Boys Are Different Than Girls (that’s okay)

I had two posts swimming inside my head all day, just daring to get out. One on the new book launch by Sheryl Sandberg and one because the Principal of my boys’ school called, again, today. Seemingly unrelated until I started discussing differences between little boys and little girls.

Not having read Sheryl Sandbergs book, and only having listened to an NPR interview and read a USA Today article about it, I can only say her basic premise seems to be that women are too busy getting in their own way to bust through the ‘glass ceiling’. She says, women are, unintentionally buying into our own stereotypes and sabotaging our success while being content with less than men. That bothered me, so I started thinking. I felt it had more to do with nature not nurture.

Then I got a phone call from my childrens school. One of my boys was in the Principals office for peeing all over the bathroom. I don’t condone it, but its Kindergarten, he’s a boy. Again, boys think differently. They don’t often think, ewww – it’s pee. They think ‘Fire-hose!!’, and it’s a party. How many times have we heard the story of the boys being boys, running about in reckless abandonment, much to the horror of their mothers who gasp “You’re going to poke an eye out!”

One friend mentioned he couldn’t understand WHY his mom was upset when, at the age of 12, he was throwing a tennis ball in the front yard with his brother, after they coated it with WD40 and lit it on fire. Really??!! He said, to his 12 year old brain, he was perfectly safe, they were using oven mitts to catch and throw the ball. (As an adult, he gets why it was a bad idea)

After a quick very unscientific poll of about 10 girlfriends, only one said they would have joined in, or instigated, the flaming fireball toss in their front yard. Personally, I would have stopped, thought “Huh, flaming fireball, aimed at my head…Nah, that could hurt, or burn my hair.”

Little boys have higher risk tolerances than most little girls. Little boys and little girls grow up to be adults men and women. In my experiences, men and women have different risk tolerances when dealing with risk within our careers. And lets face it, a person who risks much in their career is usually the one who gains much as well. For example: when a man is given an opportunity with a new firm across the country, his risk tolerance might be lower and asks: How much will it cost to move, and can we find good schools for the kids? A woman’s risk tolerance could be higher and asks: What happens if the new company goes through layoffs, how will I handle losing seniority and will the job be flexible enough to meet family demands. These roles are especially true in a dual income household where both salaries are needed. We can break these molds, but first we have to see them and realize the reality of what is. Only then can we overcome and start taking these risks ourselves.

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11 thoughts on “Boys Are Different Than Girls (that’s okay)

    • Thanks for reading! I’ve seen my own career and the careers of women I’ve admired be put on hold because of their lower risk tolerances. I recently left a job of 12 years to move into a different, but related industry and I had panic attacks I was doing the ‘right thing’ when giving up a job that offered security and flexibility. Because I was the sole source of income for the family at the time, I felt I had to make the leap. Turns out, it was a great decision, for me and my career. But it was a risk I really had an internal struggle with.

      BTW: Im sure I would have thought firehose if I had the same equipment too.

      • I gave up my job when I had my kids and missed it almost instantly. I got a gig working from home, and even though I feel fulfilled professionally-speaking, I, too, have that internal struggle because I’m constantly telling my kids to wait or that I can’t play. I wonder if it’s just how we’re wired, and that’s why we have the uterus?

      • I can’t speak for all men, but I have a feeling they do not feel the same level of guilt or conflict that women do. We constantly question if we are doing enough for our kids, our selves and our spouse… usually in that order. It’s a constant battle for balance, one that my husband never seems to appreciate or understand. Perhaps he just isn’t as open to talking about it? I don’t know. Would be interesting to get an honest opinion from a dad though.

      • I think it’s highly probable. Hopefully with more awareness, education and mentoring – the world will slowly come around. But that’s my next post πŸ™‚

  1. Another interesting and thought-provoking post.

    I wonder if, maybe, women would be more willing to take on new career risks if they had more emotional and moral support from their families. I can’t speak about all women, of course, but, in my little corner of the world, I was “raised” (i.e., expected) to be quiet, considerate, and supportive of everyone around me. The same considerations didn’t extend from the rest of my family to me. I think I’m totally bungling this comment, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that it seems women are often the “support system” in the family. And this type of support or cheerleading is part of what allows men to take that risk to move for a new job, etc.

    Like I said, part of it — definitely not all. And these are all my very uneducated observations: ha, ha!

    • Oooh! Good point! How many if us gravitate toward the ‘little mommy’ role as kids either with younger sibs or with dolls? Ill bet the number is staggering. Is this socialized or natur. I have no idea.

      I think you’re right though; to make it to the top of any field requires a huge support system to balance work and children. We need someone (spouse, family, friends, nanny or daycare) to back us up and fill in when things get tough and to make it all work.

      Thanks for the compliment, the great comment and thanks for reading!

  2. Thanks for the article, Lynette! As a mom of 4 boys (and two girls), I definitely agree that they have different risk tolerances. Boys are more reinforced for being “tough” and taking risks than girls are, in general too. I think that’s part of what Sandberg means.

    I also agree with the other comments, that it’s harder for women who are mothers. Men are praised for working all the time (they’re great at supporting the family!) or for focusing on the kids (they’re great fathers!), but for women, it feels like we can’t win. We’re either focusing too much or too little on our kids or our work. I think we may, therefore, hold ourselves back. However, if it’s done in the name of love–love for ourselves and for our families, then I don’t see anything wrong with not breaking through the “glass ceilings”. Perhaps some of them just aren’t meant to be broken. And that’s ok.

    The trouble comes when we want to go for it and still can’t break through. But that’s a discussion for another day…. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much for the input! Im all for defining what ‘success’ means on your own terms, no one elses’. That is why I wrote the post “Can Moms Have It All?“. I take many more words to say what you have said in your comments, which is probably why you are such a great writer. πŸ™‚ Glad to see you back from vacation, looks like you all survived.

      • Thank you, Lynette, though I tend to be verbose myself. I always say, “At least I’m prolific!” as I’m constantly cutting back and editing my writing.

        I agree, we must each define “success” for ourselves. I actually was interviewed about my definition of success (along with several other psychologists) in this article: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2013/therapists-spill-my-definition-of-success/ . It’s from Psych Central and it’s a good one!

        Yes, we survived Mexico, and even got our oldest 2 back without passports! (We were supposed to have them for kids over 16 but didn’t get them in time!). I even got 2 10-hour nights of sleep!! Miracle! But now, it’s back to reality! πŸ˜‰

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