Dear Readers: On International Women’s Day, March 8, I answered a reader who has three boys and wants to add a girl to their family. Her husband is wary because, if they have another baby, it might be another boy. But his wife said that even if there is another boy, she will be happy and love him forever. I suggested that she go ahead and have another baby, and I added a comment that appalled some readers and made others cringe:

Dear Annie: The final sentence of your answer made my jaw drop. “Besides, if you get a fourth boy, you never know — maybe he will marry a wonderful woman who will take care of you and your husband in old age.”

What kind of sexist drivel is that? If you’re going to bring up the caretaking of elderly relatives, then why not suggest the writer nurture her relationships with the sons she already has? Why place responsibility for such a thing solely on their wives’ shoulders? Shame on you and your antiquated thinking, Annie. — Disgusted

Dear Annie: I cringed when I read the response to “Wife and Mommy.”

Surely women are of more value than simply becoming caretakers of a spouse’s elderly parents. That’s fine if any woman chooses it. It’s certainly caring and compassionate, but it seems as if it would be the son’s responsibility; a wife wouldn’t expect him to take care of her elderly parents. Besides, he would have three older brothers to help share the responsibility. Wouldn’t it be enough for any son to marry a woman who simply loves and enjoys her in-laws?

Irony is alive and well: The letter and your response were published on International Women’s Day. — Sigh

Dear Disgusted and Sigh: That was a stinker of an example I gave by suggesting that her future daughter-in-law become her caregiver, and I thank you for pointing that out. If I could rewrite that sentence, I would say, “Besides, if you get a fourth boy, you never know — maybe he will marry a wonderful woman who will make your lives immeasurably more fulfilling — through her love, creativity, leadership, professionalism and a hundred other positive qualities.”

Other readers offered a different suggestion for ensuring that they could have a fourth child and their first girl.

Dear Annie: I’m replying to your recent column from the mother of three boys who wants a daughter. Many years ago, I was in the same position.

I grew up with sisters and yearned for a daughter. I researched with my OB/GYN and read everything I could find on how to conceive a girl. I then saw an article about a woman who had 15 sons, and I knew I wasn’t willing to go that far! But I would look at parents with their daughters when I’d go shopping and ask God why he didn’t give me a little girl, too.

One day in church, our pastor reminded us that God gave us brains, hands and feet to make things happen. Immediately, I researched adoption in the U.S. and abroad. We ended up adopting a beautiful baby girl from another country. She has been spoiled by her brothers and us. I never once think of her as anything but mine. Adoption is a wonderful alternative! — Mom of Four

Dear Mom of Four: Thank you for your letter. You offer a wonderful suggestion.

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