Thursday, 27 November 2008

The role of parental advice in the avoidance of spinsterhood and illegitimate grandchildren

I know too many single women who never intended to be single but have found themselves, for one reason or another, without a man and unable to become a wife and mother.

A cartoon of a career woman saying: "Eeek! I forgot to have children!" is telling, funny and sad.

Yet, when one tries to address this issue, one is accused of giving ignorant "mumsy" advice, ie the advice that all women should make a point of finding a decent man who might be induced to marry them by the time they are 25.

No doubt if I had given this advice to these now single women in their late 30s when they were in their 20s they would all have told me to mind my own business!

I doubt if the mothers of these women would have given any such advice anyway. Most mothers have, to my knowledge, not been giving their daughters advice of any sort for several decades.

Why is that, I wonder?

Is it because they think all the rules have changed and that their advice would be considered old-fashioned, irrelevant and be ignored?

I think I can see why. Just pointing out that the existence and ticking of biological clocks, despite feminism and the advances of medical science, and the consequences thereof, has been found to be so incredibly offensive that an angry single woman in her late 30s has called me "vile", "narrow" and "ignorant".

She asked: "Do you want me and all the other numerous women in my/similar position to kaibosh a man into having a child?"

Why, yes, of course! That is what women have been doing since the Fall of Man. Some of us do with greater subtlety than others. The ones who do it best are the ones who let the man think that the idea was all theirs. Sooner or later, our husbands will turn and say that we have changed, and that we tricked them into marriage and that they were fools to marry the shrews, nags and termagants we subsequently became, but that would be their misfortune!

Anyway, it doesn't matter how you do it as long as it is done.

Parenthood is a life-changing and attitude-transforming experience, for with it comes the responsibility of being responsible for another person's life. This is so if you take it seriously, as an investment and as a distillation of all that you might have learnt that could be worth passing on.

It is NOT, as I have been trying to point out, about treating our children as pets, or giving them unconditional love.

What is it about parents these days that most do no such thing and do not even see it as their role to guide their children away from heartache and regret by some act of commission or omission?

How strange it is that moral authority is something the modern parent no longer sees as his or her role. Of course you cannot force anyone to listen to you if they do not wish to, but it is odd that no one even goes so far as to put themselves in a position to be able to say later: "I told you so". There is no need of course to go so far as to tell them that you told them so, but the option should be available.

It is the least we can do to discharge our duty to those we care about, by telling them so, even if they will not listen, when the situation remains capable of being remedied.

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