Do Black Mothers Raise Daughters, Love Sons?

I’ve seen and heard the saying, “black mothers raise their daughters and love their sons” repeated enough to know that some people actually feel this way. Sonja Norwood, mother of Brandy and Ray-J, even weighed in on the question for Essence last year.

My 14-year-old daughter has accused me, on many occasions (usually when being denied something she wants), of liking her little brother better, or loving him more. I would be lying if I said I never treated them differently. I never thought that saying applied to me, though, because I think that I treat each of my children in accordance with their particular needs. 

But a recent conversation with a woman I know gave me pause. My friend admitted that she does more for her son than her daughter “because he needs more from me.” She asserted that her girl is more self-sufficient, more reliable than her son, even though he is older, and that her son “needs her more.”

That may be true. But is it fair?

Maybe girls are just more responsible than boys, period. My daughter is more responsible than my son, but I assumed it was mostly due to their age difference. My daughter is almost 5 years older than my son. She’ll be a freshman in high school in the fall, and he’ll just be entering 5th grade.

Truthfully, my daughter was more responsible at 10 than my son is now. For instance, at 10, my daughter started riding the public bus to school by herself. She had paid close attention to how we got from point A to point B on the buses and subways. She didn’t need instructions on how to get to school. She needed instruction on how to avoid trouble on the bus. I told her, “Sit near an older black lady, in the front. She’ll make sure nobody messes with you.”

My son, however, freaked out the one time I thought I would have to put him on the public bus to go to school. His school bus didn’t show up, and I couldn’t take him to school because I had an early morning meeting. It’s a straight shot from our house to his school on the nearest MTA bus, just as it was for my daughter. I told him all of this.

He cried.

“I’m not ready!” he shrieked. I sent him to school in a taxi instead.

Because my daughter is more responsible than her brother, I expect her to be responsible all the time. When she’s irresponsible, I get angry because “she should know better!” When my son is irresponsible, I chalk it up to his immaturity. When my daughter is petulant, whiny, tantrum-prone and defiant, I can’t stand it. When my son acts that way – well, he’s still a little boy. My daughter feels and deeply resents the difference.

My daughter says I “baby” my son and that I “forced” her to do more at his age than I force her to do. I deny it. But maybe it’s true. I admit I sometimes forget she’s still a kid. Or that I, too, can be petulant, whiny, pouty and tantrum-prone. Maybe my standards for her are a little higher than they are for him. That’s a balance I need to evaluate and correct if necesary.

I don’t think I “raise” my daughter and “love” my son. I do make distinctions between them based on their age, what I perceive to be their respective level of maturity, and their personalities. I think it would be unfair if I did anything else.

I check myself to make sure I give them equal time and affection. And as my son approaches his 10th birthday, I am giving him more responsibilities, such as household chores. He is fast approaching his teens, and I know it’s time to stop treating him like the baby of the family.

Still, I suspect there always will be an imbalance of some sort. Imbalance doesn’t have to mean unequal or unfair. The burden is on me to make sure that even if I’m not treating them the same, that I am nonetheless being fair.

16 thoughts on “Do Black Mothers Raise Daughters, Love Sons?

  1. My daughter could make a sandwich at 2 (she’s not 14). I’m still wiping my son’s butt at 5…I don’t trust that he’ll do it well. Everything you wrote above I totally co-sign. And I’m starting to think it’s less about age that it is about gender. A dear friend also has a boy & a girl. Her son is OLDER and does less, lacks maturity, and his sister has been asked several times to help him prepare dinner & help wash HIS clothes.

    *sigh* I’m not sure what the answers are or if there is a better way. I do agree that we can only do our best to make sure we’re as fair as possible raising & loving them both.


  2. What an interesting topic. I only have one, she’s a girl, and she’s under 2, so I can’t comment from personal experience. But I do wonder whether this is a case of children rising to meet our expectations, and whether we expect more from our girls; whether we “see” maturity and capabilities that may or may not be there, while failing to “see” it in our boys. This is worrisome, as we know we raise girls to disproportionately shoulder household and childrearing duties as adults. At the same time, research continually affirms that girls mature faster than boys, although I wonder how much of that is what we put on them in response to earlier verbal competency.


  3. Some researchers (including myself) are starting to hypothesize that this difference in parenting between black girls and boys is contributing to the differences in academic attainment between black women and black men. In fact, with the high divorce rates and more children being parented by mothers alone, I think it can cut across racial line – boys are starting to fall behind girls in academic attainment in many areas, or girls are at least starting to achieve parity in some communities. There are so many anecdotal examples of children from the same family in which the girls are high achievers and the boys are not. Similarly, there are so many anecdotal examples of black sisters that, even as adults, complain about how their brothers had an easier childhood, with less rules, less responsibilities, and less accountability, than they. We restrict girls’ bodies more than we do boys’; this protection that we exert may lead to girls being less likely to succumb to peer pressure than boys. It also leads to girls getting into less “trouble” than boys, and having more “focus” than boys. While I think we do have to tailor our parenting to our child’s personalities, I am trying to be aware of having the same expectations and rules and restrictions for both of my children, according to their age, a boy and a girl, who are only 18 months apart. I actually now explicitly require more of my son, who is 5, than I do of my daughter, who is 3.5. I plan to keep that up as long as possible in order to reverse this trend of “loving” the son and “raising” the daughter.


    1. I love your comment! I was just having this conversation with a friend of boys not being raised as men and that to me is why marriage isn’t as strong. Women are raising whole families while men are finding themselves.


  4. I feel my mom does thus because she was (and still) just raising a son and not a future husband. To me people don’t raise husbands they raise boys. I don’t think it’s was on purpose it started seeming black men had so much to deal with as adults that maybe they shouldn’t have as much responsibility as boys. Great blog, great subject


  5. That was an enjoyable read and definitely reflects how I sometimes felt about my younger brother when we were growing up. There’s a similar 5 year age difference between us and I used to think he got perks and privileges that I (and my younger sister) did not both because he was the baby and the only boy of the family.


  6. So interesting. I’m from SC, one of 4 girls with a younger brother still at home. I can say without a doubt that I don’t even recognize my mother when it comes to how she is raising him. At 16, he has yet to wash a dish or do laundry. I remember standing in a chair to wash dishes and rinsing my younger sister’s cloth diapers (she’s 4 years younger than 8). Momd doesn’t think lil bro will do a good job. My sisters and I warn her all the time that he’ll never be able to leave her.


  7. Yes they do love their sons and raise their daughter but in my case I was tolerated. Being the oldest girl out 5 boys and 2 girls, household chores fell upon me because my mother had other things to do. The washing, folding , ironing of clothes, mopping and waxing floors, dusting and cleaning shelves. And out of 5 boys their only chore was to take out the garbage and they did not want to do that without being made to do it. Then they (brothers) grew up and left her. I grew up angry, bitter and not so nice. Cannot remember a I love you, a hug, a kiss, or a touch unless that touch was over and over when she was beating the hell out of me. Some Black mothers love their child/children unconditionally then you have my mother evil, evil and just plain mean to me that is however, I love my 2 girls that I raised and loved at the same time.


  8. The main problem with your story is its self fulfilling. Maybe girls are more responsible, you reason? No, maybe the difference between your son and daughter is a result of your own perception on which you acted upon and of course there will be a difference.


    1. Thanks for your comment, but no. I perceived my daughter as being more responsible and mature because she was – and is. Responsible parents meet their kids where they are.


      1. Hi Carolyn,

        Please listen to your daughter and ‘hear’ her. Sometimes children hold deep-seated emotions that we do not want to share with parents, especially if that parent was/is your world. The statements that she shares with you may run deeper than you know.

        It’s just my opinion but I really think that you should consider holding your children up to the same standards. The mere fact that you created this post shows that you care and are able to self-evaluate – Please think about the kind of adults that you are creating and continue to strengthen them on their path.

        I wish you and your family all the best.


  9. clearly you only hear what you want and because of this attitude this stuff will continue ,,,
    ” because she was and is” ….its all you …you have a negative view of the abilities of the black male and you transfer this to your son I grew up with five sisters i was the only son any independence was frowned on in childhood i was never called by my proper name only by a very humiliating nickname…It was like i was being oppressed I feel as though
    black women refuse to raise there sons to be the kind of men they would want to marry only to give him away to some other woman …very selfish I am hurt ….


  10. I believe that women are very powerful in the sense that your role as mother gives you the ability to shape and mold lives, your children are your clay, no one can take that ability from you.
    It is one of the powers that come with being a woman each woman has the ability to create a nation. what kind of nation she creates depends on how she molds her child she can instill confidence, encourage creativity, inspire success what ever you choose to raise your child to believe that’s what they will believe without a doubt ..the strongest and most powerful nations have the strongest and most powerful mothers who are not afraid to dare the sons to dream the impossible to inspire them to be the best at all times regardless of the opposition these women know the power they have and they are not afraid to use it to better there people and there nations ………”the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world”


  11. I think all women regardless of skin color need to raise their sons to be responsible and that means giving them responsibilities as soon as they are old enough to have chores. I have a daughter who is ten and a son who is five. My husband and I give both of our children responsibilities. I adore both my children and there is no way that I want my daughter growing up resentful just because I allowed her brother to get away with stuff or grow up lazy. I refuse to raise a lazy son. It will not help him in the future. Hear your daughter out. They are her feelings and her feelings may be valid.


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