When Gender Disappointment Hits – Tips to Overcome and Move Forward

By: Modern Asian Family
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Let’s talk about something taboo though it really shouldn’t be – gender disappointment. It’s that feeling when you’ve been daydreaming about tea parties with your future daughter, but instead, you’re shopping for race cars and little boy toys. Or vice versa. It’s more common than you’d think and especially resonates within the Asian parenting community, with our parents and grandparents either intentionally or unintentionally putting pressure on us to desire a specific gender. If you’re an expectant parent going through the torture that is gender disappointment (which also comes with the guilt of feeling down when you’re having a healthy baby while others around you are having trouble conceiving), these tips can help you process the emotions and focus on welcoming your little one with an open heart.

What is Gender Disappointment?

First of all, there’s no parent-shaming here. Gender disappointment simply means you’d hoped your bundle of joy would be a boy or a girl, and instead, you got the opposite. In today’s world, this disappointment can feel especially confusing because people are having a harder time conceiving, and you may know friends and family who would be so happy just to even be pregnant. Gender disappointment does not mean you don’t love the baby that’s growing inside you or your partner. It simply means you had an expectation that doesn’t match reality. It’s absolutely nothing personal against the baby. Remember, it’s not about feeling ungrateful, it’s about managing complex emotions.

Why Gender Disappointment Happens

Several factors can trigger gender disappointment when you find out your baby’s sex:

  • Strong son preference in some Asian cultures means parents desperately want a boy to carry on the family name. Not having a son is seen as a letdown.
  • Preference for one gender based on stereotypical gender roles. Moms may envision bonding with a girl through dolls and dress-up. Dads may imagine playing sports with a boy.
  • You already have all girls or all boys so were hoping for “one of each.” Finding out this baby is the same gender feels disappointing.
  • You had picked out a name, nursery, clothes, toys etc for a specific gender before knowing the sex. Having the “wrong” gender ruins those plans.

Is Gender Disappointment normal?

Absolutely! Gender disappointment is quite common among expecting parents, though we often don’t talk about it while it’s happening out of shame or not having anyone to talk to who could relate. Here are a few key points about this experience:

  • It’s estimated that around 20-30% of parents feel some level of sadness or disappointment upon finding out their baby’s sex is not what they hoped for.
  • The feeling can happen during an ultrasound or after receiving results from other gender reveal methods. Some parents even report feeling it immediately after giving birth.
  • The intensity of gender disappointment ranges from mild and passing to more pronounced and lasting. Most parents report moving past it within a few weeks or months at most.
  • Parents may feel guilt, depression, or anxiety along with the sadness. But these feelings are usually temporary if properly worked through.
  • Seeking support from partners, friends, family, mental health professionals can help parents process the emotions in a healthy way.

The Root of Gender Disappointment in Asian Cultures

Among many Asian societies, favoring boys over girls has historically been common. As a mom of two daughters myself, I’m appalled by all the stories of how girl babies were treated during China’s 35 year long one-child policy. In many families, sons are seen as torchbearers while daughters are considered outsiders after marriage. While I do not agree with this favoritism, these are the key cultural reasons behind why your parents or grandparents might house this belief:

  • Carrying on the family name and lineage – Sons are seen as heirs who can pass on the family surname and continue the family heritage. Daughters are seen as leaving to join their husband’s family.
  • Economic provision – Sons traditionally stayed with parents, worked, and provided financial support in their old age. Daughters joined their spouse’s family and were seen as not contributing economically.
  • Ritual importance – Sons perform important functions like death rituals for parents and ancestors. Daughters are not given these ritual roles.
  • Dowry practice – Families of brides were expected to pay large dowries, so daughters were seen as a financial burden. Sons did not require dowry.
  • Patriarchal structures – Asian cultures tend to be male-dominated which leads to higher status and importance placed on sons.
  • Inheritance – Property and assets like land, housing, businesses traditionally were passed down to sons not daughters.

Navigating Through Gender Disappointment

Your feelings are valid. Please remember this. It’s essential to manage your initial disappointment in a way that safeguards your emotions and your family’s harmony. Communicate openly, with your partner, with your friends, or even here, with your extended online family. You’re not alone.

Coping in a Healthy Way

Here are some healthy ways to overcome your gender disappointment:

  • Allow yourself to feel all the emotions -sadness, anger, guilt over wanting a different gender. Don’t beat yourself up but don’t bottle up feelings either.
  • Confide in your partner, close friends, family members, or a therapist. Talk it out rather than isolating.
  • Focus on the positives like getting to raise a child of a gender you’re less familiar with. Or shopping for new gender-specific items.
  • Look forward to the opportunity to challenge your own limiting gender views by raising this baby with less stereotyping.
  • Start envisioning your life and bonding with your baby as they are, not as you imagined prior to knowing their sex.
  • Remind yourself that a healthy baby is a blessing, regardless of gender. Assigning too much meaning to gender is unhealthy.
  • Read, sing, and talk to your baby bump to begin connecting with them. Use their name rather than just gender pronouns.

Overcoming Gender Disappointment

There’s strength in seeking help. Our community has countless professionals – counsellors and therapists who specialize in guiding parents like us through such feelings. Likewise, joining our online community or a support group can work wonders. It’s a space where you can lean on each other, learn from shared experiences, and grow together.

Moving Forward: Embracing Your Child Regardless of Gender

Let’s shift gears and redefine parenting. How about we see our children as little individuals rather than boxes marked ‘boy’ or ‘girl’? Gender-neutral parenting doesn’t mean eliminating gender, but focusing more on our child’s unique strengths and potentials. Love your child for who they are. They are much more than a son or a daughter; they are beautiful individuals with endless potential.

With time and effort, you can move past disappointment and delight in your baby, whether boy or girl:

  • Decorate the nursery based on your actual baby’s personality from kicks and movements, not stereotypical norms.
  • Use your preferred name, even if society deems it belonging to the opposite gender. Your baby’s identity matters most.
  • If you’re dealing with a strong son preference from your family, discuss respecting girls equally with your Asian elders. Challenge traditions that celebrate sons over daughters.
  • Appreciate your child as a unique, special soul coming into the world. Release rigid expectations and embrace this new journey.


Navigating gender disappointment is no easy task, but remember, it’s also a journey of growth and acceptance. Breaking away from traditional gender expectations strengthens our bonds with our children and nurtures healthier parenting. Let’s cherish our children for their individuality, for their talents, for their hearts, and less for their gender. After all, every child is a unique story waiting to be told.

The editorial team at Modern Asian Family consists of parents who are passionate about sharing their Asian culture and heritage with their children in today's dynamic Western and Western-influenced societies. We believe it takes a village to raise kids in today’s complex world. By crowdsourcing wisdom, we not only educate our own families but lift up fellow parents along the way.

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