Choosing to Remain Single v. Grandma Waiting for an Adult Child to Marry to Reap the Reward of Grandchildren

Confident womenI recently read a Dear Abby column in The Miami Herald which has a common theme among those of us waiting for a child to marry to reap the reward of grandchildren.

Dear Abby:  My 31 year old daughter, “Layla,” is beautiful, accomplished and earns a good living.  She has a lot of friends and always has a boy friend.  Layla isn’t married and hopes to meet the right person.  I’m very anxious about it, but this is her life and her choice.  People constantly ask, “How’s your daughter?  Is she seeing anyone?”  And when I meet someone for the first time who asks about my children, the second question they ask is, “Is she married?”  (they don’t ask that about my son.)  What should I say in response to this omnipresent question?

Dear Abby responded:  “My daughter is single, loves her job and is quite successful.  Now tell me about YOUR children.”

This is a great response for a great time in history.  Here is Grandma’s response:

“Like more than 50% of Americans who are part of the new positive and beneficial massive societal shift who choose to be single, My daughter is single, loves her job and is quite successful.  Now tell me about YOUR children.”

I guarantee that the person will be curious.  More than 50% of Americans live alone you say?  Tell me more, and you will be able to!

Women are breaking the glass ceiling.  The independence and a full life available to a woman makes marriage not an imperative to our daughters.  They have options and take advantage of those options.  No longer is marriage a goal, but finding a soul mate with whom to share one’s life is a goal.  We should be proud of that choice.

What is a surprise are studies that have now come out and are astounding about  how Americans are increasingly choosing a life of living alone. There is a wonderful book by Eric Klinenberg, called “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.”  His thesis is that “[h]uman societies at all times and places, have organized themselves around the will to live with others, not alone.  BUT NOT ANYMORE.”  He says, for the first time in centuries, the majority of all American adults are single.  His statistics are that, in 1950, 22% of American adults were single.  Today, more than 50% of American adults are single.  “Surprisingly, living alone is also one of the most stable household arrangement.”  Young adults between ages 18 and 34 are the fastest growing segment of those Americans who live alone, according to Mr. Klinenberg.  Americans, says Mr. Klinenberg, are actually less likely to live alone than are residents of other countries, the four highest rates being in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.  Why the new societal shift?  According to Mr. Klinenberg, economic development; social security; the cultural change of the importance of individualism, called “the cult of the individual;” the rising status of women, birth control, the communications revolution, beginning with the telephone and now with the internet.

Mr. Klinenberg states that the research on marriage shows that people who never  marry are just as happy as people who are currently married, but also significantly happier and less lonely than people who are widowed or divorced.  A bad marriage is bad for your health, the studies show, causing undue stress, strain, and sickness.

I love one of the facts that Mr. Klinenberg states, that putting children in their own rooms after the rise in income after World War II has contributed to people liking having their own space.  He mentions the rise of single rooms in dormitories in colleges as a consequence.   I think we should recommend that our grandchildren share rooms for a while in their childhood.

Here is what Mr. Klinenberg tells us about this new “massive social experiment”:

We have embarked on this massive social experiment in living alone because we believe it serves a purpose.  Living alone helps us pursue sacred modern values—individual freedom, personal control, and self-realization—whose significance endures from adolescence to our final days.  It allows us to do what we want, when we want, on our own terms.  It liberates us from the constraints of a domestic partner’s needs and demands, and permits us to focus on ourselves.  Today,in our age of digital media and ever expanding social networks, living alone can offer even greater benefits:  the time and space for restorative solitude.  This means that living alone helps us discover who we are, as well as what gives us meaning and purpose.”

Now we know life is wonderful, productive, and rewarding for a single adult in 2012. So now that we know we are in the midst of a significant societal shift and we can stop apologizing for our single adult children, what next for those of us to whom being a Grandma is the reward we have been waiting for?

Since 41% of all children were born out of wedlock in the United States in 2012, we need to rethink how we feel about our single adult children being a parent without a partner.  I told my children that if they were not married at age 35, I still expected to be a Grandma.  As a Boomer  Grandma, I face the reality of changing times.  There are fabulous medical advancements, freezing of eggs, sperm banks.

In 2012, a mother of a single adult child can be comfortable with the idea of their child remaining single and still contemplate grandparenthood with

Joy,

Mema

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