On my daily commute to work, I often find myself in conversation with locals. Whilst walking one morning, conversation began with an elderly Pakistani lady. As we got chatting, talks led to our families and she asked how many children my parents have. To which I confidently responded that my parents have three daughters.
The inevitable disappointment followed. She replied in a tone which was both sympathetic but inherently patronising: "Oh... it's okay". Her hesitant response followed by an awkward smile couldn't mask the disappointment and pity in her voice. I didn't need her to reassure me that it's 'okay' to have daughters. I knew her intention was not to offend, but when I blurted back "Yes, I know it's okay, because my parents are happy", I found myself repeating a justification that had almost become a reflex.
This wasn't the first time I had encountered pity from strangers about the lack of sons in our home. Reactions go one of two ways. The first scenario is what the elderly lady exhibited - pity. Or, the alternative is excessive emphasis as to why my parents should be elated for their rewards for having three good girls. Why not just be happy that you have a healthy child, regardless of their gender?
These comments are not unique to my family. I can imagine countless families in the South Asian community suffering from the same prejudice. From my experience of engaging with those of Pakistani and Indian heritage, a son is regarded as the desired child. Sure, daughters are fine, but to be fulfilled you need at least one son. This dated thinking is rooted in the traditional idea that only boys can fulfil certain roles. Parents long for a male child as only a son can financially support them. Only a son can excel in a career and make their parents proud. Only a son will support parents in their old age.
Times have changed and so should attitudes.
Particularly as a British Asian, it still astonishes me that some people are still adamant on having a son in this society. Gone are the times when only a son would have the financial capability of supporting their parents. Young girls are quite often out performing boys in education and are now rightfully demanding their position in the workplace. We are building strong careers and marking our own place in society.
My parents have three 'children'. That is the way they have raised us. Of course, they cherish us and appreciate us as young women. But we have not been defined by our gender. You lead by example, and my parents both of Pakistani heritage, have reiterated that they do not need a son to feel content. They always emphasise that we are all that they need and want. So please, to all those who feel sorry for my parents - don't. They are happy.
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