Friday, June 27, 2008

Have children now! (by Suzie)

       I had an arranged marriage. By 30, I had had a random sampling of the male population, and I was ready to settle on one. The man I was dating had a lot of good qualities for a husband, and so, I proceeded as if marriage could be arranged like a mortgage.
       We got a mortgage and lived together for a year before marriage. After the wedding, perhaps only a few minutes after the wedding, people began pressuring us to reproduce. I never wanted children, but everywhere I turned, I ran in to people wanting to know why, why, why!?
        My husband and I ended up divorcing, and in a sense, it may have been because we had not had children. It’s not that we disagreed on kids. If we had had kids, however, I think we would have stuck it out on their behalf. Would we have been better off? I don’t think so, but I have no way of predicting future outcomes by altering various past decisions.
         This topic has been on my mind since I got a news release promoting a parenting column by Alan Singer, a New Jersey family therapist. He tells parents to talk to their adult children, to URGE their children to marry instead of live together because that will increase their odds of staying together. Parents also should tell their children about all the physical risks of delaying conception and birth.
          In an earlier column, Singer acknowledges that “there is considerable research showing that marital satisfaction decreases with the arrival of each child,” but if couples know that, they can take steps to improve their marriage.
         Maybe it’s different in New Jersey. Where I’ve lived, however, there’s plenty of pressure to marry and reproduce. Nell also talked about this in recent comments.
         In lieu of Singer, I prefer what Amy Richards, author of “Opting In,” has to say. Laura Barcella notes that Richards addresses Sylvia Ann “Hewlett's controversial book 'Creating a Life,' and the backlash that surrounded her claims that 20- and 30-something women should ‘hurry up’ if they want to have kids.” Richards responds:
         Initially I misunderstood her to be saying that every [woman] should want to have babies, now. Then I reread it. What she was really saying was that if women want to have babies, they need to think about it sooner rather than later. I became more sympathetic [to Hewlett's message]. No one wants to use ART [Assisted Reproductive Technology] to have children; most want to have their own biological children. If that's what most women want, it's lying to tell them that it's safe to put it off until their late thirties/forties.
          … In their early thirties, women should be starting to ask themselves, "Do I want kids?" Know what your options are before you're in a vulnerable or desperate place.
ETA: See the comments for a response from Dr. Singer.