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The "Kids or Mr Perfect" Poll

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Now that I am home and rested and full of caffeine, it is time to look at my latest incredibly unscientific poll. The fact that the poll was unscientific was stressed to me by a young Pole staying in the house, and incidentally I wonder if Poles get tired of their anglophone friends making bad puns about polls, poles and Poles.

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

So here are the poll results:

Number of respondents: 246

In terms of marriage, I would rather

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

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

Oh, yes. The poll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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