Dads And Gender Disappointment: The Complete Guide


dads and gender disappointment

(reading time ~6 minutes) 

In this blog, we'll be discussing dads and gender disappointment. As with all of our blog posts, moms will find the information helpful as well.

So say your partner is 20 weeks pregnant, she's just had an ultrasound, and though you smile and pretend to be excited, you're a little more than a bit disappointed to hear the sex of your child—a clear case of gender disappointment.

Director of the Centre for Perinatal Psychology, Dr. Bronwyn Leigh calls it "the disappointment in the gender of the unborn or newly born baby, beyond a preference." In other words, feeling sad or badly when you discover your baby's gender is the opposite of what you were hoping for.

The Emotions of Gender Disappointment

These emotions can be a complex mix. Parents have described their feelings upon hearing the sex of their child in many ways:

  • disappointed 
  • annoyed 
  • irritated 
  • blindsided 
  • robbed 
  • angry 
  • disconnected from the pregnancy 
  • depressed 
  • anxious 

Feeling Badly About Feeling Bad

Gender Disappointment can be a vortex of negative emotions. You can feel guilty and ungrateful over your disappointment. After all, aren't you just lucky to have a baby, and a healthy one at that? Isn't that all that should matter?

These thoughts can make you feel miserable, especially if you've had difficulty conceiving before or have experienced a previous loss. You may feel careful to always say the right thing and hide your feelings away. You may feel too ashamed to show your true feelings, worried that everyone will judge you as a petty, self-centered jerk.

dad and gender disappointment

No wonder there's a taboo, and not many men talk about gender disappointment, but it is an important issue. The cascade of negative emotions can lead to some very negative places. It can have you questioning your ability to love and parent your child correctly.

It can lead you to withdraw and feel isolated on your journey to parenthood, which, after all, is supposed to be all about partnership. And before you know it, you're genuinely depressed and feel that the best thing to do is suffer in silence.

Sure, the negative spiral doesn't always go this far, but it can. So what can be done about it?

1. Dads And Gender Disappointment: Realize You Are Not The Only One

The first thing to understand is that you are in good company. There are many people out there either not saying or realizing the complete truth. Many dads and moms say they only want a "healthy baby" but secretly hope for a particular gender.

A survey of over 2,000 British moms carried out by found that a quarter of moms admitted to feeling disappointed over the gender of their baby. It turns out that while moms are twice as likely to want a daughter over a son, dads are three times more likely to want a boy! And many parents feel that one of each is just the ticket.

Moreover, over a third of these disappointed moms told no one they had a gender preference. Just under half of that group confided this disappointment with their partner, and only a third shared their feelings with their family.

mom and gender disappointment

2. Acknowledge Your Feelings And Accept Them

Instead of burying your emotions or pushing them away, acknowledge and validate your feelings. After all, you can't help wanting what you want, and feelings are neither good nor bad; they just are.

You may have spent 20-40 weeks picturing and imagining one gender only to get a rude awakening. It's essential to trust that your feelings are real to you; otherwise, would you be feeling such a dilemma? It simply isn't helpful to pretend you don't feel the way you do.

And since it's okay to feel disappointed, don't worry or feel ashamed if your sadness shows to other people.

3. Wait To Announce The Gender If You Can

The announcement is, at best, a time to rejoice, so if possible, hold off announcing until you feel onboard and excited. Of course, for many, this will take longer than others, and it may not be practical to hold off an announcement indefinitely.

4. Understand The Reason(s) For Your Gender Disappointment

Dig a little deeper to understand why you feel the way you do. Were you looking for someone to throw a baseball with? Or were you hoping for a daddy's girl? Do you think you understand your gender better and, therefore, would make a better parent to that child?

Did you already have a boy and were hoping for a girl to balance things out?

There Can Be Many Reasons For Wanting Either A Boy Or A Girl:

  • You grew up in a family of boys and feel that you understand them better. 
  • You feel that girls are better behaved. 
  • You believe boys are easier and more fun to play with. 
  • Growing up, you had sisters and wanted your first female child to have a sister she could relate to. 
  • Raising the opposite sex is so foreign to you that you feel bound to fail. 
  • You lost a little girl in a previous pregnancy and are hoping for one to take her place. 
  • You've heard that girls are more complicated, catty, and rude in their teenage years and are hoping for a boy. 
  • You have a boy, and without a girl, you believe you'd miss out on many life experiences. 
  • You had a sister who wasn't close to your parents, and you're afraid the same thing will happen to you should you have a girl. 

5. Find A Support Person Or Network Of People 

If you're preoccupied with disappointment, it's harder to be available to your little one. So once you understand why you feel the way you do, seek help so you can enjoy your role as a parent.

Be Honest With Your Partner

While avoidance can be tempting not to upset your partner, the person closest to you must understand how you feel. After all, you're sharing this pregnancy. Hopefully, if your partner is not experiencing gender disappointment herself, she will accept your feelings nonjudgmentally, without being critical or dismissive.

gender disappointment and understanding partner

If she's in the same boat as you, dealing with her gender disappointment, you both may find comfort in one another, but it may be difficult to help each other come out on the other side. Instead, you may wish to talk with a nonjudgmental friend or if you think the situation is severe enough, consult a therapist.

It can also help to talk with parents who have the same sex child as you. Ask what they love about having a girl or a boy. They may be able to expound upon all the benefits and joys in raising that sex. This can be helpful in seeing things in a new light.

You may also want to spend some one-on-one time with a friend's son or daughter. You may gain a new perspective.

Join A Parent Support Group

Finally, you may want to join a parent support group and talk with others who feel quite similar to you. Besides sharing experiences, you'll see that you're not alone.

6. Challenge Your Preconceptions

Look at your reason(s) for gender disappointment and see if you can challenge any assumptions you have made. You may find truths such as:

Girls can love baseball too.

I may have a creative music-loving son who's not interested in sports.

Girls may love football and building things as much as boys.

In the final analysis, your children will be individuals, and you'll have to let them follow their paths. They'll never be just like you. Each will be a unique individual with their own set of attributes.

7. The Grieving Process

Finally, if you're experiencing extreme gender disappointment, you'll probably go through a grieving process. But once you've dealt with your disappointment and processed your emotions, you can let it go. That doesn't mean it'll be easy. It's hard work.

Getting therapy from a perinatal talk therapist or infant psychologist can be very helpful in reframing your mindset. How long might you need to be sad? As long as it takes. You want to be the best parent you can be, plus no one wants to walk around sad, depressed, or anxious.

If you even have an inkling that you may in the future suffer from gender disappointment, any outside possibility at all, I think it's a wise idea to find out the sex of your child at the 20-week ultrasound.

This will hopefully give you time to understand your feelings and go through the grieving process, if necessary, before your child is born.

8. Trust That You Will Be An Excellent Parent

Although gender disappointment may be pretty uncomfortable to deal with, it isn't a measure of how good a parent you will be.

Your desire to be a good parent is a better measure of your future success. Anything you don't know, you'll learn along the way. Your child will appreciate you for it. And you will be an awesome parent.

Awesome father and mother with baby

9. Trust In Your Ability To Love

Trust yourself that you'll love your baby regardless of how disappointed you may feel now. Trust that once your child arrives, you'll have the whole package, and you will love your baby for who he or she is. 

Diane Roth Glazer, Ph.D., a psychotherapist at Providence Tarzana Medical Center, reminds us that, "Gender disappointment typically only lasts until your child's birth day, when you finally meet each other." So if you don't have a complete handle on it now, you probably will upon delivery.

Still, every relationship takes some adjustment. Some dads bond with their babies instantly. Others take a little while to grow into the idea of being a dad, whether it's to a girl or a boy.

I hope this post has been helpful to you. Please add any comments you may have below. They are appreciated. Happy parenting!

About the author 

Dan Sperling

I'm the proud father of two great children. They are grown up now, and although I would have preferred to be a stay-at-home dad, I had to work. Luckily, I could work out of my home so I was around a lot. I ran a video production company, had a couple of great guys working with me and it allowed me to be around the children a lot. I was the "fun guy" for my kids and fathering was something I just took to.
When my daughter became pregnant, I was glad to see my son-in-law was doing everything right--or as good as it gets--we're always winging it, right? It got me thinking that so many dads would like to be more emotionally involved and knowledgeable when it comes to their wives' pregnancy and the first year of their children's lives.

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