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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hmong Families and the "Boy Requirement"

My husband and I have three girls, no boys. Everywhere we go, so many Hmong people insist that we try again for a boy. But what if we don't want to? While it would've been nice to have at least one boy, we also realize we're quite content with our family the way it is. We've got three beautiful, healthy girls, and we don't necessarily feel the need to have more kids just for the sake of having a boy. To be honest, we really don't want another baby.

However, the pressure from Hmong people (especially older relatives) are constant. It's as if there is no choice here at all, as if it's a must. I feel pretty certain that, even if we have another baby and it turns out to be a boy, they're going to say, "Well, now that you've got one boy, you've got to try for another one. You don't want your boy to not have a brother, do you?" I have a feeling it doesn't stop.

Over the years, my husband and I have heard all of the reasons why we MUST have a boy (or two or three). We've heard the "boy requirement" lecture probably over a hundred times by now. It does bother me to hear constantly how our girls are not truly a part of our family, how they'll marry into another clan and not be our "real" family. Without boys, they say, we won't have anyone to live with or take care of us when we're old.

But the truth is that in this country, you go where your job is. Even if I had boys, they'll relocate to where ever they find a good job. And I would whole-heartedly encourage them to do so. I would never expect them to stay in a town just because that's where the clan is, or because that's where I am.

Furthermore, it seems to me that daughters take care of their parents just as much as or even more so than sons do. When I look at many Hmong families I know, it's the daughters who (even though they've married into another clan) care more for their parents. They tend to call more, physically care for sick parents more, run errands, remember their parents' birthdays, etc. Those are just my observations.

The other often cited reason for "needing" a boy is to have someone carry on the family name. But that's a bit superficial, in my opinion. Now if we were the Einsteins, I might reconsider. :o)

Right now, I feel that my family is complete. Of course, I can't predict the future, and I don't know how I'll feel 20 or 30 years from now. But right now, we're happy. We're looking forward to our kids getting older. We're looking forward to being able to travel with them and go on vacations, where we can all participate and do things together. It'd be nice to not have to spend more money on diapers and bottles and put that money towards a college fund for our kids instead. 

So my questions are: In this country, is there a need to have a large family? Is there a need for a boy?

6 comments:

sunflowerslady said...

I married to a Hmong husband and I hear this constantly. We are blessed with two beautiful daughters and it's not enough for my in law. I remember calling them after we gave birth to our first daughters, they doesn't sound too thrill and instead of congratulate us they told us we should have another one (boy) right away. My in law constantly put my husband down on being the only son who doesn't have a son. It's sad.

MK Chang said...

sunflowerslady, I know what that feels like. It's very sad. I hope you and your husband stand strong together.

Qeej Heroes said...

The need for a boy is just old ways of thinking going back to primitive times when women did not have rights. Women's rights changed all that stuff. I have a son, but would've loved a daughter just the same.
There was an article about this issue in China. Poor people in villages could only have one child and girls were undesired so some couples would "deal with the newly born baby girl" so they could have a son. This trend was catching on, but guess what happens when those boys grew up? There was a shortage of girls and those boys could not find brides. They could not marry into wealthier families either because of social classes. Poor boys.

MK Chang said...

Qeej, yes, it is an old way of thinking. However, despite the advancement of Hmong women today and some of the changes to gender role expectations in the Hmong culture (especially younger couples), that way of thinking still has a very strong presence. Boys are valued more than girls. That's just how it is in our culture. The pressure to have boys still exists very strongly, and I see that in young couples as well who still carry that belief.

I remember reading a novel one time that described what would sometimes happen to unwanted baby girls in China. They would be left out in the wilderness to die or be eaten by wild animals, they'd be thrown into the outhouse toilet, etc. Hard to fathom somebody doing that to a baby.

Toog said...

Hello MK, I enjoyed what you wrote about this difficult topic of the requirement of a son in Hmong families. Following your post, I wrote a similar one on my own blog (but from the point of view of a Hmong man). See it at http://nyeem.com/2011/09/the-requirement-for-a-son-in-hmong-families/

MK Chang said...

Thank you, Toog, for visiting my blog. I will be sure to check out yours!