Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The "Kids or Mr Perfect" Poll

Now that I am home and rested and full of caffeine, it is time to look at my latest incredibly unscientific poll. The fact that the poll was unscientific was stressed to me by a young Pole staying in the house, and incidentally I wonder if Poles get tired of their anglophone friends making bad puns about polls, poles and Poles.

The young Pole purports to believe that it is better for a woman to just get married to Mr Good Enough and have children than to wait decades for Mr Perfect for Her, and he thought I skewed the poll by mentioning divorce in that choice. However, I felt that mentioning permanent childlessness in Choice 2 evened them up. Besides, he is from Poland where mass divorce is new and drastic and I am from Canada where it is an ancient and ever-present threat.

So here are the poll results:

Number of respondents: 246

In terms of marriage, I would rather

1. settle for Mr Good Enough just to have kids even if we divorced later. 11
2. wait for Mr Perfect-for-Me even if we never had kids. 179
3. state that I am a happy Serious Single woman and don't see myself getting married/married again. 9
4. admit that I am an Eavesdropping Male. 18
5. admit that I am a Married Lurker. 29

Look at that: eighteen eavesdropping men. And twenty-nine married lurkers!  I hope you buy my novel, since you love my writing so much. How embarrassing for me if you don't. "Oh wow," they will say at Ignatius. "This little lady does not have the dedicated readership we thought." And I will wonder if Hilary White is right and really bloggers must be mean to their readers and basically order you to give us money. Hilary makes a packet. I don't make a packet. Where was I?

Oh, yes. The poll.

Okay, so there are also nine Serious Single readers, and I salute them. Of 199 Single respondents, only these nine are content with their status. I think I will have a Serious Single Day when I post testimony from the Serious Singles to tell us why they are so content. Are you widows looking back on married lives well-lived? Are you nuns? Are you consecrated virgins who discovered that by taking on the Lord's yoke you have lost your chains? Are you simply dancing to a different drummer because that is the beat of your heart? Let us know; we all can learn from you.

The other 190 fall extremely unequally into the "Mr Good Enough for Kids"  and "Mr Perfect-For-Me even if No Kids" camps. Only eleven picked the first, and a whopping 179 picked the second. This may show how really very important friendship-in-marriage has become, perhaps particularly in countries where marriages that "don't work" are thrown out like broken toys. It also suggests that Single women over 25 are no longer treated like pitiful pariahs who are "past it". If life for Single women was as horrid as it used to be, I think more readers would have picked Mr Good Enough.

Still, eleven readers did pick Mr Good Enough so as to be sure of having children, and although this was never my choice (result: no children), I think it is valid. It is certainly traditional. Novels are full of older women in corsets advising romantic young girls that all men are the same anyway, and that three years of utter romantic bliss are not worth losing one's position in society for the rest of one's life. There is one prudent mama in a Georgette Heyer novel who, herself having married a poor vicar for love, schemes like crazy to marry off her daughters to richer men. Ah ha ha ha!

But one does think of poor Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice accepting silly old Mr Collins because she asked "only a comfortable home." Her own father, if you recall, was rather a silly, slightly puffed up man, and Mr Collins was going to inherit the Bennets' house, Longbourn, which was very near her parents. And Charlotte was 27 which, before the invention of washing your hands, was considered old, and no-one considered her pretty. Meanwhile, she was also rather cynical, and told Elizabeth Bennet, "[C]onsidering Mr Collins's character, connections, and situation in life, I am convinced that my chance of happiness with him is as fair, as most people can boast on entering the marriage state."  Meanwhile, Mr Collins' object in getting married was to please his patroness, who thought a clergyman ought to be married. It's not like he was a mad romantic who would sulk if Charlotte wasn't madly romantic back. Thus, one can definitely see Charlotte's point of view, if one is not lovely Elizabeth of the sparking eyes and shining hopes.

When P&P ends, Charlotte is pregnant, and assuming she survived childbirth in her author's mind, having children may have been rather nice for her, especially as she had (also thanks to Mr Collins) servants. It was more company, and people who were brought up from birth to respect her. Still, even before she was married a year, she was contriving ways of escaping her husband's yakking. My husband escapes me by popping down to a nice room he fixed up for himself in the cellar, but we have been married for four years, and actually that is pretty normal for husbands. British husbands usually have sheds, and American husbands usually have garages.

What is the point of all my palaver, eh? Well, I think I am sticking up for the eleven readers who just want children that badly. Bishop LeFebvre, he of the SSPX, had kittens over how Vatican II de-emphasized the Having Children part of marriage and re-emphasized the Lovey-Dovey part of marriage, basically by (I think) putting the word "unitive" before the word "procreative." And I do recall that for centuries nobody thought fluttering hearts necessary for marriage: Casti Connubii is all for love (if more for babies) but not so impressed by flutters.

That said, I am in the Wait-for-Mr-Perfect camp myself, in part because I am so easily bored and when I am bored, I am not very nice.  I think a very good-hearted, patient, kindly woman could marry any of a number of men and delight in him, whoever he is, and inspire his affection and gratitude. But she is not me. Marriage is not just about finding the right person, it is about being the right person for the person you find.


Julia said...

Your book = ordered. Yay!

I'll say that I very much value the idea of friendship-in-marriage. Many of the married people I know, particularly the ones who have children, don't really have friends - the only close friend is the spouse. I guess this is just because we live in a high-pressure, rat-racey society. And in Australia, as in North America, I guess, it's not unusual for a couple to find themselves raising their kids in a city neither parent comes from, so there can sometimes not be a lot of family support. Even my parents, who established their family in the city both of them were born in, did not have much family support. My point is that I'd hate to face that sort of challenge with a spouse who wasn't a close friend. Another thing for me to consider is that I'm not someone with a massive group of close friends, so I would probably find it very lonely to be married to a man who I wasn't good friends with. I have a young friend (23) who's married to an Air Force man, and they live quite far away from both of their families. If she and her husband weren't great friends, I think it'd be very hard for her.

Although I'm the first to list the problems in our Western world, I can't say I'd be keen to go back to late 18th-century Britain, or indeed any time or place that would spell ruination for the single woman. 'Pride and Prejudice' has always freaked me out for that reason.

This is not to sound cynical, but I don't even rate my chances of finding Mr Good Enough. I don't think that this is because I'm super picky - it's just the Catholic thing again. My Mr Good Enough would still probably have to be Catholic, and there aren't many Catholic men where I'm from. So what I mean is that by having chosen the option of waiting for Mr Perfect-For-Me, I might not actually be causing myself to wait any longer than if I'd decided that Mr Good Enough would be okay.

Pearlmusic said...

As for the poll: you might remember I mentioned a Polish woman claiming she fell in love with her husband only after they got married. I should have added that she and her husband don’t have their own children (they adopted a boy after many years of struggle against infertility). So, there’s just one more thing to think about: if we take marrying Mr. Good Enough in order to have children into account, there’s still an option we won’t have any on our own. Settling down alone won’t guarantee that. I think she was extremely lucky to develop feelings towards her husband later on, because otherwise she’d be very resentful about the fact they failed to have a baby together.

Leah said...

I think the danger in taking Charlotte as a model, though, lies in the fact that divorce was unheard of in those days. Despite the lack of affection in her marriage, Charlotte would have a husband, house and means as long as Mr Collins lived, and would be taken care of if he died. Her place as wife and mother was assured.

Although I don't think there is anything immoral in choosing to marry Mr. Good Enough in order to have children, I think it's important to realize that if you are willing to risk divorce in order to have children, he very well may not stick around until the kids are all raised. Although being a single parent might not seem so bad, in an era where shared custody is fairly common the outcome is much more likely to become mom struggling to take care of the kids while 'co-parenting' with dad and his new wife/live-in-girlfriend/series of girlfriends who very well may not share her views on anything. I've seen too many awful situations like this to have ever wanted to deliberately risk it (other for my sake and my kids')just to have children.

Of course, nothing in this life is 100% assured, and even marriages that start out storybook-perfect can crumble, but it seems to me a husband is more likely to get bored and want out if his wife is never all that interested in him to begin with. There may be the occasional NCB who strongly believes in the permanence of marriage and wants a family and white picket fence so badly he is willing to marry someone who doesn't love him just to get that, but honestly, I think pretty much everyone at least wants to be deeply loved by their spouse.

Personally, I think working towards adoption/fostering as a single mom would be a much safer way to go if someone wants children that badly.

Anyway, just my two cents. :)

Leah said...

Oops! That should be *(both for my sake and my kids')

Grad in a big city said...

I wonder (and did while taking the poll) if the unscientificness is compounded by the fact that we, your readers, are reminded nearly daily how important it is to find someone whom we love, not to settle, etc. So in addition to your (probably correct) societal interpretations, the strong bias in the poll may be reflecting your impact on our ideas.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I haven't made a packet for a while. And the two packets I got for asking were to cover cancer costs and art classes, which latter for some reason my readers think are important. The real secret is that you have to ask specifically and directly, and tell people what you need the money for.

Then take the button down when you've made enough to cover the cost of the thing you wanted.

I'd comment on the rest of the post, but I didn't read it, as it was very long.

Anonymous said...

It's Bolyongok who is too lazy to sign in...
I voted for Mr. Perfect-For-Me, mainly because although I would like to have kids, I have no way of knowing for sure if my Mr. Perfect-For-Me and I would even be able to HAVE kids. On my side of things, my mom had three miscarriages, and I've seen the heartache of some of my friends miscarrying. And Mr. Perfect-For-Me might have an as yet unknown/diagnosed condition that prevents _him_ from bringing his half of the equation to the table. Do I want kids? Very much yes. But am I willing to say yes to Mr. Goodenough? No. I think some male lurkers might misunderstand the distinction between Mr. Perfect-for-me and Mr. GoodEnough though. Mr. Perfect-for-me need not be 'tall, dark and handsome' nor make a six figure salary, but he'd better go to Mass on Sundays and Holy Days without complaint/question and have a compatible sense of humour.

TRS said...

I chose the wait even if no kids option for myself. But I think my answer would be different if I were not already 43 years aged.
At 30, I think it may make sense to take the good enough and have babies option... Like dear Charlotte.

You see, having children provides a purpose and delightful company and admiration. Making it easier to tolerate a good enough marriage.
But heading into old age together, without a clear possibility of having children... I think it's very important to enjoy your spouses company.

Big difference.
Which is amusing, because society would have us believe we should settle after a certain age, and the opposite makes most sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am interested now how the results would skew if divorce were off the table. And Mr.-Good-Enough was not horrible, but just lacking in something (sense of humor, advanced intelligence, whatever floats your particular boat). And I also think age/circumstance plays a role in our responses, too. I know at 28 in a city with a growing pro-CatholiC Church teaching contigent replenished every term (grad schools, new jobs, etc.), I feel more confident waiting for Mr. Perfect for Me. But if I were like a dear friend, past 35, or never leaving a paltry population, and there was Decent Enough Fellow Who Follows Church Teaching, I dunno...settling might be on the table, even if kids might not be...

Ashley said...

Here's a somewhat related question Seraphic about the relationship between Mr. Good-Enoughs and Mr. Perfect-for-Mes:

Since you say that you were very immature when you were younger, isn't it possible that you might have rejected BA when you were younger - his quirks are endearing at 37 but they might have been "weird" to you at 22? and perhaps at that age you might have thought that you'd be settling for him and thought of him as only a Mr. Good-Enough? Heck, most women I know at 22 are not really looking for Mr. Perfect-for-Me but rather Mr. Perfect.Full Stop. Further I know many women who make a point as to say Mr. Perfect-for-me but such a person is indistinguishable from Mr. Perfect.

I guess the main point I am trying to make is most NCBs instantly qualify for the title "Mr. Good Enough" but essentially in order to find out if they are in the Perfect-for-Me category, doesn't one have to give them a chance?

Ashley said...

Perhaps a better way of thinking about "Mr. Good Enough"(which I think has a certain pejorative element to it) would be to say "Mr. Perfect for Someone Else"(Although this shouldn't be meant to encourage excessive matchmaking)

Maggie said...

I can hear Auntie's post reverberating - "You are not Elizabeth Bennett. And neither am I." But I still quote Lizzy's wisdom that "Nothing but the very deepest love will entice me to matrimony." I think it would be doing a disservice to the man to marry (and regularly have sex with) someone I wasn't absolutely crazy about. Maybe some men wouldn't mind, but I think (I could be wrong) it would be terribly emasculating for a man to realize 5 or 10 years down the road that his wife married him because he was "Good Enough" and she was worried about her fertility. It strikes me as rather utilitarian - the flip side of the coin of the men who rudely ask women on the first date if they're able to have children. I'm more than my reproductive capacity, and so is a man.

Seraphic said...

It's an interesting question about B.A. At 22 I would have found the 37 (36, really) year old B.A. WAY too old. However, I would have found the 21 year old B.A. too Protestant, not that he would have admitted to having been a Protestant, being a super-High Church anglo-catholic (heck, anglo-papalist) Scottish Episcopalian. But other than that, I think I would have liked him a lot.

That said, when I turned 22 I was wailing away because my one-and-only Polish boyfriend (an ATHEIST) had broken up with me.

Anyway: Providence. Never forget the role of Providence in all our lives.

Pearlmusic said...

Indeed, Maggie, I also thought about the way Mr Good Enough would feel. Not nice. Perhaps if Mr Good Enough married his Mrs Good Enough, they would work it out somehow. But saying it from my dating, not married experience, being "Miss I Have No Better Option Right Now" really sucks. So I can imagine "Mr I Have No Better Option" might become very frustrated as well. And akthough children are obviously a desired fruit of married love, I still think we should get married out of true affection, whether it be head-over-heels-explosive or a steady flame of "he/she is the sweetest and kindest person I know" (or both; with the latter even more important).

Julia said...

"You see, having children provides a purpose and delightful company and admiration. Making it easier to tolerate a good enough marriage."

TRS, I agree that children are a good. And perhaps I'm unqualified to speak since I'm neither a mother nor close to the end of my child-bearing years, but maybe something to keep in mind is that some children can be bitter disappointments to their parents.

I don't mean in the sense that some parents are disappointed when their kids choose to study teaching rather than engineering or are born with a disability. I mean drug addiction, abandoning the faith, failing to ever establish themselves and grow up. And other children, while not disappointments, cause their parents a lot a worry if they are depressed or have some physical or mental illness or syndrome. Other children never visit their elderly parents.

I get that all these are just risks involved in becoming a parent, but I would hate to face these problems with a husband I felt indifferent about (and who would, in all likelihood, feel indifferent about me).

(P.S. I understand that you weren't suggesting that anyone here should just marry Mr Good Enough, so I hope that this comment didn't seem defensive - it wasn't meant to).

TRS said...

Julia, I didn't take it defensively at all.
There are. Multiple ways to look at it. Perhaps the assumption that marriage to mr good enough grows in love and by the time the kids are disappointments, you've both become perfect for each other.

Or you marry mr good enough in middle age, and you're able to travel or entertain regularly, and that be Inge joy. It can go either way.

I guess I was saying that looking back on my 30s, good enough seems viable.
I'm not locked into the idea... Partly since the chance has passed!

not seraphic yet said...

Sometimes I consider settling for Mr. Good Enough. Then I think about the Mr. Good Enoughs that I already know--Nice Catholic Boys of good character--and how I would rather fling myself in front of an oncoming train than have sex with them.

So no settling for me.

Julia said...

"Perhaps the assumption that marriage to mr good enough grows in love and by the time the kids are disappointments, you've both become perfect for each other."

TRS, yeah, I thought of that too. And I guess that's what's behind arranged marriages that work out happily. Maybe with the whole "Mr/Mrs Good Enough" scenario, the spouses would have to feel the same way about each other to begin with (ie not super-thrilled but still good-natured) for it to end up being okay. There might be a big problem though if one of the spouses was madly in love with the other, and the other was "settling".

Seraphic said...

Ah. Arranged marriages. When you are lonely and your grandma is nagging, arranged marriages look great. However, people from arranged marriages cultures COME FROM ARRANGED MARRIAGES CULTURES. They know how they work. Their parents know how to arrange them. And the entire arranged marriage community, wherever it is--Delhi, Luton, Brampton--rallies around to enforce the marriage tie, and (especially) to help/force the bride to put up with the groom's shortcomings. Very often, bride and groom move in with the groom's parents, or next door.

This seems to work very well for Indians and the Indian diaspora, but I am not sure it would work at all for Westerners.

Those ruling our western cultures (west of Poland) are all for LUV and sexual thrills, but currently they hate marriage. Really. Really. Really. So much so that they wants to say that marriage is just two people, even of the same sex, who LUV each other getting a piece of paper, wedding presents and a fancy party.

I think the most sensible way to proceed is to combine the hallmarks of arranged marriage--finding someone who has your core values (which could be ethnicity, class, profession, and/or creed)--with the more tangible signs of a love match: genuine affection for a person and great joy when he's around.

Julia said...

I remember reading an article (print, not online) about arranged marriages in Australia. I think the woman who wrote it (or maybe someone she interviewed) said that she envied her Indian friends and wished she had a pair of Indian parents who could arrange a marriage for her. But yes, I very much agree that the success of arranged marriages depends on their being culturally supported. And if you are a white Aussie, they are not supported.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in New Zealand, but it's still illegal in Australia, and foreign same-sex marriages are not recognised in Australia either. And since Australia just last Saturday elected the Liberal National Party (read: 'Tories') to federal government, we can maybe dare to hope that same-sex marriage will remain illegal for some time still.

Julia said...

BTW, I don't know whether or not the UK Tories have a policy on same-sex 'marriage' or not (although it's legal there, right?) I just used the word 'Tories' to signify that the LNP is Australia's main 'conservative' party (and for the moment, as far as I know, the LNP does not allow its MPs to vote in favour of same-sex 'marriage').

Anonymous said...

As a voter of "wait for Mr. Perfect-for-Me" I must admit that I had already settled for "Mr. Good Enough" who turned out to not be good enough in the least--6 months of misery (likely for the both of us, but I can only speak for myself). A torturous "no fault divorce" because you can't really prove emotional abuse and a stack of annulment paper work waiting for me to finish (although it's been over a year since the divorce was finalized) since those intimate questions that need to be answered are like reliving the miserable experience all over again and if I could just Say it and be done with it it'd be fine... but I must Write It Out and it is going to be Permanent. *blah*

So, lived and learned. My advice: wait for "Mr. Perfect for You."

~~ Anonymous for This Post

Seraphic said...

Yes, I've been there. The questions are awful. The questions at the interview are worse. However, the sooner you get the papers filled out and sent in, the sooner you can get the process over with. And it is so very, very, very important to do it, so that you can really get your life back.

I don't know what continent you are in, but let me tell you, if you find yourself in any sort of Church-related career or publishing (like me), you will thank your lucky stars to have the annulment all done. One question for me from a beautiful but fierce Catholic radio interviewer was whether or not I had written "Seraphic Singles" before or after my annulment. "Almost 10 years after," I quavered to the translator and orthopraxy was satisfied.

One thing the annulment process lacked when I went through it was sufficient pastoral support for those going through it. And when I suggested I do my M.Div. intership at the Marriage Office, I was turned down. Alas. I felt I had a really calling to sit with people after their interviews were done--sit there, have a coffee, hold her hand, agree that it all sucks but inform her than she'll be so grateful when its done.

Feel free to email me about the process any old time.