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Feminism: chat

Why do disillusioned mothers herd their daughters into marriage and babies?

22 replies

Pluvia · 22/03/2022 11:16

Sorry — that's a very poor subject summary but I couldn't think of another way of expressing it.

I'm at the kind of age where I'm seeing my contemporaries who have children looking forward to their daughters getting into relationships, getting married and having children. I see women who've had shit marriages, women who've been abandoned and abused by their children's fathers, women who've sworn never to have anything to do with men again, all quietly encouraging their daughters to find someone to settle down with. Many of those women, after a drink or two, will also say that although they love their children dearly motherhood isn't all it's cracked up to be and if they'd known then what they know now, they wouldn't have children.

And yet they all seem to really want their daughters to find a man and have children. I've never heard a woman say that she's advised her daughter not to marry and not to have children. Have you?

I'm watching my 33-year-old niece at the moment. She has flat-shared with female friends for the last decade and they all get along with each other so well they've clubbed together and jointly bought a home. They have a fabulous life: holidays, nights out and such trust and affection for each other that I'm green with envy. My niece says she's under constant bombardment from her mum about boyfriends (she has them, but they aren't the main focus of her life) and babies, even though her mum's now divorced for the second time and struggling to cope financially.

Why do we do it? Why do so many women keep recommending for their daughters a formula that hasn't worked very well for them?

OP posts:

Babadook76 · 22/03/2022 11:18

I don’t know a single person who does this? It’s more the complete opposite really. Most people I know are pushing their daughters into going to uni and pursuing good careers rather than telling them to get married and have babies.


Twizbe · 22/03/2022 11:20

My mum was always telling me to be careful who I chose to have a family with.

Once I'd found the right one she upped the pressure a bit, but then she's been married for 40 odd years and I think enjoyed having us.


Pluvia · 22/03/2022 11:31

Babadook, the young women I'm thinking of are all finished with university and working and appear to have good careers and lives.

My SiL, mother of my niece, sees the fabulous life my niece is leading but still says to me and others that what she really wants to see is my niece with a partner and babies. I have another friend whose husband cheated on her for years and got them into terrible financial trouble before dumping her for a younger woman. She's really struggled. And yet every time her daughters get new boyfriends she's 'I'm hoping this is the one...'

OP posts:

PlayingGrownUp · 22/03/2022 11:37

I’m 32 and I’ve really felt the pressure but my sister at 2 years younger than me didn’t.

I think it’s because my sister always says she wants to get married and have kids at some point whereas I’ve always said I don’t want kids.

In the childfree community there’s the concept of the ‘life script’ that you will graduate, meet someone, get married and have babies plus other steps depending on your background and I think people who have delayed it don’t receive the same pressure as people who have actively stepped away from it.

Plus I think a lot of mothers find it difficult to connect with the daughters otherwise. My mum and I got on great when I was planning a wedding because my mum understood it. Now I’ve gone back to normality she’s struggling to understand why I don’t now have a baby whereas I’m more focused on retraining.


Pluvia · 22/03/2022 12:02

I think your point about mothers finding marriage/ LTR and children a bonding point is an excellent one. Focussing on their daughters in a way that might connect them is understandable, even if a bit Hmm

OP posts:

WordleGirdle · 22/03/2022 12:18

Well, I imagine most mothers don't say it because no matter how sincerely it's meant, it pretty much translates to the recipient as, 'Susan, you ruined my life.'


DressingPafe · 22/03/2022 12:40

I've never heard a woman say that she's advised her daughter not to marry and not to have children

My take on it is that I would never advise them to do one thing or another. It's their choice to make. However I have been honest about the pro's and con's of marriage and children. I am one of those for whom relationships haven't worked out.

My DD & DS are both early 30's. Neither of them currently have any interest in settling down or having DC, and that's asolutely fine with me. I'm genuinely not fussed if I have grandchildren or not. I just want my own children to be happy.

But there is a lot of pressure from society in general. I myself am often asked "any grandchildren yet?" Because the vast majority of my friends are grandmothers. I know they see it as a bit unusual that my DC are showing no signs of "settling down".


Fairislefandango · 22/03/2022 12:47

My mother started banging on about grandchildren (lightheartedly) from when I was about 18. My dd is about to turn 17 and I honestly don't think it will ever occur to me to do similar. Not because I've found parenting hard (I haven't tbh), nor because it ruined my career (it did, but I don't actually mind that much), but because I want her to do what makes her happy. If that is staying single, then that's fine.


TheLeadbetterLife · 22/03/2022 12:47

My mother doesn't need a drink in her to be completely open about the fact that motherhood was absolutely not her bag!

I've never had any pressure from her, and am childfree by choice. My mother has also always been completely stoic and non-judgemental about my relationships (even when I made very dubious choices in my younger days).

I do have a couple of female cousins who are getting a bit of pressure from their mother though. Their view is, why did you bring us up to be career-focussed feminists then?


MangyInseam · 22/03/2022 13:18

I don't really relate to this. My grandmother always told her kids not to have kids. And when I was pregnant, every time my mum said, Oh no" despite the fact that they were wanted and planned, as were her own kids.


BertieBotts · 22/03/2022 16:20

I'm guessing partially social conditioning - "it's just the way of the world" type thinking. Like everyone ends up getting married and having children. Not really being brave enough to break the mould/encourage their children to.

Partially wistfulness/removed broodiness - we are mammals after all and we are pretty much programmed to find babies cute. I could imagine getting excited about the idea of having the nice bits of grandchildren without the hard parts, even if I hated motherhood (which I don't).

Maybe seeing it as a kind of "second chance" - oh they'll be better at it than me - or rose tinted specs and forgetting the hard parts?


Deliriumoftheendless · 22/03/2022 22:33

I have told my daughter to have lots of kids. It’s my revenge for her being such a horrible threenager 😁

In seriousness I’ve always told her she doesn’t ever have to marry if she doesn’t want to and having kids is down to how she feels when she’s older. I just want her to be happy.


nettie434 · 22/03/2022 23:00

I think there are a lot of societal pressures to be a grandparent which can outweigh personal experiences of marriage and motherhohod.

Your niece and her friends sound as if they have very satisfying lives. A friend of mine thinks that sharing a house with friends helps a lot if you then move in with a partner. She says you learn higher standards in terms of sharing chores and respecting the other person's space.


GoodnessTruthBeauty · 25/03/2022 03:09

Is it really such a great mystery? Reproduction is obviously something that is natural and people pairing up into permanent relationships to have biological children is just part of life for most people in most societies. Women can choose not to do that but also obviously there is a biological window that closes and then the choice has been made for you.

Only in the UK and a few other societies would it be considered an affront to be asked if you're thinking about making that choice.

Many women are happy to be married and have children and it doesn't have to be seen as a negative choice and that they could be doing something so much more meaningful and fun. For many women getting married and having kids is fulfilling, even though of course it can be challenging at times.


mathanxiety · 25/03/2022 03:51

They do it because somewhere along the line they were encouraged to believe in fairy tales - that the good are rewarded. They love their daughters and see hope and promise in them.

Also because they hope that when they move on to the grandparent phase of their lives their previous unhappiness will fade far into the rear view and their lives will be redeemed.


mathanxiety · 25/03/2022 03:53

And YYY to motherhood bonding grandmothers and their adult daughters.


greasyshoes · 26/03/2022 21:55

I'm watching my 33-year-old niece at the moment. She has flat-shared with female friends for the last decade and they all get along with each other so well they've clubbed together and jointly bought a home. They have a fabulous life: holidays, nights out and such trust and affection for each other that I'm green with envy. My niece says she's under constant bombardment from her mum about boyfriends (she has them, but they aren't the main focus of her life) and babies, even though her mum's now divorced for the second time and struggling to cope financially.

I'm a man, though a similar age to your niece. No family, no children. A lot of the time, it just feels like there's no fulfilment in my life. I really don't understand the appeal of "clubbing." Yet, many of my friends from school now have children, and it seems to give them a sense of purpose.

I have zero intention of having children, but finding an alternative fulfilment or a purpose seems to be difficult. I used to think fulfilment would come from the workplace, but after working with a few sociopaths, I have painfully discovered that it's wrong to seek fulfilment from a job.

So what now? Well, I don't know. So I can see why the women you know are encouraging younger women to have children.


MissTrip82 · 26/03/2022 21:59

Probably because a very large number of woman find the idea of living independently throughout one’s life abhorrent. There’s still a real stigma attached to being single in many people’s minds.

Including the post above, in which fulfillment is presented as only available via children, and it’s suggested that either one’s life is about family or about ‘clubbing’.

Many people have very narrow minds indeed.


AnastasiaRomanov · 26/03/2022 22:09

This is quite interesting . My mother had an unhappy marriage and felt very unfulfilled. She wasn’t a great mother either. Yet from when I was 16 was buying things for her grandchildren to be.

My sister married late after being fairly condescending about others who had settled down younger and had children. Her marriage isn’t particularly happy either. Yet now she is pushing and pushing for grandchildren. Even though her oldest is barely 17!
I find it really perplexing. I think it’s a way to feel important and validate their existence. The status of being a grandmother seems to more important than the wellbeing of their child.
I suppose if your children don’t have children the line dies out and then all the parenting efforts may feel futile.


oldestmumaintheworld · 26/03/2022 22:13

My daughter is 30 and although in a stable relationship shows no sign of wanting a family and that's fine with me. I don't care about being a Granny.
However, I do have friends who are desperate for grandchildren and it's a view I find peculiar. I think it comes from people who either really enjoyed motherhood or want to live vicariously through their children because they have nothing better to do with themselves. There's more to life than having children.


oliviastwisted · 26/03/2022 22:18

The best things in my life are my husband and children. I share my feelings about those experiences with my children, partially to make them feel good about themselves and partially because they may like those experiences too, who knows? I am not remotely wedded (pardon the pun) to the idea of them choosing the same path for themselves, that is for them to decide. My own family of origin is frankly shit but I do have a great job and great friends too. I recommend the good job and friends to my kids too and ideally they will still have our nice family in the future too so hopefully they will have a bit of family support either way.


RantyAunty · 30/03/2022 13:38

I believe there is an overall expectation to couple up and reproduce.

Some cultures think girls should start thinking about marriage around 16 or so.

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