thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: parenting

yearning

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130403071957.htm

“There is very little research on the desire for fatherhood among men,” Mr Hadley said. “My work shows that there was a similar level of desire for parenthood among childless men and women in the survey, and that men had higher levels of anger, depression, sadness, jealousy and isolation than women and similar level of yearning.

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hedging

http://www.alternet.org/economy/marriage-becoming-luxury-rich

In short, a full explanation cannot look at the family in isolation from economic forces. Any attempt to respond to family change must include reconstruction of the script for the college educated, prompting investment in careers and marriages that can withstand the stresses of career changes, children’s illness, and geographic mobility.

[…]

At the top, increasing disparities among men and among women have made both pickier about potential mates and wary of early commitments that might limit future opportunities. Women used to “shop around” for successful men. Male executives used to marry their secretaries, who would take care of them at home the way they did in the office. Now both look for mates who reflect (and enhance) their own expectations about the ability to enjoy the good life. Two substantial incomes rather than one make the difference between the home overlooking the golf course and the modest tract house in the less tony school district, and even if money is not at issue, the stay-at-home spouse with the Ph.D. possesses much more social status than does a high school graduate playing the same domestic role.

College graduates still largely forge lasting relationships and they typically will do so with one another, but they hedge their bets by delaying marriage and childbearing until they have a better idea of where they (and the partners to whom they commit) are likely to end up—concentrating elite advantage in the process as overwhelming numbers of them raise their children in financially secure, two-parent families.

[…]

These economic changes, which have increased the dominance of high-income men at the top, marginalized a large number of men at the bottom, and reduced the number of men in the middle, have unsettled the foundations of family life. To be sure, the family does not change with the stock market ticker or the seasonal adjustments in the unemployment rate. Instead, shifts in the economy change the way men and women match up, and, over time, they alter young people’s expectations about each other and about their prospects in newly reconstituted marriage markets. These expectations go to the core of what many see as a shift in values. The ambitious college students, who are said to have mastered the “hookup,” know that attending to their studies pays off in terms of both marriage and career prospects and that too early a commitment to a partner or to childbearing may derail both. Yet, they still largely believe that when they are ready, a suitable partner—male, female, or the product of a sperm bank—will be there for them.

Women who do not graduate from college are more likely to see childbearing as the event that will most give meaning to their lives, and they are more likely to respond to experiences with unreliable and unfaithful partners by giving up on men and investing in themselves and their children. These differing expectations, treated as the subject of moral failings, women’s liberation, and cultural clashes, are a predictable consequence of the remaking of marriage markets. At the top, there are more successful men seeking to pair with a smaller pool of similarly successful women. In the middle and the bottom, there are more competent and stable women seeking to pair with a shrinking pool of reliable men. What we are watching as the shift in marriage markets rewrites family scripts and increases gender distrust is the re-creation of class—of harder edged boundaries that separate the winners and losers in the new American economy.

the sniveling

This passage perfectly encapsulates how I felt during my last dispiriting period on the job market, before I returned to my profession:

My parents… generation has watched the social infrastructure they painstakingly helped to build being dismantled and sold off, while at the same time having to rescue their offspring who cannot get an economic foothold. Even in our mid to late thirties, my partner and I are chronically financially insecure, always on the verge of packing up and moving back to our parental homes.

Bringing up a family on a modest income, improvising and making do, work was then a source of pride and stability, a solid base on which to build. Now, for us, the pressure of precarity demands a new sort of virtuosity and a different outlook… Work is no longer a secure base, but rather a source of anxiety and indignity, both a matter of life and death and utterly meaningless, overwhelming and yet so insubstantial it could run through our fingers. It is normal to feel under threat and undervalued, to feel snivellingly grateful to have a job, any job. We must be sure not to take work for granted and yet be willing to be taken for granted ourselves. We endure a similar level of “making do”, but without the home or kids, and without the security of regular employment. We can barely live independently now. How will we be able to bring up children, or support them in similar circumstances? The future is no longer something to look forward to, but something to dread.

Again, from my family I inherited no world-shaking political beliefs, just a desire to be part of a community, to do a useful job which was not driven by private profit and to cultivate outside interests rather than be defined by a 24/7 career. Such an attitude, far from being revolutionary, used to be the norm, even a non-attitude. But now the tide has come in, and anyone with such eccentric ideas finds themselves stranded way out to sea on a sandbank with the waves lapping at their feet and the vultures circling above. By maintaining the same moderate position we have become radicals by default. Smiling swimmers beckon toward us (“Come on in, the water’s lovely!”), but we know that we are in a contradictory no-win situation: our future survival depends upon immersing ourselves from head to toe in an ideology which we know is poisonous.

— Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia, pp. 76-77

the crew

http://www.salon.com/2014/05/24/millennials_are_just_this_screwed_the_next_generation_will_not_do_as_well_as_their_parents/

Reardon’s description matches up with what we have been describing throughout this book. The new upper-middle-class model has enormous payoffs for children—payoffs that re-create class identity. Upper-middle-class parents are more likely to raise children within two-parent families, and both mothers and fathers spend more time with their children than their parents did. These well-off parents, who spend substantial sums on cleaning crews and energy-efficient washers and dryers, devote increasing amounts of their own time and that of carefully selected high-quality nannies, preschool teachers, tutors, sports trainers, and camp counselors to creating activities that stimulate their children’s cognitive environment. Well-off families have remade the use of parental energies to invest ever more in children even with two parents in the workforce.

bored games

http://theroadlesstravelledlb.blogspot.ca/2008/03/do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-200.html

The thing is — the structure of our lives may not have changed very much. But the point is, we wanted it to change. We were ready for it to change. We had established our careers, bought a house in suburbia & gotten a start on paying down the mortgage. We did the “DINKs in the city” thing. We were ready to embrace 2 a.m. feedings & sippy cups. We were ready to turn the spotlight over to a new generation, to have the world revolve around someone else besides ourselves for a change.

And yet here we are, stuck back in the land of the eternally childless/free, while everyone around us is moving on, skipping happily off down the yellow brick road of family life, picking up one child after another along the way, sharing new kinds of experiences with other parents — and not giving those of us left behind much thought. (I keep thinking of Monopoly: “Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.” Sitting in “jail” & waiting out a turn, while everyone else advances around the board & gets richer.)

heavy lifting

Women aged 35 to 44 have the worst work-life balance, but those who are carers for both children and others fare worst of all.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/families-paying-the-price-of-a-new-financial-order-20140517-38gon.html#ixzz32553w0Ob

excuses

http://nycyclist.kinja.com/men-stop-using-this-excuse-for-why-you-dont-date-wome-1489185452

Sorry, bro, but you’re running out of excuses for your ageist misogyny. If fertility issues and birth defects were that much of a concern for your family planning, you would have discovered early on in your Google search that your biological clock is ticking, too.

Furthermore, if society were as hung up on avoiding infertility and birth defects as it claims to be, there would be just as much of an uproar over men delaying parenthood as there is for women. But alas, we’re so accustomed to holding women responsible for all aspects of family planning that there’s no room for new information challenging our conventional wisdom.

There are a whole host of reasons men may seek to settle down with significantly younger women: being insecure, Peter Pan Syndrome, wanting someone who’s easier to control, being disgusted by signs of aging that you yourself have…

the browsers

For once, men are told that they can be too picky (although admittedly the writer makes the single life sound a bit enviable):

http://www.jcoach.com/2011/01/too-old-to-play/

The time you’re wasting now chasing women beyond your reach and dreaming of the perfect woman who fulfills every single criteria you’ve fantasized about is precious time you could be using to build a family with a great women…NOW. No, no, no I’m not telling you to marry a woman who you aren’t attracted to and have absolutely no connection with. Seriously, you mean to tell me that you haven’t been attracted to any of the women you dated in the last few years (if that’s the case you might have bigger issues to deal with)? But she didn’t exactly fit what you feel you need…something just wasn’t there…I know the drill.

the flourishing

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/05/opinion/sunday/bye-bye-baby.html?_r=3

Why do commentators, like Chicken Little, treat this worldwide trend as a disaster, even collective suicide? It could be because declines in fertility rates stir anxieties about power: national, military and economic, as well as sexual. Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian classic “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and the Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 film “Children of Men,” based on the P. D. James novel, are among the more artful expressions of this anxiety.

In reality, slower population growth creates enormous possibilities for human flourishing. In an era of irreversible climate change and the lingering threat from nuclear weapons, it is simply not the case that population equals power, as so many leaders have believed throughout history. Lower fertility isn’t entirely a function of rising prosperity and secularism; it is nearly universal.

I have often wondered why there’s so much pressure to have kids when our schools are crumbling:

The fewer children who need primary and secondary education, the more resources there are that can be invested in higher-quality education per child — especially crucial for younger children — and in expanding access to higher and continuing education for teenagers and young adults.

And when jobs are scarce:

It’s true that in the United States — the world’s largest economy for more than a century — younger workers face significant employment and career problems, which may partly be because of older workers’ holding on to their jobs. The labor-force participation rate among older workers, especially older men, has increased over the last decade (but represents only a recent reversal). Indeed, the uptick may have something to do with improved health and productivity of older workers; the rise of service industries and the decline of manual-labor occupations; gradual but small increases in the Social Security retirement age; and the destructive effects of the financial crisis on the housing and retirement assets of many baby boomers. One cannot extrapolate a long-term trend from the last six years.

tweenhood

http://www.thespec.com/news-story/4323295-infertility-the-longest-journey/

On the other side of the story is the emotional turbulence that shook me to my core.

I wish I could tell you that I faced adversity with a brave smile, that I refused to let fear, anger and self-pity get a foothold. Instead, I felt more like a person under a dark spell — like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, craving and despising that one precious thing, losing myself in order to find it.

I coped by avoiding. I stopped going to baby showers. I stopped holding babies. I stopped looking at babies passing in strollers. I stopped watching TV diaper commercials and shows where anyone was having a baby. I stopped going to any sort of gathering where someone might ask if I had or wanted kids.

I stopped feeling happy for people who became pregnant. When my older brother e-mailed to say his wife was pregnant with their second child, I burst into tears — first of sadness, then of shame.

I began to think of myself as an “underdeveloped woman,” like a tween girl wondering when she’ll hit puberty like the rest of the gals.

I couldn’t break into that club of women who define their femininity by their power to create, to endure the throes of childbirth, to nurture.

The negativity had accumulated to the point where, as much as I wanted a baby of my own, the mere mention of them had become intolerable.

[…]

At a recent retirement party for one of the nurse practitioners at his Hamilton office, Dr. Stopps — who has worked with thousands of prospective parents over the past 38 years — admitted to me that the one thing he doesn’t understand is the persistence.

Why do people keep trying? Why do they put themselves through so much?

My answer: It’s more than wanting a baby. It’s wanting to fit in, wanting to graduate through the stages of life, wanting to fulfil the dreams of marriage and family, wanting some piece of yourself to remain after your death.