What does this topic have to do with politics? There is an amazing discussion going on over with Ian and co , put that together with our recent discussions here and in the media about the effect that non-traditional households are having on the state of our youth which got me thinking. The fabric of society is wearing thin in so many areas and one of the most threadbare is the state of our young people. As someone on the ground in this area Morag will say (without being patronizing) that there are thousands of wonderful parents and even more wonderful young people out there. But we don’t get the stats on them. The numbers we hear are of those in trouble. It is now being said that children growing up outside of marriage are having more trouble than most. So however much we don’t like it there are some home-truths we might need to face up to.
I came out recently in support/defence of the idea of marriage as something that is preferable for our children. Be assured that of course I don’t mean ‘any old marriage’. And of course a union that is really ‘bad’ is not good for children. However that is another discussion entirely.
Here are a few things we may want to think about.
• Unions where people are cohabiting are more likely to break up than marriages.
• Most such unions last less than 2 years before breaking up (or sometimes changing to marriage)
• Co-habitations with children are more likely to end
• 50% of women who have children in a cohabitating relationship will end up as lone-unmarried mothers
• Looking at children born in 1997 show that 70% of those born into households where their parents are married will spend their entire childhood with both their parents, whereas only 36 % of those children born into cohabiting households will have that experience. (*Civitas.org.uk goes into all this in more detail)
What does any of this mean? Or what difference does it make in the end? More than anything children crave stability. The shenanigans involved in ending a relationship will cause major disruptions. Children, craving stability, sometimes become lost in the ensuing confusion. Also there are often very radical financial consequences which cause additional changes and far-reaching repercussions for a very young child to deal with.
So the purpose of Morag’s musings weren’t/aren’t to tell people what to do re their personal choices. It was to open the discussion about the fact that as much as we now tend to do whatever we want – and then make up reasons why it’s perfectly fine to do it –and often the most vulnerable amongst us suffer for it.
For Morag the mission is to get more people to consider marriage as the preferred choice. And having made that choice to try to get people to make a bigger effort to keep to the commitment and not go running off the first time someone other than your intended winks at you and tells you you’re wonderful.
You have committed to each other, you’ve committed to these children who didn’t ask to be born. If your marriage gets broken at least try to fix it. If you can’t fix it then at least make sure your children don’t get broken as well in the process.
Someone said the other day that I was being smug and to set the record straight that it is probably more of a twisted rather than smug grin. I am not some alice-band wearing, 4 x 4 driving yummy mummy. I am an up at 6.30, getting people whose Latin is better than mine to help with the homework type of yummy mummy. I am a lone parent (from a marriage that ended when my son was 10), and part of my work involves working with families in crisis.
I have walked this path and continue to do so. Morag is just a parent trying to close the distance between what we read in the papers and what we live in our own lives. Trying to turn see what we can do to connect the dots between the stats and our lives. As they say ‘Politics by the people, for the people, of the people’.