Cupid, you devil–go home!

I find it really poignant that so many people are Googling “love” and turning up my Valentine’s Day blog post on how I was very happy, last February, to be awash in family love, even though romantic love was absent from my life.

That my Valentine’s Day post is the single most popular post on Transition Times is just evidence of how many people are yearning for love, and happy to find affirmations that there are alternatives to the stereotypical “and they lived happily ever after.”

As the 50% divorce rate in the U.S. attests, very few of us live happily ever after.

For the other 50% who stay married, well—I would like to know how many of you folks consider yourselves truly happy.

My guess is that something like 25% of the people who dutifully marry in their twenties find themselves compatible enough to live happily ever after.

So what does that mean for the institution of marriage?

Is it good enough that a quarter of those who marry in their prime child-bearing years are likely to stay together through the rigors of raising children?

What are the alternatives?

Unfortunately, in our society, there are few alternatives.  Women of means can choose to have children via artificial insemination or surrogate motherhood, without needing the fathers in the picture.

But this is the exception, not the norm.

For most mothers, having the financial, emotional and practical support of fathers (or co-parents, in the case of lesbian couples) is essential.

Raising children is hard.  Raising them alone is much harder.  I can say this with conviction since I’ve been a single mother since 2009, and going it unofficially on my own for longer than that.

For the most part, divorcing women tend to argue hard for custody of our children. We can’t imagine being separated from the little ones we once carried in our bellies—even when they’ve become big hulking teenagers.  They are ours in a way that must be honored.

And yet…they are their father’s children too.  It never ceases to amaze me how fathers can be so casual about their offspring.  They will insist on custody to stick it to their divorcing spouses, but for the most part they don’t have the emotional attachment to their children that we women have.  Or if they do, it is something they are willing and able to forego if need be.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, guys—this is just what I’ve perceived from very unofficial observations of my own family and friends.

All this to say that those who are avidly reading my Valentine’s Day post should be aware that my feelings about love are very complicated indeed.

I love my children.  I love my parents.  I love my brother and his family.  My ex-spouse?  Well, I am grateful to him for the good times we shared, including bringing our two boys into the world.

I wish we could have survived as a couple.

And I am ready to move on.

Leave a comment

5 Comments

  1. I used to think my parents were such fogeys for marrying later in life. Having unwittingly followed in their footsteps, I now see their wisdom. Whether because waiting allowed me to find the right person (I am 100% certain I too would be divorced now if I had married the person I was committed to in my 20s) or because being older gave me a perspective I didn’t have when I was younger, I’ll never know.

    Am I happy? Definitely. But it is interesting how one’s definition of happiness changes over the years. Stay tuned… my next novel is all about this.🙂

    Your statistics sound just about right to me, by the way.

    And I hope that in moving on, you get to somewhere you really want to be.

    Reply
  2. I’ll bite. Men are genetically programmed to dispense their semen as widely as possible (I think my genes must be broken, I’ve had no success at this at all!).

    I — as a male of the species — am quite jealous of the wimmins; I can only imagine what it must be like to carry offspring inside your body. I strongly suspect that it’s an awesome experience, and I’m not at all surprised that mothers have such strong bonds with their sprogs (no matter how vile they might end up!)


    🙂

    Reply
  3. Hannah

     /  April 16, 2012

    Thanks for another very thoughtful post, Jenny! Though I know there are many men out there who are indeed “casual” about their offspring (and maybe even a few women who are too), I feel the need to pipe up and inject a little optimism into the picture, because in my family, that has not been the case in the least. My father (still very much in love with his wife of 35 years) has been as devoted and attached to his three daughters as I can imagine. There are men out there who define themselves foremost as fathers. My uncle, for instance, a single father who won a custody battle, not to “stick it” to anyone, but very much out of love, and who would sacrifice his life and anything else for his two kids, as well as, I’m pretty sure, any of his beloved nieces and nephews. As for the previous generation, my nostalgic dad gets teary when he talks about what an amazing father his own still living father was to him. Perhaps there’s something genetic going on here; perhaps there’s something learned. I’m lucky, I know that. In any case, whether you are a father or an adoptive family, I think that love itself is a deeply powerful means of attachment, regardless of biology. Which is all to say: let the celebration of love of all kinds go on,

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  April 17, 2012

      You ARE lucky, Hannah! I was hoping to hear back from more readers with stories just like those you’re telling, because I knew even as I was writing that it is unfair to stereotype all men as more aloof from their children than mothers. I would have to go much deeper to really parse out the differences between mother-love and father-love, I think; it may come down to something entirely biologically based, something about the lasting effects of having carried that baby in one’s body for 9 months, and then nursed it in infancy…very powerful experiences. Of course men love their babies and children too. Of course there are many wonderful, hands-on, engaged fathers out there. Maybe what I am wishing for is that these fathers did more, in a practical, hands-on way, to honor the women in their lives, and women generally. Men need to use their privilege on behalf of the less privileged. I will be writing more about this….

      Reply

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