening my eyes to things I have not noticed about myself! 

post #8 of 18

bexsd- good to think of things based on a "me" vs "well being of child"  My husband used to watch a show called intervention sometimes, are you familiar with it?  A person who is addicted to drugs/alcohol etc. are confronted by their friends and family and encouraged to get help.

 

An overwhelmingly common theme is that the people who are addicted to drugs had "issues" (lack of better word) with their parents.  I could practically predict that "the mother/father was emotionally unavailable" "the parents had expectation that the child child not live up to/or the parents had no expectations."  "Parents too involved/not involved enough" etc.  

 

Whether we like to admit it or not (depending on how autonomous we believe we are) parents have a huge influence on their children, these are the first relationships we have in our lives, and they lay the framework for what types of relationships we have in the future.  My husband is not like his mother at all in terms of his values, beliefs, etc.  but he is very nurturing, with his child and with animals, etc.  he easily shows emotion and I know he got this from his nurturing mother.  I am not much like my mother, but she has always been very supportive of me...maybe why I plan to be very supportive even if my children choose to do things in their lives differently from the way I did them. I know a lot about social emotional development, because I live it in my work, and it is essential that children have a secure base, and a healthy attachment.  It is disastrous when that is absent or disorganized.  But I am preaching to the choir here...on this "attachment parenting" site.

post #9 of 18
To me, there's a big difference between wishing/hoping for health for my child versus saying "I don't care about [whatever] as long as it's healthy." It may seem like splitting hairs, but I feel there's a big emotional difference between the two. The first is a hope for good things for one's child, and the second is more of a demand for a child to be a certain way for the parent, along with (maybe) a bit of rejection in advance of any child that doesn't meet the parent's expectations in that way.

I hope for all kinds of good things for my child, including health, while also trying really hard to leave space for my actual child to be whomever she or he will be.
post #10 of 18

thanks Jennyanddots for starting this thread!

am i getting this right that this thread is for us to discuss / debate any expectations we might have, gender-related or not? i really like the total honesty i've read here so far. and as a disclaimer in case that is necessary, i don't mean to offend anyone with my posts. i just want to be totally honest with myself and potentially discover expectations i didn't know i had.

 

beep got me thinking in the other thread about the whole "healthy" thing. it was actually pretty inspirational what she said, and i wasn't actually aware of how this could be taken in a discriminatory way. 

having thought about it, though, i personally still want my child to be physically and mentally healthy. AND i wouldn't know if i COULD take care of a disabled child, and how i would feel about it. i could very well imagine that i would blame myself and my partner for having done something "wrong" during the pregnancy to cause it. i'm glad to be considered "low-risk", so i haven't even entertained the possible case that i could give birth to a disabled child, aside from the normal fears that come up every once in a while. we don't have any disabilities in either family, and it's our first baby, and we have ZERO experience with babies. so i feel like i have no idea what's even awaiting us in general.

 

i agree very much with Nicolette's comments on intelligence in terms of critical thinking and analytical skills. my fiancé an i are both independent thinkers, we question common assumptions, the media, authorities, our own beliefs, on a daily basis. i definitely expect our child to be smart, and would be surprised (and did entertain the idea of what it would be like) if it wasn't. because while it may pick up manneurisms and ways of speaking from us, it will have its own personality that may for example simply not be interested in questioning things. but, i can see how that would be a good thing too. everything needs to be balanced and if we as parents end up being too extreme in one way, it's very natural for the child to go into the oposite direction.

 

i sometimes think about what i would do if my child ended up being "the bad kid".. torturing animals, bullying other kids, if it became a drug addict, .. do you guys think about that? i can think of many scenarios where i would feel totally helpless and wouldn't know what to do.

post #11 of 18

vc2013: yes, I have thought about that, but mostly in a "it won't happen to me" kind of way. I don't know what I'd do if my kid turned out to be a psychopath. There would probably be a lot of self blame. I'm not sure what else because it seems like such an unlikely thing. It's intimidating to think that you could have the best intentions and do all the things you think are best for your child and they still turn into a monster. I often think "Oh the parents must've been blind" when you see those stories on tv of kids going on killing sprees etc., but is that truly the case? Or is that just the easy brush-off from someone who doesn't know the situation?

post #12 of 18

My brother was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 37. While I can say I'm not surprised and it certainly explains the last 5 years of increasingly odd behaviour, it also shows me that you can do your very best as a parent, have a seemingly normal childhood and then something terribly unpredictable can happen as adult.

 

As someone once said, Life happens when you're busy making other plans. I only hope that I have the strength to handle anything that comes my way.

post #13 of 18

i'm really appreciative of this ongoing discussion and the depth and honesty and that has been shared in both threads - it is really helping me to open up and stretch my own assumptions, which is somewhat humbling.  i am part of a very political community, especially around gender issues, so it is very useful for me to see where i still get caught up in the stereotypes and binary system when it is deeply personal (like me finding out i'm having a son when i had my heart set on daughter) - it is very much an ongoing part of my growth and awareness to really let that conditioning go and allow people to be people and not have to put them in certain boxes based on anatomy or even identity.  so i'm going to work on meeting my child for who they are and letting them unfold along their own course and i intend to set the stage for having the close and intimate connection that i want, regardless of how the child identifies or how the world sees them.   

 

we are all so much more complex with a world of potential just waiting to be shaped by our environment - as a therapist, i believe we come into the world with a general foundation of inborn temperment but i do think we are then much more influenced by our key relationships as we develop and these can be whoever we spend a lot of time with and not just parents (ie. care providers can do as much good or harm as a parent can if they spend enough time with the child).  specifically for those of you who expressed some concern or worry about having a "bad kid" such as those that hurt others - i really want to reassure you that that is not typically an inborn trait.  unless there is some rare biological basis for the problem, meaning brain damage of some sort, raising a child with a personality disorder (ie. psychopath, narcissist, borderline personality, etc) results from significant attachment trauma.  i think it is safe to say that having a child who ultimately is compelled to do harm to animals and other humans, even on the level of your basic bully, has been shaped by some significant lack in their relational bonds.  kids are just not born this way, they are raised this way.  and that can mean caregivers who are emotionally absent and/or significantly mis-attuned as well as caregivers who are actively shaming and abusive.  which is all to say that if you are a conscious parent, doing your best to tend to your child's emotional and physical needs for who they are and not who you think they should be, they should be relatively well adjusted members of the human race and secure in their attachments.  you don't have to do it perfectly, just "good enough".  and "good enough" is actually fairly generous (in past research around attunement, i think the study demonstrated that parents can "miss" their child as much as 1/3rd of the time and the child can still have a secure attachment).

 

all that being said, chemically based imbalances that create mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder seem to be less influenced by nurture and are harder to avoid but even then, i think that if there is a good enough attachment, the outcome does not necessarily have to be tragic.  i worked with many schizophrenic adults who were interested, engaged, kind people who just needed help to stay on track.  it was when they had abusive/traumatic histories that they were more likely to be a risk to themselves or others.  

 

there is one other piece that i want to call out in this whole discussion of expectations/concerns about who the child is - being a parent, and particularly a mother it seems, comes with a lot of shame potential.  most of us are highly sensitive to anything we feel/hear that is critical of us and that we therefore interpret (either consciously or unconsciously) as: we are "bad mothers/parents/etc.  i guess i say this to help us be sensitive to that in each other and in ourselves - it can be very difficult to hear and digest when someone has a different opinion on our parenting choices and it is really important to try to respect each other's approach even if we don't agree.  and also to be aware that we may get our hackles raised very easily when it comes to parenting issues because there is a big sense of pressure and expectation attached to it.  it seems to be a landmine for many of us so it can be easy to run into trouble with each other even when we don't mean to.  and i want to be clear that this is not actual commentary on how the discussion has transpired - i think there has been a lot of effort in being respectful with each other - it is more to shed light on the fact that sometimes both our responses and other's responses can be intense and/or confusing and to be gentle with ourselves around that.  

post #14 of 18

Thanks Jess for sharing so openly here.  One of my main areas of interest in my professional life is that of Infant Mental Health and I too often come in contact with children, especially through Department of Children and Families, who already (at 2 years of age) have attachment disorders and have missed very critical periods of healthy brain development because they did not have a secure attachment with a caregiver.  That said, children are resilient, and some can make it through to the other side without developing a personality disorder, but they need that attachment, and early.  I personally love the philosophy behind Alfie Kohn's "Unconditional Parenting", Jess, have you read it?  

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicolette507 View Post

Thanks Jess for sharing so openly here.  One of my main areas of interest in my professional life is that of Infant Mental Health and I too often come in contact with children, especially through Department of Children and Families, who already (at 2 years of age) have attachment disorders and have missed very critical periods of healthy brain development because they did not have a secure attachment with a caregiver.  That said, children are resilient, and some can make it through to the other side without developing a personality disorder, but they need that attachment, and early.  I personally love the philosophy behind Alfie Kohn's "Unconditional Parenting", Jess, have you read it?  

No, i haven't, but i will definitely check it out - thanks for the recommendation!  

post #16 of 18

jess and nicolette: as a layperson it's very interesting to hear about the attachment issues underlying more severe personality disorders.

 

Related to that I realized that I also expect my son to be more attached to/spend more time with his father than with me, simply because they will be of the same gender. Sort of a "boys want boy time to do boy things" attitude. Again with the gender expectations... I started speculating about how fun it would be to have my son help me cook dinner, do laundry, clean the house, all those things that were traditionally labeled as women's chores. I do them in our household because I "like" them. Who knows, maybe I was conditioned into liking them (though I don't feel like my mother ever pushed me into traditional roles). I also like things that aren't traditionally labeled as "girly" so maybe I need to make a list and keep it at the forefront of my thoughts when I'm looking for some bonding activities (I like speed and I have secret dreams of raising the next Sebastian Vettel, was thinking going karting together would be fun...)

 

ETA: I guess what I was trying to say was that I'm going to try to be aware of not only showing boys "girl activities" but also showing that girls (or in this case mommy) can do "boy activities"


Edited by dakipode - 4/24/13 at 10:07pm
post #17 of 18

Dakipode: I did some research into division of household labor when I was in college, and overwhelmingly, women do the indoor work and men do the outdoor work.  Even as women and men work equally difficult and demanding jobs outside the home, the household chores, which involve much more time than say, taking out the garbage once a week, fall on the shoulders of the woman.  When interviewing people, I was surprised that women said they "liked" the indoor stuff, because I argued with everyone that (I feel) no one likes to take out garbage or wash dishes.  But we do these things because we have to and they get split up as they do because we do what we see/have seen in our lives.  Unless something makes you think about how unfair it is, and you change.  In my house growing up, for example, I was one of three girls.  We never had to take out the garbage, rake leaves, or do anything outdoors.  I wish that I would have had some more of those responsibilities/skills early on.  My husband and I are not super handy, so we both have to learn as we go because it does not come naturally for either of us.  I do lots of outdoor work, like mowing the lawn, shoveling, raking, etc.  I like that it gets me moving and makes me uses muscles I do not usually use (come to think of it, fewer people actually do manual labor anymore...with ride on movers, leaf and snow blowers.  I want my children, male or female, to see their Dad washing dishes, cooking, and doing laundry and to see their Mom fix a leaky faucet or put a piece of furniture together and vice versa, because it encourages a sense of equality and respect.  Equality in that we are all capable people and respect in that there are many things that must get done to keep our household going, and we all do our share.  If something needs to be done, you do it....you don't leave it for your spouse because it is his or her "job"...does that make sense?  We don't try to just reverse roles, instead, we try very hard to take 50%..indoors and out...though I get lazy sometimes and my husband ends up doing most of the work....

 

All of those things you said you would like your son to learn are very good skills to have.  It would still be good for him to have a male model of it, too, though.  (PS. Kids love helping their parents with all of those daily activities, and they are where a lot of learning takes place, problem solving/reasoning, communication, self-help, fine motor, social, etc.)  One day, his future partner will be glad that you and your spouse raised him the way you did!  

 

One of my biggest pet peeves is when at family dinners everyone is done eating, and the women inevitably get up and start clearing the table while the men just sit there, or go into the other room to watch television.  I am glad that my husband, although never expected to do ANYTHING in the home growing up, stands up with the women and helps (sometimes I stay seated, just to prove a point).  The plates get cleared much faster when everyone pitches in.  I just don't know how people can just sit there and watch others practically wait on them, especially when the women also did the cooking, as is often the case.  

 

Okay, I am officially done venting/going off on a tangent about my extended family!  

 

If I could add one more things, if we try to let go of "girl activities" and "boy activities" then we won't have to think so much.  Instead, maybe we can just do fun stuff with our kids (and all of those pesky chores).  Then they will experience more of life and have lots of different, useful skills! (Why do many parents hesitate to give their sons dolls to play with?  Isn't it a good idea for a big brother or a one day father to know a thing or two about nurturing and taking care of a baby???  Of course he does not need 800 of them, like people tend to think my daughter does.  We have two dolls that she named George and Sal, two is more than enough!)

post #18 of 18

Since we are off on tangents: I very often make the blanket statement that something seems more American (USA) or more European based on my experience of having been raised in Belgium. While I think a lot of it also had to do with the environment/demographic I was raised in (educated upper middle class) I do feel like in general Belgians are more liberal about gender roles and expectations than Americans. Would you agree?

 

I got to thinking too about the "indoor" stuff and I grew up in apartments, no yard work ever so I was never really exposed to those chores.

And yes: the men not helping clear the table is in my opinion sexist and archaic. I also chose not to take my husband's last name when we got married for the same reasons and told him he should feel free to take mine.

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