Sunday, April 01, 2012

what is an ideal family anyway?

what does this graphic/photo signify to you?

this was the front page of our newspaper on friday. the headline says "career society's new ideal family" - and i "read" the photo as one of a filipino nanny seeing to the children and family dog, with absent parents.  but the article itself turned out to be far more cynical than that.

it seems that of the 5,149 fertility treatments in denmark in 2010, 3,249 were women who were not in a relationship with a man. that means 2/3 of the fertility treatments in this country are performed on single or lesbian women. 13% of these treatments result in a child, so some 400 children were born to single or lesbian mothers. the article didn't dig down into how many of these were in a lesbian relationship and how many were just women whose biological clock was ticking with no partner in sight. it also didn't include those who might have been inseminated abroad or without the help of a clinic. but the numbers are interesting.

leaving aside the question of lesbian couples who are having children (which i am totally cool with and which wasn't the focus of the article), it seems that there are increasing numbers of women in denmark who are choosing to have a child on their own. the article indicated that they are often well-established career women who simply feel they don't have time for career, relationship and children, so they are choosing children and career and making a conscious decision to forego a relationship with the child's father, or to even bother to find a father for their child other than in a test tube.

in fact, there are actually people selling coaching services and so-called decision workshops and donor sperm workshops and networking groups for this type of woman. it seems that for many of these women, their biggest worry isn't that the child will grow up without two parents, but that having a child will devalue them in the workplace. really? this is seriously the most cynical view on the world i've read in a long time. it frightens me to think of what the individualistic, me-me-me, egotistical way of living today is doing to our world. i realize this sounds rather anti-feminist of me, but i cannot believe that not a word of an article that stretched over two full pages of my newspaper, questioned whether or not it's the best thing for the child to grow up with a single parent? especially one that the article cites as particularly career-minded.

the good news is that today's workplace and way of working allows for a single parent model - no one in denmark (except foreigners) will look askance at you for leaving at 3 to pick up your child. it's assumed that you'll get back online in the evening and tend your mails after you've put the child to bed, so single mothers can make it work to have both career and child. both the technology and the view on work support this model.  and that undoubtedly helps two-parent families just as much, so i'm good with that.

however, the article actually says outright that many women are choosing to divorce because they feel they only have time for their child and their job, but not the husband. that way, they also can work very hard every other week, when the partner has the kids. according to one mercuri urval recruitment consultant interviewed for the article, employers look upon this type of dedicated-every-other-week employee very favorably.

i'm not sure whether the article was meant as a provocation, but i feel provoked by it. i'm not against anyone who has the means - economically and mentally - having children, whether they're in a relationship or not, but that the impact on the child itself is not even covered in the article provokes me. there wasn't a single reason to do so outlined in the article that wasn't incredibly self-absorbed on the part of the single woman.

i think having children is really hard. at times i'm overwhelmed by the sense of responsibility i feel and the energy it takes and the state of world we've brought our child into. i would definitely not want to be doing it on my own. but it's also extremely rewarding and some of my happiest moments are spent with the amazing child that we're raising. but again, i wouldn't want not to share that with her father. i just don't think it's meant to be something we do alone, for our own selfish reasons.

maybe i'm just not a feminist.


poet said...

This is thought-provoking indeed. On the one hand, I appreciate that they were apparently not mother-shaming (which is a term I just made up for something that happens a lot: whatever a mother does, she's making a mistake in the eyes of some substantial part of the public)... on the other hand it's really strange that the effect of a one-parent family on the child's healthy development. I recall reading somewhere that a one-parent family isn't necessarily bad for the child as long as it exists within a stable social network which provides additional primary caregiver persons / role models. However, I find it hard to believe that people who don't have time for a partnership have time for such a network. Might be wrong though!

Lost Star said...

I'm with you on the not understanding this mentality that it is OK and indeed, preferable to have a family, and a career, but without a partner (male or female).

It seems to me (having divorced parents) that it is always preferable to have an other half (biological parent or not) than to raise children alone. The support mechanism there must be valuable to both child and mother?

I respect those who do it, but how is it the right/preferable way? You can't just ship your children off to the partner so you get some quality work time. If you have children, as much as you love your career, surely they should come first? It just seems incredibly selfish and unhelpful to the child.

I don't think it is a matter of feminism. Women have the right to have children by whatever means they can. They have the right to do it alone. But surely, and this is what appears (from what you have said) to be overlooked in the article, that child must come first?

Lost Star said...

Opps. That first bit didn't come out quite right.

I wasn't referring to the idea of having children alone. That's cool. What I was referring to was your mention of women actively rejecting their partner in order to save the hassle of a relationship.

I hope this makes sense. I'm completely confusing even myself!

Spilling Ink said...

I think the main question in my mind is when did having a man in your life become too much hard work? I've not had the "best of luck" in relationships as my father likes to say but it seems that we're forgetting that it's a partnership. Is it women who are chosing not to have men in their lives or are men not willing to commit? I don't know.

Society has become very much about instant satisfaction and me-me-me. I'm raising my child on my own because of divorce and because her father has chosen to have nothing to do with her, and I would much rather not have to do it on my own.

I think we need relationships. I don't think there's anything anti-feminist about that saying that. To me it feels like the divide between men and women is getting bigger. I personally long for partnership. I personally think we need to focus on the fact that we belong to the same species, societies, world....

j. wilson said...

Goodness, food for thought. A whole lotta thought. As a person who has studied early development in children I agree that the impact on children raised without two parents is complicated. Coming from a single family household has me agreeing that there will be all sorts of interesting developmental and psychological issues that won't surface until the children reach adulthood. I think a lot of blame may happen. That said, I'm in the middle of writing out a blog post about water conservation that has me ranting more about the scary number of people there are on this planet. Resources are important and well, 7 billion plus people are gonna use 'em up sooner rather than later. And yes, I really wanted to have children, population growth or not but not being able to, I have to muddle through and squeeze out hugs from my friend's littles.

Veronica Roth said...

Have three children, 32, 30, 20. Had the best intensions with my partners, didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, ended up single parenting all three. I must say that I didn’t want interference with my parenting after a while and really resented other’s (probably well meant) noses in my business. Anyway, long story short, kids survived, thrived and are fantastic, kind, philanthropic world citizens. I suppose a story, or a criticism can be made out of anything. I criticised an acquaintance to my partner Robert this morning, and then quickly retracted my words and apologised. He is 76yrs old and has a 10yr old daughter. I thought that he probably should not have bred at 66, (albeit with a 45 yr old 3rd wife), knowing he may not live to see his child into her adult hood. I thought THAT was irresponsible parenting. Wretched of me. Who am I to say? Anyway, intersting insight Julie, thanks for the post.

julochka said...

just to be totally clear - i feel nothing but sympathy for people who end up a single parent through divorce or death or just a relationship not turning out as one planned. what i'm shocked at is the cynical, calculation that i found in this article...strategically divorcing to have more time at work is probably the worst of it for me. and the utter lack of thought for the child's wellbeing that was in the article - i'm not at all saying these women don't love the child they've chosen to have or that those kids won't turn out just fine. i think i find the odd mix of career, baby and relationship to be so egotistical and selfish that i just had to write this post to think it through.

otherwise, i totally admire the single parents i know - working hard to keep it all together and raise great kids. i just hope that's what these women are doing as well in reality and not just completing a picture of themselves that's in their head, or to make themselves appealing to an employer. because those don't seem like good reasons at all.

DahnStarr said...

Okay, I have all sorts of thoughts on this one but being selfish ... I'm off to my pottery class. Back later.