Saturday, February 14, 2009

What Were We Expecting?

Very interesting article on Alternet about the parrallels between the octuplet-mum in the news recently and Angelina Jolie. Caught my eye because I'm currently on my hols in China and observing the one child policy in action. Aside from the use of resources issue* I have to say the one-child family does seem kind of peaceful. There is none of the focussing on one child to turn round and realise the other one has just broken some valuable porcelain and with two parents (assuming both are involved parents) both focussed on one child seems that the child soon realises it doesn't have to scream to get a bit of attention. I think in the past - gatherer/hunters time - women would most likely have had their children spaced out, the career-focussed trend for having two or three in quick succession seems to have obvious flaws. A modern solution is to just have one I think. Of course there are issues with running such a policy in a place where girls are widely not wanted. But then there's a straight-up problem with any place where girls are not wanted anyway. I'm up for a global programme of one-child incentives, there are too many people - especially on the Great Wall today, I could hardly move!

*And yes I know the smell of my carbon footprint coming out here to China is a resources issue in itself. In my defence I had work in Hong Kong last week. I got the train up to Beijing from there. Also in my defence I am, like Angelina Jolie and Nadya Suleman "33 years old, having been born in 1975", and I have NO children farting out greenhouse gases...


Rosemary Cottage said...

You're right, actually, in "ye (very, very) olden days" children would have been much more spaced out, due to the natural infertility caused by very frequent breastfeeding. In fact this, rather than inability to breastfeed, was one of the main reasons wet-nursing took off in the West the way it did; it "freed" women up to produce more potential heirs.

I know quite a few families that have used natural child spacing through frequent breastfeeding in their own families, although it does seem that in "hunter gatherer times" lactational amenorrhoea would have occurred for much longer due to the lack of available alternative foodstuffs.

But I'm sorry, the idea of an enforced global one-child idea - or "incentives" as you delicately put it - makes me sick. Because I identify as pro-choice, you see. And I believe that doesn't just mean pro-abortion, it also means I am pro the other choice, the choice to keep the foetus and bear a child or children.

The one child rule has been responsible for many women having abortions that they did not want to have, in order that they are not financially penalised. I personally think someone being forced to have an abortion is every bit as bad as someone forced to have a child. (See from the F word). It also, for women who cannot afford abortions, leads to infanticide.

queen emily said...

Yeah. I mean, the history of sterilisation of The Wrong Kind of Woman is a rich and fucked-up one. Incentive would turn to punitive in about a second yeah?

Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

Ho hum.

Cruella said...

I was being facetious! But in any case just because an idea has been implemented badly in the past doesn't mean there's no value to it.

I think it is widely accepted that for many women (and men) in the world there is a penalty to be paid for having a smaller family - where children act as a pension scheme and also as cheap labour for farming and industry. I think many women are probably having more children than they actually want.

But for the record my solution to this would be to resolve those issues rather than specifically coming up with new pressures on women in already difficult situations.

The "first" world is difficult - there are people I know who really seem to have large families as a form of status symbol and I think if there were a simple way to discourage that I would be up for it.

The world's population is too big. That's clear. What is also true is that there are a lot of unwanted babies born. I suspect many more than there are wanted babies not born. If we can help women to have control over their own reproductive systems - and take that power away from their families, communities and religious leaders as well as allowing them to make their decisions from a point of view that isn't about economic necessity or social status - we will go a long way to sorting that out.

Maybe not enough though. We don't really know yet.

I guess my point was there are some really good things about small families - we should sing their praises more often in the hope that it will catch on!

My point was also to quickly link an interesting article and make a brief light-hearted remark on it, not discuss the subject at length. Ah well, the joys of the internet. I should be out sightseeing!!

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I see the value in not having lots of kids, but I think it is a personal decision. We have chosen to have a small family, but not an only child. I think it is easier to raise two children than one because they are able to entertain each other at some point. Also, we get better use of out things we purchase for the child because they can be passed down (e.g. cloth diapers that got used by both).

I also think that a sibling is the greatest gift that you can give a child and think it is difficult (but not impossible) to teach an only child things like empathy, not being selfish, sharing, etc.

Cruella said...

Of course it's a personal choice. Everything is. Who you vote for in the next election is a personal choice. But that doesn't mean that the debate about the pros and cons of both sides aren't open to public discussion. You seem to be implying I'm not entitled to comment, but as it happens I am!

Even the most personal of choices we make under heavy influence from the media and the culture that surrounds us as well as the influence of our families and friends and governments and medical experts and religious leaders and all sorts of people. The debate about what these various parties should be saying and are saying and whether it's reasonable or not is alive and well.

But the thing about "a sibling is the greatest gift that you can give a child"... Really! Excuse me while I grab a sick-bag. I mean don't get me wrong, I like my sister. She works in HR and lives in Southhampton. We see each other about twice a year. As kids we played sometimes and fought other times. And I do feel like in a crisis I could ask her for help. But she wouldn't be the first person I'd go to, there are lots of other people I'm closer to, who I see more often and in many practical ways have more in common with.

I think there are plenty of ways to find your child a playmate. Like hanging out with other mums (bonus: free babysitting) and joining groups. Plus remember some kids just get bullied and pushed around by their siblings and unlike playgroup - you can't just take your kid away from the problem when that happens.

And as to the thing about sharing and empathy, you seem to have forgotten that mums are people too! Kids share (or refuse to) with their parents, grandparents, friends, neighbours, teachers, classmates, etc. My other half was raised for the most part as an only child and is perfectly capable of playing nicely. And actually I have other friends who were only children and I'm a bit offended on their behalf at the inference that they're somehow bad people as a result.

The greatest gift you can give a child is a home where it is loved and wanted and well looked after. It doesn't make a scratch of difference what the familial structure of that home is whether it's mr, mrs, 2.4 and a budgie or two lesbian grannies!

OK now lets have a bet on what percentage of my blog hits this week will be people googling for "two lesbian grannies"!! Ha ha ha...

Annie @ PhD in Parenting said...

I prefaced my comment with the comment on it being a personal choice so that people reading it wouldn't think that I felt MY reasons for having a small family (not one child, not many children) was a judgment of the fact they made a different choice.

Of course you're entitled to debate the pros and cons (as am I) and I wasn't refuting that. I was just making the point that I didn't assume that my choice was necessarily the right choice for everyone.

Emy Augustus said...

did you see this article?

It's called, I have two husbands : a polygamist's diary.

Just wondering what you think of it. it was interesting.