Binah (binah1013) wrote,

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I can so relate

The Pew Research Center just released a survey on American's views on marriage and its relation to parenthood, etc. Evidently some are clutching their pearls because children are no longer considered the primary reason for marriage. *shrug* As part of a happy marriage that considers our kitties as close to children as we ever want to get, this isn't news to me.

It seems I know more and more married women shying from the idea of children--though I do have a number of mommies on my flist. And good for them. Somebody needs to carry on the human race. Just not me. But I don't think even the mommies I know have expressed the opinion that marriage was all about children. Though I do know one mommy in RL that seems to be in an unhappy marriage, but loves her child to death. She lives for her daughter and talks about her all the time. It's striking because she never mentions her husband.

Some of my married but childless friends are women who when they were young, thought they would have children. And yet when it's time to make the decision to have them, they waver. But in any case, their wavering has nothing to do with their marriages, but rather imagining how to fit children into already hectic lives. For at least one of them, she's an A-type personality and a workaholic. I almost think kids would be good for her as a way to break her of her workaholicism, but I think her 10 year old step-daughter has turned her off having kids. Not that she has a bad relationship with the step-daughter, but I don't think she's always enjoyed being a part-time mommy for the last 6 years.

Extensive babysitting during my teen years taught me that I don't really enjoy children past the 3 hour mark. Cliff does enjoy children, but after he plays with his nephews and nieces (and grand nephews/nieces) he says he's glad the kids don't go home with him. I think he'd be a great dad, but alas, we're both in agreement on not having children issue.

From Salon's Broadsheet

Oh, horrors: Childless marriages, unwed cohabitation!

Grab a paper bag. This new survey of Americans' views on marriage could very well cause hyperventilation. The Pew Research Center survey's two biggest finds: Having kids is no longer seen as key to a successful marriage and younger, unwed couples are increasingly cohabitating.

The survey's findings failed to sound any alarm bells in my mind, but it seems to have successfully sent some into hysterics. And ... only agitated those already in hysterics over the current state of matrimony in America. For instance, the Associated Press quotes Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of Rutgers University's, ahem, National Marriage Project: "The popular culture is increasingly oriented to fulfilling the X-rated fantasies and desires of adults. Child-rearing values -- sacrifice, stability, dependability, maturity -- seem stale and musty by comparison." Wowza! In one fell swoop she manages to blame poor parenting on pop culture and sexuality.

Why the hand-wringing over the findings? The survey found that "children had fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of factors that people associate with successful marriages," reports the AP. In fact, sharing in household chores and having a satisfying sex life were seen as more essential than children to a good marriage. What's more, 65 percent of Americans say the purpose of marriage is "mutual happiness and fulfillment"; only 23 percent say it instead services the "bearing and raising of children."

None of this suggests that parenting has become a low priority in America. In fact, the survey found that nearly all parents rank their children as one of their greatest sources of happiness and fulfillment. And, interestingly, Americans list unwed parenthood as a major concern. What's changed is that adults expect marriage to be personally rewarding; most agree that divorce is preferable to sticking with an unhappy marriage. This doesn't spell the downfall of marriage, which, let's face it, isn't doing all that well. Instead, I'd argue Americans might be slowly edging toward a more realistic model for marital success. It's no longer viewed as a construction that merely facilitates raising children. As Dafoe Whitehead told the Washington Post: "Marriage and kids were kind of hyphenated before and now the hyphens have been removed."

It's a meaty survey, so I recommend taking a look at it yourself. It's interesting, too, to scan the headlines that ran with the various newspaper coverage of the survey; not only does it show the range of the findings, but the various media slants: "Cohabitation, Unwed Motherhood Soaring in Younger Generation," "To Be Happy in Marriage, Baby Carriage Not Required," and "Key to a Good Marriage? Share Housework."

-- Tracy Clark-Flory

Tags: children, marriage

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