I read a blog post last night by MK Chang about the “requirement” for a Hmong couple to have at least one son.  MK Chang is a married Hmong American with children, like myself.  And like most Hmong married couples with no sons, MK Chang and her spouse are pressured by family to have at least one son.

I have 2 beautiful healthy daughters.  That is more than I could ever ask for.  And that is all the children I will have.  I spoke to my dear spouse about my decision to only have 2 children and he agreed.  The first reason why I want only 2 children is because I know what I can handle, and I know that I cannot handle more than 2.  My mom took care of 7 children by herself after my father left.  I have only 2; I also have the help of my spouse, and I’m already pulling out my hair when I get overwhelmed.  I don’t know how she did it.  What I do know is that it was very hard for her and she sacrificed a lot for my siblings and me.  Knowing that my future will involve work and family, taking care of more than 2 kids is something I know I cannot pull off.

The second and last reason is my dear spouse and I are not financially secure to have more children.  We have only one income and that income is sufficient for only the 4 of us.  I choose to not work and be a stay-at-home mom until my children go to school.  Once they start school, I will start on my career.  Once I start on that, no more children for me.  I want to spend my children’s early years with them.  Research has shown that the first 5 years are the most crucial in a child’s life because they provide the basis for brain development and function.  These years shape the child’s future coping and learning skills (social and emotional) as well as overall happiness and growth.  And because of this, I don’t work so I can be there to stimulate my children’s brain, love and nurture them so that they can develop a sense of trust and security that I didn’t have growing up.

Everywhere I go, Hmong people bring up the discussion of having more children (specifically sons).  This is usually how our conversations would go:

“Are you going to have any more children?”
“No.  Two is enough.”
“You don’t want a boy?”
“You should try for a boy.”
“So that your husband can take him fishing and do ‘boy’ stuff with him.'”
“If you mean outdoorsy activities like fishing and camping when you say ‘boy’ stuff, then he’s already doing that with our daughters.  He doesn’t need a boy to do ‘boy’ stuff with.”
“Well, at least have a son to carry on your clan name.”
“I don’t want any more kids.”

I don’t believe in having children for their gender.  If I did, I would have saved up (or racked up credit cards) for in vitro fertilization.  I would be able to have as many girls and boys as I want.  But no, having a boy was not my motive when I decided I wanted children.  It was simply just that: I wanted children.  Happy.  Healthy.  Children.

Males are highly valuable assets in the patriarchal Hmong culture.  Like I’ve stated in numerous blogs, the males are the ones to carry on the clan name and care for parents in their golden years.  Females are viewed more as a liability than an asset.  Because of the way the Hmong culture is set up, when a woman marries, she takes on her husband’s clan name and becomes his “property.”  She no longer has ties to her biological family and is considered an “outsider.”

Back in the “old country,” you had to have a lot of children to help out around the house and farm.  And they cared for you as you aged.  Children, especially sons, were a means to an end.  The more sons you have, the more likely you’ll be well taken care of when you retire.  And why should parents value a daughter when she will get married and leave?  Like all traditions, they make their way into the “new world.”  And it is in this “new world” that belief systems collide.  For someone like me, who grew up in the US and has embraced my own beliefs, it is difficult when culture and family pressure you to have more children simply because you have no sons.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I do want a boy.  What if my third child is another girl?  Then what?  I try and try again, yet girls pop out one after another.  Should I try again after my 11th daughter?  (Believe me, I know people who don’t stop until they’ve reached their desired number of boys even if they have a gazillion kids running around).  No!  That is why I don’t believe parents should continue to have children for a desired gender.  My parents had 7 children (5 girls and 2 boys) because of this so-called “requirement.”  I don’t want to have 7 children that I know I cannot financially support just because of my greed to have sons.

In today’s world, it shouldn’t matter whether we have daughters or sons, but what that person does with his/her life.  You can have a son whom you value above all, but it doesn’t mean anything if he is unmotivated and sits at home all day playing Black Ops.  How will he take care of you in old age with that kind of disposition?  I see more and more Hmong daughters becoming independent, striving for their dreams, and making something of themselves (to prove to their culture and family they are not just a liability).

I am a proud parent of my children.  I will teach them that they’re worth everything life has to offer and no silly Hmong belief or tradition should make them feel inferior to the opposite gender.

15 thoughts on “The value of a son

  1. MB, we’re in the same boat. My husband and I have two beautiful and healthy daughters, they are my miracle and my blessing! Sadly my in law does not share our happiness. Each time we call and tell them we’re having a girl their reaction is very flat to say the least. I remember my husband got into argument with them in the hospital – thank God it’s over the phone – just hours after we have birth to our first, instead of being happy and congratulate us all they say is we have to hurry up and try again for a boy. I came from a matriarch background so this is all new and foreign to me. I may not be Hmong, but marrying to a Hmong family I went through so much heart break that each time I look back I shed a tears. It’s not much about me but about how they treat my daughters as well. I try not to dwell on the bad, but forgive and forget is two totally different thing.


  2. OMG! This boy is killing me! Not necessarily me but it affects me and my husband and my kids and my in-laws side soo bad. My older brother in law has 5 daughters and 1 boy. Their first was the boy and after that they’ve just been able to bear girls. Yet, they STILL are trying for another boy. I mean I my sister-in-law is pregnant again right now and I mean it’s driving me and my in-laws nuts because we are the ones who have to help take akre of those kids despite having our own children. Both of the parents work to try and support their children and yes some of the chidlren do go to school but overall its this constant nag where WE have to participate in because they have no else they can depend. I mean if you can’t support your family why MORE?? Just to have a boy?? Thats ridiculous. I wish they would just stop. I mean I thought their last one was their last. Shes is 2 years old now. But their children are not very far apart which is why it is sooo hard on everyone because they want to do things that they can’t do so they depend on us to babyst and oh boy we’ve babysat them for years. Just imagine the oldest one is almost 13 years old!! I’m expecting my third right now and I don’t know how my ONE mother-in-law is oging to help watch our kids, especially the little ones which their are ALOT! THat’s why I Don’t relaly want to have to kids, I feel like my sister-in-laws and them have priority over me when it comes to babysitting. Who ever has MORE kids then my MIL will watch them for them. I mean I want children too you know!! But I can’t afford it if I don’t have a babysitter because you guys took that away….but oh boy..I’m so sick of it..seems like its just a competition..


    1. you can always say no to baby sitting. you want more kids then have more kids. you dont want to because there is no one to be baby sitting your kid. that is being a hypocrite because you in turn want your mother in law to baby sit your kids too?


  3. Excellent point. I agree that it doesn’t matter if the child is a boy or girl. What matters is that the kid is healthy and grows up to be a decent and respectful human being in life. I don’t understand what is with all that overemphasis on having sons anyway. Is this a way to imply that girls are never as good as their brothers or male cousins? Anyway, great blog post and keep it up.


  4. Hmm…it feels like the Hmong community needs to be uplifted by the upcoming generation to get out of the preference for boy children.

    While true that my mother had 6 children, in efforts to have more boys. (only 1 son), my parents disbanded this old thinking decades ago after while. Takes awhile to let go of disjointed and hurtful attitudes.

    I am aware that my parents didn’t care what gender their grandchildren were….5 (from 3 of their daughters). Heck, I think they knew just to be grateful that they even had any grandchildren….with now the dropping birth rate!!

    The Chinese-Canadian community has gotten so big in Vancouver and Toronto (and elsewhere in general), that this way of thinking just is fading fast and in many social circles..gone.


    1. Jean, many younger Hmong generations are standing up against this preference for males. I’m glad I’m not the only one.


  5. if i was fiancially stable i would like 8 kids. i grew up in a big family and i love it. we have our ups and downs but it still a blessing to have so many siblings.


  6. We are blessed with 5 beautiful girls and are constantly asked to try to a son. My response “Hello, doesn’t 5 girls prove that we’ve tried?”. We don’t have any future plans to try for a son. Sure, we can, but why? We are happy with our 5 girls.


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