Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jolted and startled

The Daily Mail ran a story a little while ago about a woman, Sharon Parsons, who had come to terms with being childless. What did Sharon Parsons think she had missed out on? I thought her answer interesting:

Yet, it seems to me that those with a family often have more tangible stages punctuating their lives: there's the day they become parents; later, they may become grandparents; and inbetween there are all the defining events that will be remembered and celebrated, such as the one my friend was enjoying so much, the marriage of her child.

Perhaps, in a few years, she will also see the birth of her first grandchild and another chapter of that particular family's life will begin as their lineage continues onward into the future. It's something people like me will never know.

And that - for me, at least - is a jolting part of being childless. However pretentious it may sound, there's the startling fact that my husband and I have severed the thread in our personal ancestry (unless, of course, he should decide to run off with a fertile 20-something).

Despite our respective nephews and nieces taking up the family baton, he and I know that we are not passing anything of ourselves on to future generations.

After an infinite genealogical timeline - impossible to imagine - we have drawn the mark in the sand. Enough. No more. Our bloodline stops here.

What Sharon Parsons is doing here is recognising a good that is not the usual liberal one of autonomy. In fact, she is recognising that she does not exist merely as an autonomous individual, but as part of a family lineage that extends back through countless generations. She finds it startling to be faced with the loss of this lineage "after an infinite genealogical timeline". Ancestral connections do matter to her.

And how did she come to be childless? The usual way for a woman of her generation. She had always wanted to have children:

I always wanted and assumed I'd have a brood of my own. I grew up imagining an idyllic family life and, naturally, I only ever thought about the special times - playing with my children on a sunny beach, seeing them set off on their first day at school, celebrating birthdays and Christmas down the years.

My offspring would - of course! - be beautiful, well-behaved and clever, and would grow up to become happy, well-adjusted and brilliant young adults with fulfilling careers and eventually wonderful children of their own.

But she bought into the idea that a woman's 20s should be devoted to a single girl lifestyle and that family could be deferred until her 30s:

I spent my 20s having a fabulous time and building a career. But I spent my 30s - when I thought babies would surely be the next thing to come along, especially as all my friends were reproducing - slowly coming to terms with the fact motherhood simply wasn't my God-given right.

The deferral of parenthood till some time in your 30s does increase the risk of either not being able to have children or limiting your choice of family size. It would be better for our culture if we shifted back to the idea of marrying and having children, or at least beginning the process, whilst we are still in our 20s.

(To forestall some criticisms here, I do understand that there are people who want to do this but who find it difficult to meet someone, particularly within the current culture of relationships.)

25 comments:

  1. If we are ever to get back to replacement fertility levels, women will need to be starting their families in their '20s, not '30s.

    If we don't get back to replacement fertility, we will go extinct, so the point eventually becomes moot.

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  2. That is a sad story, but a typical one. We really have to make "early" marriage a cultural norm again, and stress the fact that fertility is not infinite. The media's obsession with late-marrying and late-bearing women has skewed public opinion in the wrong direction. I myself was not aware of the rapid decline in female fertility until I read What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us.

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  3. When you consider that biologically we are programmed to reproduce and continue our family lines you really begin to see just how insidious [and powerful] the economic and cultural barriers to childbearing have become.

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  4. If you want to see fertility rates go up the best thing to do is encourage men to have children on their own using IVF and surrogate mothers from places like the Rotunda Clinic in India. By whatever metric you wish to use increasing numbers of women are becoming seriously unsuitable for being mothers (or even wives). If we want to stop the death spiral of falling fertility rates, women have to be completely bypassed and ignored.

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  5. "To forestall some criticisms here...there are people who want to do this but who find it difficult to meet someone"

    Ha!

    You mean once they got off the "carousel" they found out there was no one left.

    Its funny I know several chicks who would marry me at the drop of a hat but 10 years ago wouldn't even look sideways at me.

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  6. the best thing to do is encourage men to have children on their own

    Can't agree with you there. It's best for children to have both a father and a mother.

    I doubt too if many men would really want to go ahead with parenthood outside of a relationship with a woman.

    Even in this feminist age, when women are told over and over that they don't need men, there are still many women who won't embark on motherhood outside of a stable relationship with a man.

    There is no option but to try to fix the broken relationship between men and women.

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  7. Mark,

    I wanted to thank you publicly for your encouragement for traditionalist marriage-minded men and this thread seems like the place to do it. Your advice, to find a kind-hearted woman who doesn't care about politics and convince her to abandon feminism and live in a traditional way, has been working wonderfully for me. The woman I'm courting is actually almost smug that I cared enough about her to insist that she accept a more-traditional lifestyle. Maybe I'll join you soon in raising the next generation of traditionalists.

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  8. I think most people harbor an urge to have children, but single parenthood isn't really "the dream", is it?

    It's best for children to have both a father and a mother.

    It shows how bizarre our world has now become that you should need to point that out to someone.

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  9. John,

    Great to hear that things are working out well. And thanks for writing in with such positive news.

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  10. Anonymous
    If you want to see fertility rates go up the best thing to do is encourage men to have children on their own using IVF and surrogate mothers from places like the Rotunda Clinic in India.

    I cannot agree with this for a variety of reasons. First, trying to counter the unmarried mother with the unmarried father is doomed from the start, 40 years of research and centuries of experience tell me that a single person raising a child is at a huge disadvantage over a bonded pair consisting of one man and one woman.

    Second, the cost will not be so trivial as many MRA's fantasize, so the numbers will remain tiny in comparison to the marching army of single women with their bastard child(ren).

    Third, the enactment of IMBRA tells me that if any significant number of men actually started doing this, the feminists and their white-knight errand boys would outlaw the procedure to the fullest of their ability, and they'd do it "for the children" of course.

    Subversion of women away from feminism via Game remains a more reliable method. And Alte is correct that the current fascination with 30-something women bearing children is just self defeating; for every success story (and I personally know several) there are unknown numbers of women who simply could not conceive at that late date (and I know some of those, too).

    My father was 28 and mother 24 when they married. This was considered a bit old by some family, but there was this Depression going on...

    That's not a bad age. Even 30 and 25 is reasonable. But a woman who puts off attempting pregnancy until after 30 is looking for trouble. I suspect the increase in C-section births in the US directly correlates with increasingly older mothers.

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  11. Widespread single fatherhood isn't ideal but it's better than all of the alternatives. Women have become a lost cause. They want nothing except to take back to the African savannah as hunter gatherers. I want no part of that and if you're smart you don't either.

    It's getting impossible to find any good women under the age of 50 (outside of extreme exceptions like the Amish). That means women under the age of 50 aren't fit to be wives and the really aren't fit to be mothers.

    I know you people will point out again that single parenthood is worse that coupled parenthood but that assumes a minimal quality of woman that no longer exists. There's a reason that before WWI the father got the kids in a divorce. If coupled parenthood wasn't possible, the next best option was single fatherhood.

    Face it. Only widespread single fatherhood is going to save civilization unless you want the Muslims taking over.

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  12. "Widespread single fatherhood isn't ideal but it's better than all of the alternatives... Only widespread single fatherhood is going to save civilization unless you want the Muslims taking over."

    If I'm going to wish for, advocate, and support something "impossible", then that something will not be widespread single fatherhood but a return to traditional monogamous marriage.

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  13. Subversion of women away from feminism via Game remains a more reliable method.

    I should mention that I've been intentionally applying some Game insights in my campaign to do just that.

    It's working, but only because I'm also a devout Christian and insisting on chastity. Without that moral rigor, Game wouldn't have been enough to convince her to give up the autonomy of feminism because she wouldn't have been able to trust me.

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  14. John Lockhard said,

    "It's working, but only because I'm also a devout Christian and insisting on chastity. Without that moral rigor, Game wouldn't have been enough to convince her to give up the autonomy of feminism because she wouldn't have been able to trust me."

    I think that's a very good insight.

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  15. Without that moral rigor, Game wouldn't have been enough to convince her to give up the autonomy of feminism because she wouldn't have been able to trust me.

    Self-control is very attractive, I think; very masculine and slightly intimidating. It also makes you seem like more of a prize, as most women aren't used to a man being "hard to get". It's a qualifier, and makes you seem more discerning.

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  16. That's true Alte, but I think the essence of the post was that the woman thought she could trust the man, not merely that we was strong or powerful. Trust surely is an element for successful relationships.

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  17. not merely that we was strong or powerful

    Yes, I know. I was just putting a "girly spin" on it, and pointing out the message it sends.

    Emotional strength and integrity on the part of the man make women feel safe, hence trust. So, when a man exhibits sexual continence, he's signaling that he can be trusted because he is strong. That makes him seem more valuable to her, despite the fact that he's rejecting her sexual advances. He's setting up and maintaining boundaries, which designates him as leader and makes her more confident that he won't abandon or betray her later.

    At least, that is how it seems to me.

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  18. Just a note of caution, here.

    A man who shows strong convictions that he leads with might well impress women. This can sometimes work for religious men, I think.

    But I doubt if male chastity, in itself, is something that you can impress women with.

    Women, after all, are influenced by preselection. A man who is popular with other women is demonstrating social value.

    In a culture in which sexual incontinence is regarded as weak and as signalling low social value (i.e. Western culture pre-WWI) things might be different.

    In today's culture, though, I'd be more inclined to find ways to signal my popularity with other women (but obviously without destroying trust).

    When I met my wife, I was in a small conversation circle recounting some of the bolder things I did during my time at university. My wife was competitively flirting with me with another woman - lots of hair twirling, smiling, laughing at jokes etc.

    That was an ideal scenario for being put in the right category in my wife's mind. Another quite attractive woman was interested and my future wife had to compete for my attention. Preselection.

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  19. Has anyone seen the movie War of the Roses? That movie is kind of my worst nightmare. The guy meets the girl, they like each other and marry. He then goes on to single mindedly devote himself to the advancement of his career, something he said from the outside that he would do, and in doing so generally neglects his wife. He is successful and the family is quite prosperous but the wife gradually is unsatisfied being an appendage of her husbands life.

    The man loves his wife, but he generally takes her for granted and is insensitive to her. This is not at all untypical for men. As she starts to develop her skills and independence and is less preoccupied with family and other activates, her resentment of her husband becomes open and she sues for divorce totally taking him by surprise.

    The husband didn't cheat on her, he was a competent family man and loved her, this being evidenced by his upset at the prospect of losing her. Nonetheless he generally wasn't tuned into her, took her for granted and his belated appreciation wasn't enough for his wife who only wanted to get away and develop her own life.

    The man was able to be successful in his career because he was able to give it single minded attention. If he spent more time on his family and wife he undoubtedly would have been less successful. The wife was talented and generally felt unfulfilled in her life as wife and mother and resented having little say in how her life was turning out.

    Today men are no longer taken by surprise if the woman is unhappy. The historic divorce whammy was a product of the baby boomer generation and now we're all very conscious of it. So what kind of woman should a similar husband of today marry? Someone who is happy with relatively little attention from their spouse? Alternatively he could develop more as a partner and husband and be more appreciative of his wife. That would be great but surely that focus would take away from his making a success of his career. We all benefit from the existence of successful career men, not just the man in question.

    This seems like a historically difficult situation to resolve. If women take up very much more time from men we have the prospect of mediocrity in the workplace and also men appearing less purposeful and hence less attractive to women. We also have the prospect of men who feel highly uncertain. Recent efforts such as Game have been put forward as ways to explain female behavior and give guidance to men, nonetheless if you ask me its a demanding formula.

    It just seems today that we’re required to be good at everything and I’m not sure if that’s really a realistic prospect.

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  20. Mark, Jesse, Alte, I agree with all your comments. Chastity by itself won't create attraction. Added to the Game elements that do, it makes the man more of a prize as a mate. That gives him the leverage to say, "I'm open to the idea of commitment, but only on the condition you abandon your feminist ideas. Why don't you consider my traditionalist ideas?" Then the trust makes it possible for her to trade feminist isolated autonomy for the mutually complementary traditional roles.

    The same strategy failed with another woman a year ago. She was more political, so more attached to feminist autonomy, and didn't find me as attractive as a mate, so I had less leverage.

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  21. If you say to your mate, I live according to a set of standards so you can predict my future behavior off that, and presuming she's happy with that, that will surely create trust. If you live your life according to far more flexible standards how can you really trust each other? I love you until its more convenient for me to not to anymore?

    Assuming the feminist in a relationship isn't the one wearing the pants, if so she sets the tone for the relationship, how can she be happy with a male dominated relationship? If he's attractive there must be the fear that he'll leave. If he's less attractive there must be a certain sense of frustration. Behind all of that is a certain suspicion of men. It seems to me to be tenuous.

    I don’t really think that a general social resignation that most people will marry more than once is much of a solution. Although it is probably not entirely unfunctional.

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  22. Jesse,

    You've described a significant dilemma within marriage exceptionally well.

    It's true that women, even ordinary non-feminist women, will place contradictory demands on men.

    On the one hand, they are attracted to the ambitious, extroverted, ego-driven types of men who are likely to pursue material success.

    On the other hand, they want men who are sensitive to the relationship not only with themselves but also with the children.

    One of the few divorced women I know (I think the only one), married an ambitious guy who did very well financially. But she got so frustrated with the lack of attention that she set his newspaper on fire at the dinner table.

    How do we resolve the dilemma? One problem is that it's not good for men to focus on career alone. Yes, it might help the economy a bit. But it also creates unhappy families; because fathers stand in for the larger society, children who feel neglected seem to rebel and become Marxists and feminists etc.

    Fathers have an important role in modeling good marital relationships and socialising their children. We need them to be more than careerists.

    So we need a working culture that allows for professional men to have a home life.

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  23. That's true, Mark. Male chastity itself is neutral. It's more that chastity, in our sex-saturated environment, points to an unusual amount of self-control. Of course, he's only displaying self-restraint if he could have sex with other women, but doesn't. Sort of like men who eschew pornography, who are considered "higher value" by more conservative women.

    In a culture in which sexual incontinence is regarded as weak and as signaling low social value things might be different.

    Although things are already moving that way, in the younger generation. They've been doing surveys of college students and the women are becoming increasingly negatively biased to "players" and PUAs (FB wrote a good post on it). Such men are a-dime-a-dozen now, so it's not much of an accomplishment to get pumped-and-dumped by one. Women used to dream that they'd end up in a LTR with a player, but only the stupidest or most naive women still believe that.

    I think women desire sex with players, but they don't actually want to spend a lot of time with them. They're desirable, but usually not particularly fun to hang around with, and they always end up making you miserable. They're cheap and materialistic, they show up late or cancel at the last minute, they're constantly fiddling with their stupid cell-phones or rushing off to answer a call, flirting with other women, etc. A lot of them aren't very intelligent or interesting conversationalists, either.

    But the way the social scene is set up now, women can LJBF the guys they actually like spending time with (when they're not ovulating), while having sex with the players (when they're ovulating). It's like Female Heaven out there, until she hits 35 and the game is over. By then the LJBF guys have given up on her and married someone else, and the players are gaming someone younger.

    The first time I saw my husband, he was dancing with another woman (a friend, but I didn't know that). I noticed him because of his red hair, and then I thought, "He is way too good for her. I can't believe he's with her!" LOL. Competition.

    I tried to LJBF my husband (shit test, I suppose) and he just blew me off. We'd see each other at parties and he'd talk to me, but was always sort of aloof and would wander off after a bit. It drove me absolutely nuts! Finally, I broke down and asked him out.

    But she got so frustrated with the lack of attention that she set his newspaper on fire at the dinner table.

    That's awful, but sort of funny. My mother feels like that sometimes, I think. My father is a total workaholic, and she acts up to get his attention.

    So we need a working culture that allows for professional men to have a home life.

    Yes, that was one of the things the German ministerin was lamenting; the Face Time culture. My husband is very ambitious, but he works a lot from home, after the kids are in bed or on the weekend.

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  24. Of course, he's only displaying self-restraint if he could have sex with other women, but doesn't.

    Yes, that's what I was trying to get at.

    As for spending time with the family, my wife and I made a rule early on in the marriage that Sunday would be kept free as a family day and that we'd go out and do things together.

    I also try to spend at least an hour with my son when I get home from work. If I have work to catch up on, I'll do it after he's gone to bed.

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