If you’re a sister to the only boy in the family then you probably know he’s the favourite.
By virtue of being born a male, he was prescribed magical powers to let him glide through life, knowing if he says ‘dinner’, it will appear.
In families where there are one or more daughters and only one son, the boy often seems to get privileges his sisters don’t.
There’s an enduring idea that girls are naturally more mature and can take care of themselves. Perhaps that’s why girls are often expected to get on with domestic tasks while sons are babied and have things done for them.
You’re not alone if you’re a daughter witnessing your brother get a free pass while you toil away.
Not only do daughters do more chores than sons, but they also earn less for these tasks than their brothers.
Research shows that boys aged 15 to 19 do about half an hour of housework a day, and girls about 45 minutes. Though the number has lowered for girls a little bit, the figure remains the same for boys.
Lots of families, whether intentionally or not, allow gender stereotypes to influence the expectations of their children.
There’s the societal influence of how men and women are treated, but there may be biological components to this tendency, too.
Science shows that male infant brains are slower to mature, while developmental studies show that girls develop quicker than boys in ways including speech, fine motor skills, potty training, reading unspoken communication and entering puberty sooner. Mothers may be instinctively responding to the needs of the boys by nurturing them for longer.
Studies also show that baby boys are more negatively affected by stress than girls.
Sarah Calvert, a psychotherapist and relationship therapist, tells Metro.co.uk that there’s more to this tendency than biology.
She says: ‘There are different expectations for girls and boys ingrained into society and this filters into and colours our parenting of different genders.
‘We bring our own beliefs about gender into our relationships with our children.
‘Expectations of girls are often higher than boys, and both girls and boys become conditioned to these gender expectations by positive re-enforcement of stereotypical gender behaviour.
‘Being the same sex, mothers identify with daughters, which can lead to mothers holding the same harsh expectations and judgements of daughters as they would for themselves.’
Helen, who is in her 20s, tells Metro.co.uk that she and her sisters are expected to do chores and help her mum because they’re women.
She says: ‘Everything I have to do because I’m a woman or “for my future husband” or “for my own children” while my brother does nothing.’
‘My mum always uses “you’re a woman” for everything. She does try to get him to do stuff but as soon as he refuses she pushes a little more then gives up.
‘She tries to have a face to face talk but the imbalance of how she makes us do things around the house is really clear.’
Dads can also be enablers of this type of son pampering.
Misha, 23, who has one brother and four sisters, tells Metro.co.uk that both her parents pander to the whims of her one brother.
‘My brother can’t eat a meal without my mum and dad asking him at least 17 questions about what he’s eating, if he’s enjoying it, if he wants more, if they should fetch it for him,’ she says.
‘He doesn’t really care much for the attention but doesn’t object to having them at his beck and call – they even sort out a plate of food for him for every meal.’
Jessica, 25, tells us that not only is her brother – her only sibling – babied, his achievements are also considered more important: ‘My brother is the literal baby in that he’s younger than me, but it’s like less is expected of him in every way and everything he does is some triumph.
‘He will order my mum around and she just smiles and laughs like, “what’s he like?”
‘They even have a picture of him passing out of the Navy on the mantelpiece and not my graduation. He was also allowed to not come to my graduation dinner because the meal didn’t fit his macros.’
I picked up the household chores my brothers didn’t do. It was just an unspoken arrangement.
Jasmin is the only girl among five boys. She tells Metro.co.uk that she was expected to be responsible for herself and even her brothers at an early age.
‘I had to mature at a very young age,’ she says. ‘I had to look after myself and help manage the household from a very young age, cooking, cleaning, taking care of siblings, helping with their homework.
‘Bloody ironing clothes as well! I knew how to cook before I left primary school.
‘I picked up the household chores my brothers didn’t do. It was just an unspoken arrangement.’
Of course, not all men are babied by their mums in this way.
Dad-of-three Shaun Price Stephens says that growing up, he had an equal load to his sisters: ‘My mother actually made me share with the chores, she didn’t think that just because I was male it was enough of a reason for me to get any special treatment.
‘In fact, I’ve been able to cook (better than my wife apparently), clean, and iron and have been able to since I was a teenager.
‘I went on to have two girls and a boy and made sure my son was capable of doing domestic chores as well. I also learnt that it’s much wiser to “listen” when the “gloves are off”.’
Boys aren’t always babied, and all sorts of dynamics can come into play when it comes to what parents expect, including age and personality type.
But it’s easy to fall into the dynamic of the single son being king. This doesn’t just enrage daughters, but could have a negative impact on the men themselves.
Could babying sons result in raising incompetent men who assume it’s women’s responsibility to take care of them? Does babying prevent boys from learning the skills they need to look after themselves in adult life?
By raising sons in this way, we uphold the gender imbalance of domestic labour and allow the cycle to continue.
Psychologist Sarah adds: ‘As parents, we need to be vigilant that we do not squash our children, their potential and developing selves by unconsciously parenting to outdated stereotypes.
‘All children deserve to be well nurtured, given room to grow and develop into who they are.’
Parents, take note. Brothers, get your own damn dinner.
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