Boy oh boy oh boy

Posted on Jan 14, 2013 in Zookeeping | 20 Comments

Happy news: this week saw the publication of MOB Rule, a book that celebrates life as a mother of boys. Like the author, I’m besotted with my bunch. But I know that most passers-by are not thinking ‘lucky you’ as I stride past, towing three trainee men. I know this because so many have taken the time to tell me.

It started during my third pregnancy. ‘Are you hoping for a girl,’ and ‘is this supposed to be the girl?’ greeted me in every shop, park and queue. As if I needed an antidote to the boys who had made me want a third baby in the first place.

My three mini-Hes

My three mini-Hes

In Neal’s Yard, the manager dispensed opinions along with bump cream, proudly announcing that, “no offence”, she could tell I was carrying a boy. When I darted out after a runaway child, she explained to my sister that three boys meant I must have a hostile birth canal* (*not the anatomical word she used, but the one I wish my sister had used as she relayed the story in the toy shop next door).

But I didn’t spend the pregnancy eyeing up pink dresses. I spent it hoping that my luck would hold out, and I would have another uncomplicated labour, another healthy baby.

And the apothecary was right: my hostile, girl-rejecting body produced a third perfect baby boy. Congratulations were in order, right? But the comments continued.

The postman: “Don’t give up, you’ll get that girl soon! (He explained that his mother kept trying until she got a girl, baby number five.)

The supermarket checkout assistant: “I bet you were hoping for a girl this time around.” (The boys weren’t even being particularly boyish at that moment, sitting quietly in the trolley, eating fruit.)

A family member: “Be honest, if you could guarantee that you’d get a girl, you’d have a fourth, wouldn’t you.” (No.)

Small talk, yes, but … I can’t help feeling that a mum of three girls would get a different reaction. I know my own mum did. She was often stopped in the street and congratulated, my sisters and I admired (despite the homemade fringes).

Mum and her three mini-mes

Mum and her three mini-Mes

Perhaps boys are less loveable to the casual observer. While friends’ girls often appear dressed as actual princesses, eager to tell you their name and engage you in conversation, a boy is statistically more likely to be running off into the distance, shouting and wielding a stick.

If you are not a parent to said boy, you may never see how they cuddle like love-crazed baby monkeys; how they constantly pursue fun, food, and fun; or how much less hamstery they smell after a bath.

Not that I’d argue that the experience of raising boys and girls is the same. The differences are embodied in three toys that belonged to my sisters and I, which were recently handed on to my boys. An antique cycling Mickey Mouse, kept in a cupboard by my mum for occasional use. Bearlin, a huge polar bear I got for my third birthday, whose cream fur remained pristine for 30 years. And a fluffy cow that still looked new after years of care by three loving girls.

In boy world, Bearlin alternates between punchbag and landing mat, and her fur is greying (with muck, I presume, though it could be stress). Mickey Mouse is back in a (much higher) cupboard, minus one ear. And the fluffy cow is lying sodden on the patio, casualty of a Room on the Broom spell recreation (a.k.a. mud and toy soup in a bucket).

Yup, life in a house full of boys will be very different from life in the all-female household I grew up in. But I know it will be action-packed, rowdy, and funny, funny, fun. Boys are definitely not a consolation prize. In fact, I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot.


  1. Crumbs & Pegs
    January 14, 2013

    Super! And a great big two fingers to the boyophobes! 😉

  2. @Damson_Lane
    January 14, 2013

    Congratulations on your three gorgeous boys. I too am baffled by this mentality. Many of my friends are having their second child and hoping to ‘complete the set’ with a girl or boy depending on the gender of their first child but I would just like to have a healthy and happy child if I do have another child.

  3. breakfast lady
    January 14, 2013

    Boys rock! The reaction is bizarre, isn’t it? I’ve got two boys and my mother (my. own. MOTHER.) spent my entire 2nd pregnancy telling me how much she was hoping for a girl. .

    • Isabel Thomas
      January 14, 2013

      Bet she loves them though! My beautiful mum didn’t get to meet any of mine, but though she was rather dubious about the point of boys, I know they would have changed her mind!

      • breakfast lady
        January 14, 2013

        Oh she does, I think. Most of the time. And my brother provided her with a grand-daughter in the end so it all worked out. Could have done without it when I was in labour though!

  4. Jane Mann
    January 14, 2013

    Beautifully put. Given the chance, I’d do it exactly the same all over again (except I’d buy no toys and instead just pad a room and chuck in torches, blankets and old sofa cushions).

    • Isabel Thomas
      January 14, 2013

      Nice tip lady, I wonder if a shed would do…

      You are part of the reason I look forward to future so much, you always seem to be having so much fun!

  5. Cat Dean (@cat_dean)
    January 14, 2013

    I had that too! I have three – two boys then a girl – and throughout the pregnancy got the same type of comments. I am loving having a little girl, and I know that I would have loved having three boys just as much.

    I’m one of three girlspparently my mum got a similar negative reaction – people expressed their disappointment that she hadn’t ‘managed’ (!) a boy. As we got older, it was my father who seemed to get more ‘commiseration’, especially on the subject of financing weddings / having the ‘worry’ of three daughters.

    People are weird, aren’t they?!

  6. jo
    January 14, 2013

    I am a mum of one boy, pregnant with number 2 (gender unknown) I get so cross when I read of people crying and getting upset when they find out they are having a boy…..seriously what is wrong with having an affectionate, imaginative, creative little pirate? being a mum of a boy is the best!
    thanks for the post !

  7. Claire
    January 14, 2013

    What a lovely article, as a mammy of 2 boys I get asked if I am going to try 3rd time for a girl as ‘every mammy wants a girl’! It irritates me immensely and I am so pleased to read from fellow MOB’s!! Boys rule x

  8. findthedetails
    January 15, 2013

    Love your post Isabel, I remember reading an article a while ago by a journalist who’d started up a ‘3 boys club’ …. I know so many mums with three boys….and we’ve all had comments said to us at some point….. so predictable!
    (We can be known as the MO3Bs?)

    Example one:
    Customer in chic shoe shop owned by my MOB friend: ‘how many children do you have?’
    MO3B friend: ‘Three boys’
    Customer: ‘Oh, I am lucky, I have one of each’
    MO3B friend (forgetting ‘customer is always right rule’) : ‘NO, I AM LUCKY, I have 3 boys’

    Example 2:
    MO3B: then obviously pregnant with her fourth child, in an aside to me in the playground: ‘If anyone else asks me if I am hoping for a girl this time, I am going to tw*t them one’….
    Not very ladylike, but to the point!

    (PS my sister and I too had homemade fringes ….)

  9. Jaqui Ball
    January 15, 2013

    Of course you have hit the jackpot with your three lovely boys! I had so many negative comments when I had my third daughter that I almost took to sticking a large notice on the pram announcing: Yes, it’s another girl and I’m absolutely delighted!”

  10. Sinéad
    January 17, 2013

    Reading this brought a smile to my face. You have lovely family and a lovely blog: ) from a proud Mum of two beautiful boys: )

  11. Isabel Thomas
    January 19, 2013

    Thank you for the lovely comments on this post, and all the shares on Facebook and Twitter. It’s been fantastic hearing from so many mums of boys – and even two mums of three girls! – who have had the same experiences.

  12. In-House Counsel
    February 20, 2013

    Love this! As the mom of four boys- the youngest now 16- I can promise you are in for a great and wonderful adventure! My best advice…decide right now that noise and dirt DO NOT bother you at all…that is just part of having boys, and hang on for the ride!

    • Isabel Thomas
      February 20, 2013

      Hee hee, I think they’ll also have to get used to a certain level of noise (yelling instructions) and dirt (I shirk housework) as part of having me as their mum! Lovely to hear from you, I just can’t wait until number 3 starts to walk and join in and the chaos will really begin!

  13. sdtgcraftygenius
    February 24, 2013

    I have three boys, and wouldn’t change them for the world.

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    March 26, 2013

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  15. Bex @ The Mummy Adventure
    April 8, 2013

    I have two little boys and wouldn’t change a thing despite people asking me if I was dissapointed when baby no.2 was a boy. Splashing in puddles, rolling in mud and eating us out of house and home but perfect in every way

  16. Expat Mummy of Three
    April 22, 2013

    I loved your post. I have 3 boys too and worship the (sticky and muddy) ground they walk on. I kept nodding to the computer screen reading your post and chuckled a few times. So much so that The Husband had to come read it too. He loved it just as much!