Marriage a most unnatural state of affairs?

(159 Posts)
MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 22:03:41

The monogamous family seems to me to uphold patriarchy better than any other institution. Men have for thousands of years sought to control women's reproduction as a means of controlling wealth. The most obvious way in which they have done this is through marriage.

Having read quite a lot and of course experiencing first hand the joys and the lows of monogamy, with all the emotional fall out, the sense of ownership but also support, the security but also the boredom! (at times) I question just how natural monogamy is.

Women are brought up to believe in fairy tale endings, white weddings and happy retirements, men, meanwhile we are told are naturally less inclined towards faithfulness. Their behaviour proof of biology, our faithfulness and commitment is likewise biologically driven.

I don't believe biology drives our desire for monogamous relationships and think this a materialist social construct which can be accounted for by the study of our material and economic history.

I am interested in hearing what others of you think, is marriage and monogamy an unnatural state of affairs?

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 22:49:06

fifty shades keeps women in their place

This article is interesting. I'm not married but I am in a committed monogamous relationship. I see no need for marriage as I am self dependent.

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 22:50:44

Fwiw, I think it's unnatural now that we live so long but I think it can work, if you have similar expectations.

FunnysInLaJardin Fri 06-Jul-12 22:53:11

wow, this sounds like an interesting topic. Honestly, I am feminist, but really. I may start my own thread.

Viviennemary Fri 06-Jul-12 22:54:59

I believe in marriage. A lot of animals and birds even do live in monogomous relationships. With each partner having their own job and responsibilities. There's been a few interesting nature programmes on this very topic. Not that I'm saying that's why we should. But it's a thought. So it's not some human invention to promote wealth or an unnatural state of affairs.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:01:46

Have you read Fifty Shades? Thanks for the link. I haven't read it, I think I might actually enjoy it although I think the guardian article is probably correct, in saying that it isn't the sex that is the problem, it's the power relations between the two characters. I would have to ask really whether that is typical of all sub/dom relationships, I suspect that there is sometimes a difference between nature and demeanor.

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:03:34

I don't believe in marriage unless it protects both partners equally. I believe in monogamy while bringing up children. I don't believe in happy ever after and all this romantic fairytale stuff. It takes work, not about "the one"...

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:04:30

marriage just seems such a horrible horrible thing, I don't know why I did it? Or why I still haven't got round to getting divorced almost two decades after separation, or why I very nearly thought it might be a good idea to do it again with someone even less suitable recently but yes, it seems unnatural. Am terrified of my children ever getting married, it seems such a trap, but obviously would have to try not to be if they ever did.

I can see the appeal of sex on tap and some company sometimes but any relationship like that so quickly feels cloying and scary. They start off all normal and nice but then want to know where you are every three minutes.

There might be something wrong with me though? I know probably about three out of fifty or so married or co-habiting couples where the relationship looks good and everyone is happy, the rest scare me to death.

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:05:17

I haven't read it yet. I think it might be entertaining and escapist but I do hate how "love" literature always focuses on romance and the one... It's not realistic, IMO.

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:08:35

I think marriage can be a trap but then having children requires an enormous level of commitment as having 2 parents who are equally supportive is better than one. However there are obviously many scenarios where having one parent is preferable. All in all I think of people entered into it with their eye wide open it might be easier.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:09:39

Anthropologists are discovering new finds all the time, some of which leads them to believe that historically many tribes followed the matralineal line, women and men did not pair bond for life and women although having quite defined roles were equal to men. So I question whether it is nature or social factors like religion, wealth accumulation, land and property ownership that have brought about an institution which on the face of it, might seem natural. Over time, it is possible that we perceive it to be natural, even if it isn't.

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:12:32

I think religion has played a large role. Many are very patriarchial IMO and I don't even like that term.

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:14:02

if it was natural surely it would probably happen much more easily? you wouldn't have to work at it, would be like breathing or shagging or having a wee. It all seems so angsty.

who mates with only one person, for life? it must be pretty rare. Most people play the field before they settle down and then lots of them will go on to split up and pair off with someone else once or twice before they just get too old to bother and are happy to settle for anything

monsterchild Fri 06-Jul-12 23:14:06

I don't know that it's unnatural, but certainly there's not a lot of basis in biology, as we are a sexually dimorphic species. I think communities are what are natural, with women at the middle, but men equally important to the group survival.
Marriage evolved as a way to consolidate land/power, mainly I think, by taking the power that women have and giving it to men. Men, of course have their own power, but if you don't allow women to hold power, you've got to have a man there to wield it.

I do think that the current situation isn't going to be fixed by just abolishing marriage. Now children also have rights (as they should) and marriage (or divorce, rather) ensures that children are not left out, especially by the next man.

the problem with sexually dimorphic groups is that you'll see a lot of child killing by the new male(s) to get rid of kids who aren't theirs. This still goes on, of course, but marriage does have the ability to protect those kids whose fathers are no longer there, by empowering them, and giving them something for protection.

Sorry, didn't mean to get so long, but there's more to it than just the Patriarchy holding us down, and it's too easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater sometimes!

Himalaya Fri 06-Jul-12 23:14:10

I think the hunt for "natural" or our original state is a dead end.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:15:12

Alamada, it just seems so permanent doesn't it. I'm not married, never have been, at 40 still have no plans. DP is quite hurt, 15 years and still no leash with which to bind me to him. Monogamous yes, marriage is a step too far. Children have asked about it too, it seems to matter to them, since school and other social contacts seem to convey the normality of it, which means mum and dad must be odd.

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:18:35

I don't think the nuclear family (is that term still in use?) is a good way to bring up children at all, it's too isolated from the wider community and too many horrible things happen behind its closed doors. That saying about it taking a village to raise a child - if not a village then at least your wider family and friends, much better than two parents I think. Am I a hippy?

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:21:23

Communities don't really exist anymore in the uk... India has the coomunity aspect to raising children.

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:24:53

well you make your own community of friends, don't you? would be lost without mine confused

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:26:19

I think marriage is entirely an artificial cultural construct. I also think there is no one way of organising society and relationships that will work for all. I think society would be a much better place if, for example, communal living was as normal as the nuclear family and every possible scenario in between was equally acceptable. People would then naturally gravitate towards the kind of living best suited for them, would find others with similar expectations and values, and everyone would be far happier.

In terms of best outcomes for children, current thinking is that the larger the unit the child is brought up in, the better, so extended families and communes are preferable to the nuclear family. Likewise, a happy, functional single parent family with a strong supportive network would provide a better outcome (statistically speaking) than a nuclear family with no family nearby and little support from friends, which is, of course, becoming more typical as people move where the jobs are. I guess it comes back to the saying of taking a village to raise a child.

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:26:28

Who has time with the ridiculous amount spent working and commuting...

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:26:47

x posts with Alameda there about the village thing. grin

EclecticShock Fri 06-Jul-12 23:28:28

Fwiw, we live very close to grandparents... So in a community of sorts, but it's not that easy for everyone. Anyway, off topic slightly.

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:30:35

it's true isn't it? except the 'village' is, as you say, slightly different for each of us these days

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:32:52

Monster, that's a really interesting point about new males attacking the children that do not belong to him. Do you think that is driven by some natural desire to parent ones own child or is it linked to the whole passing on wealth thing?

I must be a hippy too Alameda, I agree that in many situations marriage hides a lot of abuse behind doors and makes women dependant upon the man. Even when we work and earn our own money, we form an economic unit, we still rely on the other. Is is good for children? well I suppose if the wider society tell children and all of us that the nuclear family is the optimum environment, we believe it. We measure the merits of all other forms of family against it and hold them up to be lacking. Interestingly in the 18th/19th century the word family was still being used in much the same way as it had been in Roman times. family referred to all members of the household. Looking back at old records you find that people who had different surnames and were unrelated formed part of the family. In some cultures this included slaves. The wife was little more than property to the man, same as the slave.

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:36:09

Yes it all comes down to ownership of wealth doesn't it. And the easiest way to control that in a patriarchy is through ownership of women in a pair-bonding ritual. These days, men don't 'own' their wives, but the cult of monogamy continues. The trouble is, if you throw it out, the whole of society and the economy needs to change. I think it will change over time anyway, but it will be slow.

LineRunner Fri 06-Jul-12 23:37:03

I dislike the reductionist aspects of evolutionary biology, which has focused inappropriately and anthropomorphically on a few species where males attack 'step' offspring. (Even the vocabulary is wrong.)

The anthropological and historical record does contain examples of polyandry - not many, but they are there.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:40:40

I agree with Dahlen, society would need a huge shift and communal living would also require changes to the built environment. It's interesting to study the built environment because you find that even now we design our environment around the nuclear family. It's also quite worrying too that we have a huge lack of housing and we are wreaking havoc on the natural environment in order to prop up systems that are starting to fail.

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:41:48

I think it's really interesting to speculate what our economy would be like if the nuclear family only made up say 30% of society. I think that economically children would be much more of the state's responsibility rather than the parents, much like pensioners are not the financial responsibility of their own children today.

The growth in single parents, and the trend of so many parents not contributing to their offspring's upkeep and forcing the state to step in instead, may actually be the start of this. It would certainly explain why single parents are so often the object of wrath, as their very existence threatens that ultimate bastion of patriarchy and the status quo - government.

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:42:59

it's strange isn't it, houses always have a sort of giant marital chamber and then all these smaller rooms that children (with loads more stuff) often have to share

how much space do you need to shag in, really?

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:43:29

Government & capitalism

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:46:37

Thinking of some of the cars I've experimented in, not a lot. wink

Saying that, I do appreciate a good amount of space these days...

Alameda Fri 06-Jul-12 23:48:50

I was thinking of a loo on the Norwich to Liverpool St train, but yes is usually nice to spread out a bit more than that

was just what mini said about the built environment, made me think of the master bedroom thing and have never quite understood that

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:51:55

It is crazy really isn't it. Kids have so much more to keep in their rooms than parents.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:53:57

Pensions and benefits to single parents it would seem can not be afforded under free market capitalism. All the more reason to make male workers keep their women and their offspring. make women perform domestic work and reproductive labour in isolation, being consumers and cheap labour. keeps the wheels on capitalism. Ian Duncan smith is a classic example of upholding class power by exhorting the merits of marriage.

Dahlen Fri 06-Jul-12 23:55:29

Quite. IDS makes me seethe.

MiniTheMinx Fri 06-Jul-12 23:57:22

Why is it called a "master" bedroom? hmm

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 00:03:20

Do you know I'd never even thought of that connotation before. I'm renaming mine the mistress bedroom. Or do you think that conjures up images of a dominatrix-style lair? Perhaps the room-where-everyone-inevitably-ends-up,-including-the-bloody-cat bedroom might be more accurate.

creativepebble Sat 07-Jul-12 00:09:35

Artificial it may be, but marriage does make a union very public and it says 'this is it, come what may'. For me, having married in church with God's blessing (whoever you consider Him/Her to be) made it even more powerful, dh less so, but it's still all about the public declaration that we will not quit.
We have been very, very close to quitting and I think if we weren't married we would probably not still be together (I'm not sure at the moment whether this is a good or a bad thing). It's about the kids too now...
I would love to have the strength to be more radical and a bit more of a hippy about it all and share the love (been there) but I suppose I need that security and there is the need to conform and please the family.
Fascinating thread btw.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 00:41:23

Just a side point, I think the communal living can be equally damaging for women as the nuclear set-up. Limited privacy, interfering/ domineering relatives...

IMHO I disagree with both romanticising or demonising monogamy, I think it's arisen more from convenience then anything else, easier to keep one partner then have a relationship, emotional,financial or otherwise, with several.

Thing is 'marriage' hasn't always meant 'monogamy'. Even the Christian Bible features men with lots of female possessions wives who the Christian god didn't get all snitty with. Marriage, whatever form it takes, has always been a legal matter, to do with ownership of property, whether that was taken to mean land, money or the bodies of women and children.
I don't actually have a problem with 'marriage', heterosexual, homosexual or more-than-two-people. You can marry a cardboard box or your invisible dalek pal and it's fine by me.

The thing about romantic heteromonogamy ('true love') whether or not marriage is involved, is that it doesn't usually work very well or last very long in terms of making people happy. The reason it's pushed so hard is that it benefits men more than women, and it's nowadays (post industrial revolution) a matter of enabling every man who wants, to aquire the domestic services of a woman.

NoComet Sat 07-Jul-12 00:52:45

I can't conceive of ever having had a child unless I was in a stable monogamous relationship. I'm old fashioned and married, but can understand people who make equally firm private promises.

Yes relationships fall apart, but I believe DCs should start life with "parents" who are willing to support each other (inverted commas because I'm quite happy to accept that with adoption, donation and same sex couples these may not be biological parents)

It takes a village is a lovely concept, but I think we all need the support of one special someone.

SBB: I take it you're pro-choice then.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 02:25:32

SGB - but I'm not sure poly relationships are anymore stable. Certainly, I think that they are probably more time consuming.

Then if you look at things like swinging, often people involved in that have as many rules (if not more) then monogamists.

Just a question, is that you think people should accept that relationship are often serial, as in people should stop focusing on the idea of having one life-long relationship? Or do you think that some form of polyamoury would make people happier?

Himalaya Sat 07-Jul-12 08:14:38

I think the whole community/village/extended family model is worse-more constraining - for women (as opposed to the community you cobble together yourself, which is great but not so stable).

Himalaya Sat 07-Jul-12 08:16:42

GAG - don't you think serial monogamy, rather than one partner for life is the accepted norm nowadays?

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 08:41:55

Am I alone in that I got married because I loved DH and wanted to grow old together? He did the same-I can't see how it is controlling my reproduction and wealth. People's happiness depends on the little things and how they handle boredom. Only boring people get bored.
I expect that some people-male and female-are not suited to monogamy. It suits me and I wouldn't want anything different.
However I don't see a wedding as a fairy tale-it really doesn't matter if you go down to the registry office on a wet Monday in jeans, as long as it is what you want.
I also wouldn't put up with abuse and wouldn't be with DH if I didn't trust him 100%

You do not have to get married! It is personal choice.

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 08:43:46

We also don't come in isolation-we get each others parents, uncles, cousins, great aunts, old family friends etc etc etc which it lovely.

vezzie Sat 07-Jul-12 10:11:58

The isolation of individual nuclear families is terribly unfair for children, if only materially. The more I think about it, the more bizarre it seems that these tiny vulnerable people land in our midst, and are allocated to all-powerful parents who have sole responsibility for them, and some of them will never be able to go anywhere, not even a weekend by the sea, and some of them will be taken skiing and snorkeling every year. Some of them won't even be properly fed. It's absolutely bizarre.
I mean I don't want people coming and snooping around going "eggs again? Really?" but it seems horrible that my children have so little recourse to external support to make up for our failings (which aren't that bad I hope in the grand scheme of things, but you know what I mean)

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 10:19:09

I think arguments pro/anti any form of living are again trying to find a one-size-fits-all solution, which isn't ever going to work because people are unique.

It's difficult to know what society would look like without the constant bombardment of messages about romance and 'the one' we are always subject to. But I strongly suspect, given the biological imperative to reproduce, that pair-bonding will always play a part in it. Whether that's monogamous and life-long is open to interpretation though.

I certainly think the world would be a much nicer place if we stopped telling people there is only one good way and let them get on with whatever way worked for them.

Himalaya - interesting point about communal living. There are many different forms of it, of course, but very few that have been set up affording women truly equal status or taking into account their differing needs compared to men.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 10:33:45

Really interesting point vezzie A few months ago I got round to reading Huxley's Island, a place where children had an extended family group, not based on biological ties overtly. Every child had it's primary parents but also others that they could go to for support. Every child and adult had responsibilities to the land and all work was carried out to meet needs rather than the other way around. Interesting read.

I think it's so true that when we live in isolated economic units of consumption, some have more purchasing power than others, it is without doubt one of the reasons some children will never experience either a wonderful childhood or reach their full potential in life.

Himalaya, why do you think communal living might be bad for women?

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 10:55:23

I think there's rather a lot of romanticising going on here and not of monogamy.

Mini - Communal living can be very bad for women because there is often hierarchy and women can be on the bottom of it, particularly if you have joined a family and are not a blood relative. Over-crowding and a lack of personal space are also huge issues.

The extended family models I've known have often featured women being treated like unpaid servants, particularly because that's the view of women in wider society.

Likewise, if children are not really taken seriously in society communal living is no better for them and they can be just as at risk of abuse.

Kibbutzem were generally agreed to be disastrous for children, so I'm not sure why people are viewing them fondly.

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 11:00:47

Goth, but that's because they've still followed patriarchal values. If we're talking about what future society could look like, then we'd surely want to improve things and not replace it with an equally outdated, misogynistic way of living? Why can't we adopt some of the newer styles of communal living (which don't actually mean all living in dorms or anything), which can be very beneficial to women? People still have their own spaces, can often live in pair-bonds if they want, but the pairbond is not the economic basis on which the community is based.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 11:07:54

Dahlen - there's still issues of individual freedom and privacy.

Considering how it tends to be women who are made to compromise and give up/ limit their happiness for the benefit of others, I doubt even supposed equalitarian ideals would lead to better outcomes for women.

Full disclosure: The idea of communal living gives me the shivers. I can just about cope with 1 child, 1 husband.

Also important note: many women are living alone now, yet this is almost never praised or not condemned, either by the right or the left.

MrsHoarder Sat 07-Jul-12 11:08:15

Sometimes marriage gives the individuals more freedom. I could not have had a year off with DS, before spending another year retraining without the security of marriage as a safety net.

As for wider community and other adults children can turn to, are you advocating a system much like the one the church has of godparents? Because that's what my godparents have been for me (still are, even though I'm an adult, married and with a son). So maybe the traditional system isn't too bad as long as the adults are treated as equal partners, which is how the law now treats marriage.

Yep, the problem with a lot of the communal arrangements that have been set up so far is they have all pretty much been about one man (being Leader or Preacher or whatever) setting up a personal kingdom. And the women who joined them have always been seen as a resource rather than members.

I don't think that romantic heteromonogamy is inherently wrong, just that it very,very clearly doesn't work for everyone. The only thing that will work is an acceptance that people are different and want to live in a variety of ways.
IMO the ideal would be for the parents of a child to commit to the child/children as co-parents regardless of whatever romantic relationship may exist between them at the time of conception or afterwards.

But do bear in mind, anyone who wants to go on and on about the wonderful romantic commitment you share with your spouse - fine if it works for you, but this idea of the perfect couple-partnership in which each person finds all their social, emotional and sexual needs met by the other person is not only not natural by any description, but in evolutionary terms it's really, really recent. Up until about 50 years ago marriage was predominantly percieved as an economic transaction; way back it was about land and resources, then after the industrial revolution meant that nearly every man was going away from his home to work for wages at an employer's place of business, it became important that the woman was in the home taking care of domestic stuff in order to enable the man to be away from it. So the deal became that the man provided the money, the woman provided all the domestic, social, emotional, childrearing and sexual services. So women were supposed to pick a man who was solvent and hardworking, men to pick a woman with good domestic skills, who was inclined to obedience. Romantic love was widely regarded as a sort of temporary sugar-coating on the whole business.

This worked well enough for men and quite well for children too. But the problem was that it didn't benefit women - it's not good for a human being to be reduced to the status of something between a pet and a servant, with no prospect of improvement.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 11:18:03

Sgb - I agree entirely with that. Also agree that idea idea of needing someone to "complete you" is unwise, to say the least. I also dislike the holding of the romantic relationship to be more important then all others.

Mrs Hoarder - yes, I think you can make the traditional system work for you and certainly comes with built in legal protection (to an extent), which is not to be sniffed at.

Himalaya - (sorry I missed you before). I think serial monogamy is often the reality, but "til death do us part", is still the ideal.

MrsHoarder Sat 07-Jul-12 11:20:15

The reason people talk about the romantic commitment they share with their spouse is because sometimes theory clashes with what people are witnessing in the real world. And in modern Britain, marriage is not the same as the style of marriage feminists attack.

In the 1950s a married woman was considered to be the property of her husband, but after the first big feminist wave that wasn't the case, and the ideal now is for equal partnerships where both people try to help each other develop and improve. Yes women tend to be the lower earners, do more housework but that is generally the post-children shift in division of labour. Not that men are marrying for a domestic wife.

Sometimes it goes skewy, and domestic abuse is a problem, but we try to set up institutions to protect against that.

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 11:30:14

Goth, you wouldn't have to live in a commune though. That's the point - that everyone could choose what they want.

Marriage can work very well. But the rate of marital breakdown and the level of abuse would suggest a lot don't, and of those left, no way are all of them happy. Empty nest couples, couples who stay together out of principle rather than desire, etc. I'd actually say happily married couples are in the minority.

Which isn't to say it isn't a perfectly valid lifestyle choice. It just shouldn't be held up as the only or ideal way to live.

Single women are only allowed to be single without children. Single mothers are demonised. And if you look at media portrayal of say Bridget Jones and eccentric old bats with cats, I'd say single women are mocked rather than hated, but not encouraged or even treated with indifference.

IAmSherlocked Sat 07-Jul-12 11:49:45

"this idea of the perfect couple-partnership in which each person finds all their social, emotional and sexual needs met by the other person is not only not natural by any description"

SGB - this is really interesting. I do find it strange that once in a relationship or married, that person is supposed to then be able to meet all your needs forever. I was on a thread on here about emotional affairs and it seemed clear that for some people, having a close friendship with someone of the opposite sex with whom you discuss things more meaningful than the weather and what's on TV, is equivalent to cheating on your partner. I found that very strange - that once you are in a relationship you are meant to eschew all other relationships of any kind with the opposite sex.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 12:00:24

I don't know much about Kibbutzem, wouldn't ever have joined one because of my opposition to the state of Isreal (partly Jewish so no it's not a lazy rationale) I have read that children slept often in dorms in separate blocks with adults sharing the supervision. That simply sets up the supervision of children not as valuable socially necessary labour but as a job to be endured. Not healthy at all.

I also shudder at the idea that communal living would be in any way similar to the enforced living conditions in Russian cities under Stalin. Horrific and dehumanising, lack of privacy and autonomy and having share space with people who are not in any way disposed to each other.

Then you have cults and sects where everyone except an elite are there to work and provide service. Children are isolated to be indoctrinated with questionable ideas. Where women have in some cases been told to make themselves available sexually to all the men.

In terms of space and the built environment, of course houses are not designed to be anything other than crowded because most have been built to accommodate the nuclear family.

It seems that these modes of communal living serve men, religion and money. What if there were other models, associations of choice, where all work was valued as socially necessary, where the task of all domestic labour was visable and socialised, shared between all members, allowing women to work and persue their interests. Supporting all children equally.

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 12:17:27

The collective looking after of children didn't work and they stopped it. It has been proved that 2 parents are the best way to bring up a DC.

Lottapianos Sat 07-Jul-12 12:20:04

'IMO the ideal would be for the parents of a child to commit to the child/children as co-parents regardless of whatever romantic relationship may exist between them at the time of conception or afterwards'

Completely agree solidgoldbrass. I think the parents' relationship should be a completely separate issue to their commitment to parenting their child and that their commitment to parenting a child should be a legal commitment, rather like committing legally to a partner in marriage.

Personally I am very anti-marriage due to its sexist patriarchal history. Seeing traditions like white dresses, engagement rings and name changing continue today give me the shivers and makes me wonder why the heck, in this day and age, marriage is still seen by so many people as on the main achievements of a woman's life (the other being motherhood).

I have been with DP for 7 years and we have a much healthier, happier relationship than virtually all of the married couples we know. That's not to say that you can't be happy in marriage, but if you are, it's all to do with your relationship and how compatible you are as a couple, and not to do with some words you spoke to each other one day or the ring on your finger. IMHO! I will never marry him but would love to have a civil partnership - it's not the monogamy or the commitment that bothers me, it's the lack of equality which for me is inherent in marriage. I have no desire to be a 'wife'.

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 13:20:57

exotic - The Children's Society report would disagree with you.

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 13:24:27

It concluded that the most pertinent fact was the number of adults invested in caring for a child, and that it did not matter what the relationship was between those adults, the adults biological relationship with the child, nor whether they actually lived with the child. What mattered was how much contact they had with the child and what they did with it. That would rather support lots of different ways of bringing up children, including, as I said earlier, single parents with a good support network who can actually offer a much better likely outcome than an isolated nuclear family. It's time we stopped looking at 'best'. There is no such thing. There is certainly 'wrong' (e.g. abusive) but there isn't a right. There are lots.

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 13:48:58

I can't see that the children's society disagreed with me see here
Obviously it is easier if both parents live with the child. It is perfectly possible for parents to separate and put the children first-but you only have to read step parenting threads on here to know that many parents fail in the ideal-their own feelings come first. I have been a single parent and did a good job but it wasn't the same and DS definitely felt it wasn't.

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 13:58:09

That page neither confirms nor denies either viewpoint. But if you read the entire research, it makes very interesting reading.

I'm glad you're happy with your own family set up but you can't possibly use it to extrapolate and make a judgement on all single parent families and how they compare to all 2-parent families. The plural of anecdote is not data.

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 14:08:08


A child's relationship with their parents is key to them having a good childhood.
Of greatest importance is a lifelong commitment to children by those adults with primary care and responsibility for their care and upbringing.
Parents and other significant adults in children’s lives need to maintain their commitment to their children and endeavour to get along in the interests of the child, even when faced with the most challenging and stressful personal circumstances – including when couples separate.
How separations are handled, how well informed and included children are about what’s going on and how much conflict they see between their parents all contribute to how secure and happy they feel at this time

Lottapianos Sat 07-Jul-12 14:13:59

My parents have been married for 30+ years . They are both narcissists and their marriage is utterly miserable, with infidelity on my dad's side. But they stayed together 'for the children', they are also Catholics and very hung up on keeping up appearances. It has meant that my siblings and I have grown up feeling fully responsible for our parents' happiness and knowing that they stayed together for us has been a huge burden to carry. I've been in therapy for the last two years and it's helping me to get my head around the situation and realise that it's not actually my fault that their relationship is so unhappy.

I am sick of hearing that marriage is the best environment in which to bring up children. Apart from my own experience, I work with parents and children every day and the healthiest families have been the ones where the adults are capable of putting the children's needs first when necessary, and where the adults communicate well with each other. IMO, the relationship between the adults really doesn't matter - it could be mum and dad, mum and nan, mum and new partner, dad and auntie, whatever. Or as another poster said, a lone parent who has a good support network of other adults around them. Marriage does not necessarily mean stability, happiness or security for anyone.

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 14:26:47

Quote (which is significantly condensed from the full report):

A child's relationship with their parents is key to them having a good childhood. The Children's Society recognises and supports the wide diversity of family structures and significant relationships in which children are raised.
Of greatest importance is a lifelong commitment to children by those adults with primary care and responsibility for their care and upbringing. We recognise the change in our society and culture; policies and attitudes need to keep up with these changes.

I think the only thing that makes clear is that the people responsible for the care and upbringing of a child have an important role and that society and culture are changing and this doesn't necessarily mean two married parents.

Parent does not necessarily mean biological parent, nor does it mean a heterosexual relationship, nor does it mean living in the same dwelling as the child.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 14:46:46

Unfortunately Bowlby is still very much misinterpreted too. The study of developmental psychology if you do social work, still covers Bowlby but attachment theory states that children are born to expect and seek out security from a main carer. The main carer is usually, as biology would dictate the mother but doesn't have to be. According to attachment theory the child needs a secure attachment to the main carer for approximately the first five years.

It is possible to see how a predominantly male state has taken up this idea to shackle women to the nuclear family. Single mothers are seen as a burden upon the state and it's tax payers so the only socially sanctioned choice is the nuclear family.

monsterchild Sat 07-Jul-12 15:32:13

Dahlen I agree, I think healthy families can take many different shapes, but as long as it means healthy children, then I'm not sure I care what that shape is.
i know I brought up the evolutionary biology but there's a lot more to people than that, and one of the constraints of living however you like in a healthy way is the government and cultural pressures. (I will say that stepfather step child relationship is tough)

Many more people than you may imagine live in communal groups, where I live (western US) it sometimes looks like ranches, or family compounds or just like-minded people living together. usually in their own spaces, but the houses are near (or within a wall/fence like a true compound), but have shared outdoor areas. It's not really different than a small village, except there's perhaps more harmony because people have for the most part chosen to live there rather than being born into it for generations. And there are usually fewer people.
But as Dahlen points out, the individual groupings within this community are all at the comfort level of the individuals. there may be pair bonding, or not.
And it seems to work ok, as long as the people in it are trustworthy...

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 15:54:57

It doesn't really matter who the 'parents' are, but they need to be committed to the DC from birth-for ever (or at least until they are independent) This is most easily achieved by those that are married-or in a legal arrangement that isn't that easy to get out of. Two people are better than one-they are less likely to both die together. Obviously if the birth parents are toxic it isn't a good thing, which is why it is best to have families where the other adults love your DC enough to rescue them first in a fire i.e. grandparents.
Marriage may not be perfect, but it is better than a commune where the others might not even like your DCs-never mind love them.
(You can only speak generally-there always exceptions to the rule) If, for some reason, my baby had to be adopted I would want him/her to go to a married couple-who intended to take their marriage vows seriously.

Feckbox Sat 07-Jul-12 16:01:07

"Men have for thousands of years sought to control women's reproduction as a means of controlling wealth. The most obvious way in which they have done this is through marriage. "

For a moment I thought I was back in 1974 at my sociology lectures at university.
I though this notion was absurd then and it's even more absurd now.

I know of precisely NO men to whom this applies. Control of women's reproductn as a means of controlling wealth ? In Britain today ? Are you serious?

On the other point, monogamy does not come naturally to many. Works great for many others.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 16:02:12

Haven't travelled much then feck???????

Feckbox Sat 07-Jul-12 16:04:34

I was talking about the UK .
Travelled plenty thanks

maybenow Sat 07-Jul-12 16:13:18

i think that monogamous sexual-pair-bonding is pretty natural. sex releases hormones including oxytocin that encourage bonding feelings. i think this is pretty necessary to live with somebody and raise a child - people find it easier to live with people they "love" than with people they don't.. i certainly do.

i also think that in 21st century britain there isn't the same issues around marriage. my marriage protects me as the person taking maternity leave more than it empowers my husband.

LineRunner Sat 07-Jul-12 16:16:07

The chemical high doesn't last more than 2 years, apparently.

maybenow Sat 07-Jul-12 16:23:01

oxytocin is released with every orgasm (although that does assume you are orgasming with your monogamous partner!)

LineRunner Sat 07-Jul-12 16:24:45

Yeah, right, love is in the air.

maybenow Sat 07-Jul-12 16:28:35

sorry, i'm not trying to derail, i know this is the feminist theory bit.. i just struggle with having a husband i love very much and parents with a very strong marriage which really enabled my mother to make her own choices - i can't really 'de-personalise' and agree with the theory about marriage being repressive to women 'in general'.

sorry, i'll leave now...

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 16:47:28

*I know of precisely NO men to whom this applies. Control of women's reproductn as a means of controlling wealth ? In Britain today ? Are you serious?

Seems mad to me too. It didn't even apply to my grandparents. I don't find marriage repressive in general and I can't understand why you would enter into it in the first place, if you feel like that.
It is a choice!

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 16:55:11

Have you been on the relationships board recently? wink

Most people don't enter marriage thinking it's a repressive institution. Most people (well, in the western world, anyway), do so because they're madly in love and either want to make a legal commitment or a religious one. Nowt wrong with that at all.

Doesn't mean a significant proportion of those loved-up newlyweds don't find marriage repressive once they've been in it a while though. Sadly, plenty of men seem to think that marriage gives them rights over a woman's body and behaviour. It can work the other way round as well of course, though less often. Count yourself lucky you don't know anyone in that situation (though you may and just not realise it).

This is NOT an attack on marriage. No one is calling for the abolition of marriage; just the ending of holding it up as the ideal when clearly for many it is far from it.

SeratoninIsMyFriend Sat 07-Jul-12 16:57:22

minnietheminx could you explain more about the misinterpreting of Bowlby; I can't think of criticisms you might be referring to? Thanks.

exoticfruits Sat 07-Jul-12 17:08:01

You have to bear in mind that people post on relationships when things go wrong. If I went on and said I have a lovely one-people would call me smug or worse!! It is like MILs-read MN and you get the impression they are all 'difficult' and yet in RL I find that people actually like their MIL!

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 17:11:06

Of course, I was being facetious. The divorce stats aren't though.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 17:41:35

From my understanding, the government appointed Bowlby to write several reports after the war. His theory of attachment was seized upon as proof that women were best to spend their time at home engaged in childcare, within the nuclear family. No doubt this had the added benefit that women in post war Britian/USA became consumers. Rebuilding houses and reshaping the built environment further isolated women from work. Much building concentrated in suburban areas, where women and children lived, far from where men worked. Women became the driving force for all sorts of capitalist expansion.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 18:18:51

Actually talking of people raising children, here's a question:

What does it take to love a child?

If you go on the step-parenting board there are plenty of people who live and often care for children but don't love them.

Likewise children in foster care and especially in local authority care are not usually cared for by adults who love them.

This lack of love is often hugely detrimental to children.

However there are people who come into a child's life and love them very much. Why does this happen in some cases and not others?

scottishmummy Sat 07-Jul-12 18:23:12

im monogomous by choice. im unmarried by choice
i think your op is gallingly clichéd and full of assumptions.
Whilst im not married i dont think every bride is driven a frothy hazy of tulle and romance. evidently you do

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 18:23:41

Mini - I think post-war reconstruction is far more complex then you're making it out to be. Cities were dirty, slum filled places. People, especially women were very glad to move into spacious suburbs with better bathrooms, hot water etc.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 18:33:55

Scottish, I don't think every bride is driven along in a romantic whirl of frothy dresses. Historically few women in the western world married for romantic love. Class played a huge part in this, with women in higher social classes even less likely to marry for love and their husbands even less likely to be faithful. In other parts of the world now, women are being married off at 13 or 14 to older men. We are told this is cultural but culture is shaped by economics and patriarchy. For much of world even now, marrying buys a women as domestic servant and child bearer.

Xenia Sat 07-Jul-12 18:44:39

The ideal issue is worth discussing. I have been both - married 19 years and single (since divorce). I don't find my state of personal happiness or that of our children relates to whether I am in a relationship or not. Obviously people in relationships often like to think those who are single are not as happy but that simply is not so. You can be pretty lonely and miserable in an unhappy marriage and there is a lot of freedom in being single which I am currently and as I'm happy I would have no problem if I always were single. I'm not sure for example I would have found it so easy to buy my island near the equator had I had a husband or partner and that is just one illustration of issues. Although I accept that some husbands may encourage wives to buy islands of whatever the issue might be or business decision the wife or husband wants to take. It is certainly a lot easier and simpler on your own particularly if you are a woman who earns quite a bit of money so you are not reliant on men for money as so many women even on mumsnet are. Their man is their cash cow in a sense.

It can also be simpler to take decisions about children with only one of you to decide them. There are pros and cons and I have had boyfriends and that is good too when it works.

The Origins of Sex by an Oxford academic which was published in the last 6? months is quite interesting. It looks at male/female relations, marriage, affairs from about the year 1000 AD up to around 1800s and how we had various forms of relationships, common law wivse, church marriages and when adultery and came in and out of fashion and punishment for cheating, church and state control and then various periods in English history when things were more liberal. The author seemed to find that once we had both Catholics and Protestants in the UK so not just one unified single religion everyone had, then people had to accept there were different ways to live and then they had to allow people to have different rules whether that be free love or fidelity (n terms of state law anyway).

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 18:48:15

Goth, I agree, cities were slum filled and I am not in anyway saying that slums are good but when you see now whole areas on the outskirts of cities around the world being cleared to make way for capital investment, you wonder what will become of the poor.

In some places around the world, (off the top of my head Mombia) they clearing the slums of the poor, they don't compensate them for the loss of their home. The cities are becoming gentrified and sterile. The poor are kept out with rising land and property prices. This is because capital has to be reinvested, I think there was something like £50 trillion surplus in 2011 by 2020 it is likely to be in the region of £100 trillion. The average debt in the 80's was $40,000 now it is $130,000 for every household in the USA. See a correlation here! on the one hand we have huge personal debt and on the other a huge capital surplus. This is why I say material aspects shape our lives.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 19:30:51

Mini - you are conflating very different circumstances, which makes it difficult to pin down what you are arguing for.

First you spoke about post war reconstruction and how it affected women, now you mention gentrification and clearances for land profits which does indeed impact women but in a completely different way and one not at all related to the original O.P.

I think you are under-estimated a lot of married women.

Personally, even searching deep into my 'biological sex drive' I have no desire whats so ever to have sex with anyone else, male or female. Neither does it make sense in terms of procreation and carrying on my genes. Why would I go out of the marriage/family and risk the support of DD's father to have a baby with someone else? Makes no sense to me as I am madly in love and deeply happy with who i am with and having sex with.

it was on finding this out that we decided to get married.

If this ceases to be I will stop being married.

And what on earth are you deeming natural and unnatural anyway?

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 20:10:47

Good question, what is the definition of natural and unnatural in this thread?

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 20:36:13

I haven't decided for you what is natural or not smile for me natural would imply biological. In the case of desire to do anything or to behave in any way considered natural could also be said to be biologically determined. Anything outside of that would be socially determined. That would be my definition.

GothAnn, the built environment is very important in shaping social relations, upholding traditional ways of living, upholding class privilege, so yes I think it's pertinent. Both in terms of answering why people don't live communally but also in why people don't want to.

Mumble, I supplied a link in the OP, many people do not live in monogamous relationships, some question whether one form of relationship should be held up to be the norm by which all other types of relationship are judged. I also linked in Engles The origin which questions whether pair bonding is natural and sets out to explain historically how women have been owned in marriage, how men have greater access to wealth and women have been made powerless through marriage. I am not suggesting for one moment that women shouldn't marry confused

So is your point just that marriage is unatural?

Bunbaker Sat 07-Jul-12 20:46:58

"It takes work, not about "the one"..."

I don't find that. OH and I have the same values and love and respect each other. After nearly 31 years of marriage I still don't find that either of us needs to "work" at our marriage, but then neither of us finds it difficult to show love, respect and consideration towards each other.

I agree with Dahlen's points as well.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 20:50:09

Marriage involves the formation of laws and rituals, so no it can't be natural!
Monogamy is that natural? Well, I don't think so because pair bonding came about at the same time as the domestication of animals, the formation of the nuclear family, private property and patriarchy, before then monogamy wasn't widely practised and people lived communally. The op asks for opinions.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 20:56:57

Thats great for you bunbaker but everyone is different and I don't think it's helpful to dismiss that monogamous relations need effort to work out for some couples.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 21:04:06

The concept of the "one" is very damaging IMO. It's one reason cited over and over again by young girls as to why they put up with crap. They think because they have strong feelings for someone that this is their "one shot" at true happiness. I think its rubbish, relationships should not be over romanticised. What is romance anyway, is it the extra effort people make when in the heroes of lust? That's when it occurs most naturally. It's all dependent on personality and a persons life experience. List and romance do not hold up a relationship long term IMO. Working at it by recognising your own faults and empathising with ther other person, stand a better chance. People usually change over time as their life experience grows. Values and attitudes are shaped, it takes work, IMO, to keep a common shared goal in mind despite inevitable distractions.

SeratoninIsMyFriend Sat 07-Jul-12 21:24:06

Mini, I don't think Bowlby's theory of attachment can be dismissed just because the society & govt at that time might have leaned towards women being the primary caregiver: I think modern use of attachment theory accepts that from 6 months anyone who is a main caregiver is the focus of a child's attachment behaviour, regardless of gender or relationship, and that there are multiple attachments for most children: this takes off any onus on women / mothers to be primary caregivers in attachment terms.

And fwiw I very much agree with Eclectic's point above re. the One. I am happily married as I strongly believe the way we have constructed our marriage will benefit us both equally but that to last the course we will have to work. I have watched my father be a serial monogamist and can't see that it has benefitted him or his partners particularly; not that I am saying it's wrong, but not right for how I want my life. Therefore to get married was a leap into the unknown for me and one I took deliberately.

I am raising a child without being in a heteromonogamous couple relationship with his father. My son's father is a decent bloke, an involved and loving dad who sees DS at least twice a week, contributes financially to his upbringing etc. DS sees plenty of his grandparents, aunts and uncles on both sides. He is loved by a lot of adults, including some adults who are friends of mine/his dad but no genetic kin to him.
Sometimes stupid people say to us 'Well why don't you just move in together and get married?'
Why should we? DS'Dad and I would drive each other batshit if we had to share a house. We have no romantic/sexual interest in one another (Yes, we did have enough to have a shag and produce DS but it was just an amicable now-and-again thing for both of us). We are a living, working demonstration of it not being necessary or desirable to be in a heteromonogamous marriage to raise children, and if it weren't for not wanting to make a big show of my DS to his embarassment, I would be fucking plugging Our Unconventional Family to every crap newspaper features desk and magazine going.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 21:32:41

Bowlby has since been criticised as his research didn't actually prove causality. However, subsequent research has found that a child needs benefits for some form or attachment whether mother or not.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 21:35:03

Seratonin, (for the record) I have been a SAHP parent to DS1 and 2 because I very much believe in what some refer now in attachment parenting, so I very much believe in attachment theory. I am their mother, when I decided to have them I made a deal with them to always put them first, I expect no less of DP. I work from home, I feel very lucky to be able to do that.

However do you not notice something startlingly revealing about what you have just said? "I think modern use of attachment theory accepts that from 6 months anyone who is a main caregiver is............"

Again another high jacking of the theory to fit with governmental, economic and social goals. This fits with maternity rights. Women make up 2/3rds of the worlds poor but they also make up 2/3rds of the worlds work force. This tells me that women's labour is devalued in the home and under paid in the workforce. That capitalism exploits women's reproduction just as it does production.

HotheadPaisan Sat 07-Jul-12 21:44:42

The crux of it all to me is what happens if you take a snapshot of personal wealth and earning power and potential at various stages of a marriage /life, before and after having kids and into old age, especially if you divorce. If that is entirely equal at all points then it's fair to say men don't benefit financially from marriage, but I think they do and women do not realise the extent to which they lose out.

HotheadPaisan Sat 07-Jul-12 21:48:37

And I reckon without the financial ties it would all be much more fluid. Child-raising and rearing would be more collective or at least groups would be more extended. It's all going in that direction with blended families anyway.

lizbee156 Sat 07-Jul-12 21:49:26

I have lived in a commune.
I was married firstly to an abusive husband, we divorced.
I didn't think I would ever marry again, but I did, so now I am married for the 2nd time.

The commune I lived in did not have a leader(s).
However, like communism, living communally is an idea which is attractive in principle but in reality is flawed because it doesn't take human nature into account.
People have different ideas about how to do everything from changing the loo roll to corporal punishment of children (theirs and other people's).
My experience was that in the commune some people wanted to live in a place which was clean and tidy while others created mess and filth.
Rotas which were agreed to were not adhered to.
The people who did the chores were not neccessarily male or female, there were just people who did and people who let others do.

The same was true of the children of the commune.
Some of the parents did little of the work themselves, others did the majority.
Again, the gender of the carers was almost equally split.
It was not ideal and I would not have wanted to bring my children up there.
The corporal punishment issue was very contentious, as were many more minor points.
For example; the food the children ate was also a big topic of constant discussion where many couldn't agree and wouldn't compromise.

GothAnneGeddes Sat 07-Jul-12 21:49:51

Mini - that is somewhat patronising. I am not saying that built environment has no impact, I am just saying that you seem to be shifting the goalposts with your use of examples.

Sgb - from what you've described I can see no reason why your ds's upbringing wouldn't be stable and positive. He has stable, loving, permanent adults in his life which is what children need to thrive. Oh, and a mum who doesn't want to splash him all over the pages of Closer wink.

HotheadPaisan Sat 07-Jul-12 21:54:33

I agree with AP too, but I had the DC and DP stays at home with them and I WOHM FT, there has been plenty of evening and overnight parenting to keep me busy. I do think it's hard on any 'nuclear' setup to cope with little in the way of support, same for lone parents who often have the added problems of a lower income, can't be good for anyone.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 21:54:51

In order to have children, women have to be pregnant, give birth and in some cases bf. This will detract from things like earning power. Why are defining earning power and personal wealth as thigs against which to measure equality? There are other factors like relationships with your children or the ability I take time to nurture them. That's why women and men can work together (or same sex partners) to help eachother during this period so that personal wealth and damage to earning potential can be minimised. You can't argue with biology IMO. Biology has evolved for good reasons. Men and women can be treated fairly but you have to respect the differences that biology causes.

HotheadPaisan Sat 07-Jul-12 21:55:42

I could not live in a commune, would drive me mad, there has to be a halfway house between that and the nuclear setup.

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 21:57:15

GothAnne, sorry, it wasn't meant to be.

HotheadPaisan Sat 07-Jul-12 21:58:06

Women nearly always lose out income-wise, long-term especially. At least pensions and assets are more fairly divided now. I don't see why they should lose out just because they have the DC.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 22:10:40

That's one of the arguments for marriage, your partner supports you and compensates. What other alternatives are there? What would you propose would alleviate these issues?

OK, in the interests of fairness and debate and all that, I would have to acknowledge that my earning capacity is currently fucked. DS dad does contribute a reasonable amount, as stated above (and it isa reasonable amount, 25% of his monthly income, but he's not exactly loaded); but if it weren't for tax credits and housing benefit, we would be in a hostel or on the streets. I do work, I have several part-time jobs, but none of them are secure or guaranteed. Thing is, we wouldn't be much better off if DS dad lived with us. We might even be worse off. THIS is the real big problem; how to deal with the fact that children need to be raised and looked after by an adult, and the adult doing that job needs an income. It used to be the case that men were simply paid more than women irrespective of whether or not the men, or the women, had any children, on the grounds that 'a man is the family breadwinner, a woman is financially supported either by her husband or her closest male relative'. Reinstating that model won't do: lots of people don't have children, don't have partners, are working at an age where their children if they had any are independent adults. Could you even expect people to accept that parents should be paid higher wages than non parents for the same job?

It seems to me that the answers to this problem might incorporate: raising of child benefit till it meets the minimum wage and paying it to the person looking after the child/children - or introducing much more flexibility in working hours and state-funded childcare 24/7.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 22:13:56

Having children is a choice. With that comes good things and bad things. The world is over populated, why should having children be given extra support from a government?

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 22:17:29

I really think in this scenario it's about team work, community, nuclear families... Whatever you want to call it. Children take resources, those resources have to come from somewhere. The government have a duty to suppor existing children but not to encourage people to have children neccesarily (depends on country). Some women are disabled and can't get support and are discriminated against work wise. It's not their choice though is it?

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 22:19:44

Actually another question, probably best left for another thread, but is it every woman's right to have a child, irrespective of circumstance? Equally, is it every mans right?

MiniTheMinx Sat 07-Jul-12 22:24:21

Lizbee, sounds like your experience wasn't great. Human nature though is ever evolving to fit with society.

I was just thinking about privacy while I had a bath. I take a bath in the evening, only time I can get in the bathroom without vistors and spectators. Privacy is a fairly new requirement surely. I think it was GothAnne that mentioned privacy in respect of communal living. Not that long ago children shared a bed sleeping top to toe, some very impoverished families had little in the way of privacy. Wealthy people had less privacy, with ladies maids, other household staff. In the 18th century households comprised household servants, middle class homes would have been crowded spaces with lodgers and staff. Privacy seems to a fairly modern requirement.

Excellent points SGB especially in relation to state sponsored childcare, yy. I think all child care should be state sponsored on the basis that all children need care and almost all parents need to work in order to support children.

ES: Well, for a lot of women it isn't. Women get forcibly impregnated through rape. Women get impregnated by accident/contraceptive failure and refused access to abortion. Women have children with men who promised to love and support those children but then fuck off or behave so horribly that the woman has to throw the man out of the house. Also, couples choose to have children when they are financially comfortable and then something goes wrong; job loss, physical or mental illness, the child has severe SN and needs constant care...

maybenow Sat 07-Jul-12 22:29:50

a couple of people have said either that women lose out financially from marriage or men gain financially but surely it's the case that women lose out financially from having children, rather than from being married?
and in fact, is modern marriage in the western world not an attempt to minimise that loss over time?

i married my DH for many reasons but one being that i wanted to have his children and as a self-employed person that would mean bringing in a very minimal amount of money for a certain period of time and possibly a lower amount than pre-children for a significant period of time. i felt that in marriage we had more financial resiliance. (not to mention the fact i love him and want to be socially 'commited' to him and him to me)

Dahlen Sat 07-Jul-12 22:32:34

SGB that's partly what I was getting at earlier when I said about the state taking on more responsibility (financially) for children. With the number of single parents increasing all the time, we may well find ourselves in the future where government is forced to accept that there is a significant proportion of the population looking after small children and unable to survive unless childcare is more available and affordable to allow them to take on paid work, or they are otherwise given an income. I think a lot will go wrong, and Draconian measures will be taken to keep women 'in their place' before that happens though.

EclecticShock Sat 07-Jul-12 22:54:35

Agree with those scenarios SGB, but doesn't mean it's not a choice for some.

lizbee156 Sat 07-Jul-12 22:57:08

You are right, Mini.
Privacy is a modern concept but it wasn't privacy (or lack of) that was the problem when I lived communally.
If anything the problem was that human nature didn't evolve to fit with the society we were living in!

When living in a commune people took less of a 'live and let live' approach as they felt the others around them encroached on their chosen way of life.
I'm not sure people live comfortably when their ideas, attitudes and values are constantly challenged.
In my experience it makes them more defensive/aggressive, which in turn does not make for happy living!

Tressy Sat 07-Jul-12 22:58:20

Oh I don't know and I'm probably completely missing the point but, here goes.

I have brought up a child on my own with help from extended family. I managed to pay a mortgage and work so very little state involvement in my finances. I have brought up a lovely child to be proud of. I am self sufficient, own home, money etc, said child now grown up. Have had lots of different men come in and out of my life, mainly because I like and desire male company and want to have sex but didn't meet anyone I wanted to commit to in all that time. I didn't and still don't need a man for any reason other than I still want a loving, supportive relationship. I have met someone and I would marry him tomorrow if he asked. He is against the idea of a monogamous relationship so it's not going to happen.

Just saying smile.

Tressy Sat 07-Jul-12 23:00:30

Will add though that I struggled with working and still wanting a social life and the idea of communal living with other single mums when mine was little was a model I would have liked to have been part of. Everyone helping each other out.

Badvoc Sat 07-Jul-12 23:11:52

Oops! Sorry...
Take my wedding band off as I have put on wight since getty married and it was really too tight.
I decided to get. A new one, t wasn't in a rush iyswim?
During my wedding ring-less period I had to attend a few meetings/docs appts etc and I was dealt with differently...definitely. I was even asked by a GP "who is at home too?" meaning did I have a partner/bf/dh. Wouldn't have asked that if I had been wearing my ring!
Marriage is hard work ime but I am sure cohabiting couples would say the same?

GothAnneGeddes Sun 08-Jul-12 00:28:30

I'll dispute privacy being a modern concept.

Privacy, knocking before you enter private rooms, etc is actually discussed in the Quran (1400 years ago) and I'm certain that other cultures/ belief systems also had concepts of privacy. Again also, people have sought isolation for spiritual/cultural purposes throughout history.

This is what I mean about romanticising the past. Some of the ideas put forward here are starting to whiff of speculation akin to evo-psych.

GAG: how far was that concept of privacy extended, though? Slaves wouldn't have had any privacy: slave owners weren't expected to knock before visiting slave quarters. Most societies worked quite well for the privileged classes: as far as I know there has yet to evolve a stable, comfortable society that can function without a slave class that has been made to accept slave status.

Himalaya Sun 08-Jul-12 08:50:14

SGB - I think we don't have a 'slave class' in modern Western society - technology, choice and contraception have pretty much done away with that for most people.

We each have the equivilent of 200 "energy slaves" based on fossil fuels and technology substituting for human work.

This gives a totally new set of problems. On one hand climate change, and on the other an economy that is making human workers obselete.

Xenia Sun 08-Jul-12 11:21:01

1. The state has no money and is going to have less so it will not be paying out even more to support people's chidlren.

2. Yes, marriage which is very different in legal terms than living together even in Scotland, does seek to even things out so that relationships where women give up working (or men) should on a divorce result in a split (and I know lal about that havnig paid out a huge amount to a full time working husband as I earned 10x what he did and it feels very unfair if the other person has not made any career sacrifice at all).

3. Bowlby - a bit off track - he charted chidlren taken from both parents and who did not bond with anyone. He di dnot look at children of working parents who do tend to bond with mother, father and their nanny or granny or whoever else is helping. I feel very bonded to all 5 children who I breastfed to 1 - 2 years yet I was back at work in 2 weeks and I don't feel less connected to the children because I took decisinos which meant I was able to support them and suffered no career income detriment. Indeed it's hugely benefited them.

4,. Privacy - I now live with adult and younger (pre school age) children. Thatr's not a commune but there are often are lots of people around even if it's also people like cleaners and work men as it's a big busy household. I won't say it's like a medieval one or a traditional country house but I certainly feel there are elements of those which mean my children have lots of benefits of influences on them other than just me. They are here 365 days a year which is probably unusual for a divorced mother and that has its pros and its cons. We certainly have more privacy than poor families from the old days when the only chance the couple had to have sex without a child in the bed was when they sent the lot of them to Sunday school once a week and got the marital bed to themselves.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 12:14:09

Yes the state will have less and less money, agree, profits are privatised for the few and costs are socialised for the many. It will get worse.

Lizbee, do you think it's because the commune sits outside of mainstream society and is a bill false and forced rather than naturally evolving. I suspect that lots of "individuals" go into it with set ideas, like the hippies wanting self sufficiency and the spiritualists arguing for space to meditate but the socialists would prefer space for a library and so on.....

GothAnne, what is your problem with evo-psych, I am really interested to know more about evo-psych.

I think we do have a "slave" class in the modern world, very interesting article a few months back in the guardian about slaves in the sudan (I think it was sudan) where women were tending goat herds. Also capital goes to where the costs of keeping workers is socialised or unmet and labour is cheap, look at the south east, like indonesia. I agree though that technology is creating a huge surplus, profit sits side by side with unmet human need and high unemployment.

Tressy, I agree, although not single, that communal living could be hugely beneficial for single parents to gain support and security. Will you continue with your relationship and how do you feel about it?

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 12:15:07

bill false!!! bit false

Himalaya Sun 08-Jul-12 13:09:42

Mini -

It's too simplistic to say that capital goes to where the labour is cheap.

Capital goes to (if the market works) where the risk-return return rail is best. This depends on a lot of things - consumer demand, natural resources, stability, ease of doing business, education and productivity of the workforce.

Tressy Sun 08-Jul-12 13:22:09

Hi Mini, probably won't continue it. I have been used to total control over my own life and emotions and cannot relinquish that power to someone else.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 13:39:41

Yes of course Himalaya, but if I don't use short hand I could write pages grin Of course things like containerisation and transport, technology and systems for communication have meant that workers are further alienated from the product of their productivity and the profits............ so we can make the component parts in one place and assemble nearer to the point of consumption. It is too simplistic to just state labour costs, into that we should add, education, docility of the work force, deregulation of labour and so on, government subsidies, tax rates and the countries infrastructure such as roads and water.

Back to marriage and monogamy, it seems from reading about history and reading Engles that monogamy was something that was forced upon women whilst men through their public lives and wealth had greater freedoms. In ancient times the practice of "Hetaerism" co-existed with marriage, so that prostitution and marriage became two sides of one coin. Of course there is a class element to this, the keeping of female slaves, the wife also property of the husband, the husband embodied the bourgeois the wife the proletariat, prostitution replaced the freedom that women had experienced in previous generations. So women as a class were denied freedoms they had once experienced whilst simultaneously made use of in the public sphere to further the wealth & power of men.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:14:04

Evo-psych sucks, carry on with the Marxist analysis, much more interesting.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:16:17

Also agree with Xenia on what a lot of women lose by not continuing to work, disagree though that the money isn't there for childcare and caring, society just doesn't want to pay for it because it doesn't have to, women are doing it for free.

Xenia Sun 08-Jul-12 15:18:15

So if they stopped being housewives their husbands (and they) would have to pay for nannies and nurseries and women's worth would be recognised.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:22:24

I think there's a halfway house. I stayed at home for the first 8/9 months then my DP carried on at home, just don't see why it should have such an effect on career and earnings but it does, even for the two short periods I took out.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:24:04

And it's not always easy to get the continuity with childcare you'd like so you have to made decisions based on that, not easy.

HotheadPaisan Sun 08-Jul-12 15:25:59

And DP gave up work of course, why couldn't I get childcare vouchers to pay her?

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 15:52:17

Yes, the money is there, $50 trillion of surplus capital, we have a surplus capital consumption crisis but the uber wealthy, the share holders, the owners are not interested in paying taxes and meeting unmet social needs. capitalism is very good at creating the need for a welfare system, not so good at financing it. The costs associated with the creation of the surplus workforce (unemployed), the need for an educated and skilled workforce, health care to keep the workers healthy and reproducing themselves, childcare and schooling, these costs must be born by the worker himself we are told implicitly and explicitly through either government policy towards those on benefits (just one example) or the acquiescence to the capitalist class interests in terms of tax avoidance and subsidies.

Could you employer pay for childcare? No because to do so would piss off the shareholders. Did factories once provide schooling for the children of the workers? yes they did. It goes from bad to very much worse.

MiniTheMinx Sun 08-Jul-12 15:54:26

Hothead, you have knocked it on the head! society doesn't want to pay, two reasons maybe, men do not want to pay towards the costs of other children but also we have been socialised into thinking only of ourselves. We are all individuals in competition to each other.

Himalaya Mon 09-Jul-12 07:59:38


" Of course things like containerisation and transport, technology and systems for communication have meant that workers are further alienated from the product of their productivity and the profits............"

You always make it sound so baaaad grin

.... As if we'd all be better off un-alienated from the products of our labour tending sheep, being cobblers etc...rather than making widgets, being accountants or whatever and enjoying the modern electricity, healthcare, transport, food supply etc ... that goes along with that.

I think generally the things that make people independent - education, their own capital/savings, rights and ability to work in a high enough productivity job to afford their cost of living (which generally implies capital investment and/or professionalisation). You can have that in a modern marriage (but there are pressures not to). I think communes (as well as making me personally itchy) tend to work by enforcing
an artificial degree of interdependence through low productivity.

The most obvious example is the Amish who so restrict their use of technology in order to stick together. Hippy communes also seem to involve a lot of busy work. Local big man politics in Africa and Latin America is a variation on this - where politicians would rather scupper the chances of outside investment and trade which would make people less dependent on them.

Dahlen Mon 09-Jul-12 10:05:51

I think that's a false dichotomy.

There is no reason why technology can't develop and productivity increase to generate more profit. The point is that a greater part of that profit should be used for the greater good. It is obscene that billions are made in profits that line the pockets of shareholders while there is so much deprivation. I am all for a meritocracy where talent and effort are rewarded, but there should be a minimum standard for those at the bottom of the pile, which should be met before even greater profits are allowed for those at the top.

MiniTheMinx Mon 09-Jul-12 11:06:49

I always get the impression that Himalaya thinks I would like to see a return to living in mud huts grin
I agree with you Dahlen it is criminal that profit sits side by side with unmet needs. However one of the contradictions of capitalism is that in order to invest in technology, jobs and infrastructure the capitalist must create the surplus, this is done at private or institutional level not at governmental level. The surplus has to be created before it can be invested which is why we now see innovations such as Daves Big Society bank. One of the new solutions to the capital surplus absorption problem is to invest in social enterprise. Of course this creates profits that are then privatised to create more capital surplus and so it continues. Whilst some good may come of capitalists making money out of meeting social need, as the wealth grows the inequality actually widens. That is the greatest contradiction. There is no way of mitigating against this, if there was it would have been done.

Himalaya Mon 09-Jul-12 11:57:45

Mini grin...I am sure you don't, it is just that is where the 'problem is that workers are alienated from their labour' line of reasoning always seems to take me.

It always seems to me (as with discussion of patriarchy) that the argument is saying 'wouldn't it be great if we could have got to this situation of having internet, medicine, advanced economies etc...but have done it some nicer, fairer way than we did', or forgetting altogether how amazing and unprecedented the current situation in industrialised economies is, and just saying capitalism/patriarchy is 100% shit, lets rip it up and start again.

It seems to me that the good and the bad are so deeply intertwined that all we can do is mitigate and evolve it.

EclecticShock Tue 10-Jul-12 19:52:42

Agree with your post himalaya.

kickassangel Wed 11-Jul-12 15:47:11

I would like to see some kind of 'contract' as an option instead of marriage.

I think that the moment there is a child, then there should be a contract which comes into effect and holds both parents responsible for the upbringing of that child. Of course, to enforce that, then there would have to be a whole load of bureaucracy. But the concept that becoming a parent brings automatic responsibility is one that I would like to see more firmly enforced. I think too many people don't step up to that enough.

Then adults can choose to make thier own contracts if they wish. e.g. a couple may decide on a 5 year contract when a child is born, so that they both support the child through the early years. They may have a life-long one, or none at all.
BUT any contract/agreement would have been written in how the relationship will be separated at the end.

It would then mean that the law would be pro-active, looking at how best to protect the children, and the parents that care for them. At the moment it is reactive, and only steps in once people are at a stage where they find co-operating extremely difficult. It would also be so much easier to makes decision if you knew what would happen upon separation, particularly regarding the issue of SAHP.

I'd hope that people would also see that moving in with someone, or having a child with them, if they refuse to even a basic contract, would be a big red flag, but I'm sure there would still be some who say 'they love me, I don't need a contract'.

summerflower Thu 12-Jul-12 13:52:50

Did factories used to pay for schooling of the workers?

I'm not sure they did, Mini, I think they provided schooling for children who were in the labour force, but I am happy to be contradicted on that. It's a good question.

Apart from that, the whole topic of marriage depresses me so much, I'm staying out of it. I'm married, I don't wear a wedding band, I don't live with OH, I don't think of myself as a wife, I feel like the whole thing tries to shoe-horn me and our relationship into a socially sanctioned box, which I do my best to negotiate.

kickassangel Thu 12-Jul-12 14:19:55

some of the big factory owners paid for education and housing etc. examples being rowntrees, Terry's and Cadbury. The Calvinsitic belief system was that the owners could enjoy their wealth a certain amount, but not too much. So they provided 'model villages' for employees, with churches and houses, the stores were owned by the Company (The Company Store) which set the prices, and education was provided for children. By the 1850s education was legally required for young children, and throughout the later 1800s the age of education kept rising.

There is still a village outside York where there are no pubs as the Rowntree foundation set it up and forbade any alcohol. I think that Bourbon may be like this as well. <channelling 'A' Level history from nearly 30 years ago>

Anyway - my problem with marriage is that it's so all or nothing. Either you aren't married, so there are very few legal protections for vulnerable partners, or you are and it's for life.

I'd like to see it be possible to move in with someone, with the idea that you're committing for 2 years (or whatever), then you can commit further or split up, but with agreed ways to resolve the situation. IF people want a life-long contract they can do that, have it blessed by the church and have a big party as well, but I think it would be good if even then, the couple have had to go through a process to discuss 'what if' about a split. Or a couple could commit to co-raising children without having to agree to live together and do the whole 'nuclear family' thing.

I think it's really easy when you're in love to be willing to give your life to the idea of happy ever after. Perhaps if people were forced to talk through what happens if/when you split up, they would be more aware of any differences in their expectations of what commitment means. How many SAHM think that they're being respected for the work they put into the family, only to find that the dad doesn't intend to provide good support when they divorce, and never did? IF you have to talk through child maintenance and how much the role of 'housekeeper/mother/childcare' etc is, it could (hopefully) make people know what they're getting into.

bigroundbump Sun 15-Jul-12 21:51:22

Wow feeling some pretty big 'issues' in this thread. As a happily married non-religious woman (who would certainly describe myself as a feminist) I find it a bit odd when friends say they"don't believe in marriage". Firstly what's to believe? Marriage is real and people make the decision to do it or not. I would never say "I don't believe in living together \ being single" as it would sound narrow minded and offensive.

Why do people get so worked up about what other people choose (to have kids / not to have kids. To breastfeed / not to breastfeed. To get married / not get married)

Surely we should be concerned for people's happiness (male and female), weather that is living alone, with a partner, in a commune, with kids, without kids married or not married - it is our own free choice.

If you don't want to live with a partner who refuses to take on domestic chores / share childcare responsibility or make you feel supported in life then don't. It's not the 'being married' that's the issue its the person making you feel bad that you need to deal with.

TeiTetua Wed 18-Jul-12 13:58:23

I think the great chocolate barons were Quakers rather than Calvinists. They felt that they owed more than a wage to the people who created their wealth. It seems pitifully little by modern standards, but compared to (say) coal miners, the Cadbury workers were fortunate.

Surely anyone can sign a contract with anyone to do whatever they agree on, as long as it's legal? So a 2-year agreement to live together on some terms or other would be perfectly OK, and ultimately the courts would deal with it if things broke down--and if events worked out as planned, it would stay a private matter between the two people.

mummytime Wed 18-Jul-12 14:21:08

Part of the reason they made chocolate was as an alternative to the demon drink. Bourneville indeed used to have no pubs (and at least 20 years ago only 1 bar).

FoodUnit Thu 30-Aug-12 09:43:47

As humans we are really adaptable and monogamy/nuclear family seems to be the best model where resources are scarce and wide territories need to be covered to reach those resources like the Steppes or Arctic circle. I suppose in larger groups with lots of cooperation its probably shared group childcare where various liaisons of different duration go on - 'falling in and out of love'. I think sexual jealousy is pretty natural too, so I'm sure its natural to negotiate or fake exclusivity for the sake of social stability where individuals experience high levels of jealousy. But there are also going to be lots of cases in these cooperative groups where people 'aren't bothered' because they don't invest much into their sexual affairs. And being single 'not being into the game' is probably natural too- especially for women who have had a baby and feel fulfilled by this. IMO

Lightf00t Fri 12-Sep-14 17:23:51

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