Over Chinese New Year, the prying aunts were at it again, asking the single women when they were going to get married.
We may be so used to these obnoxious questions that none of us batted an eyelid, but to the listening children, they are forming their own views of societal norms of marriage via the discussions of trusted adults around them.
As parents, are we conscious about what messages we are conveying to our children?
Are we aware of the remarks we may have carelessly said without realising the impact they are having on our children?
Have we sat down and thought long and hard about what we want to teach our children about this very important matter?
I remember having a discussion with some mummy friends. I was griping about how miffed I was at my parents for buying #1 a pair of designer spectacles costing $500.
Here I was trying to teach them the value of money, and there they were, spoiling them rotten. When I chastised my mum, she quickly pointed to my dad, “It’s your dad, not me.”
My dad looked baffled and said “The salesman said this is a special lens and the frame is very light. Since it helps her see properly in school, I don’t mind buying it for her.”
I expected the other mums to feel the same way as I did, but was surprised that we were split into 3 camps.
Some agreed that we shouldn’t let our kids get used to such luxuries and expensive items when they are young, especially since they are not earning their own keep. Others felt that if it were the grandparents spoiling them, that’s ok, as kids seem to understand that grandparents love and dote on them boundlessly.
I was surprised that the rest felt that there was nothing wrong bringing our girls up to enjoy luxuries as they will be used to that level of comfort and will expect no less from their future husbands. One friend mentioned that her mum taught her to marry a rich man so that she would not have to struggle like her mum did.
I was even more taken aback when a majority of the mums agreed that it is wise to teach our girls to find well-to-do husbands as that is being pragmatic, living in an expensive city like Singapore. They gave examples where after divorce, it is easier to bring the kids up when you have a higher alimony.
I left the discussion with a million thoughts swirling in my head. Have I been making comments too flippantly which are not aligned with the values I want to inculcate in them? Sometimes I joke with #1 that given her very expensive taste, she has to either earn a lot of money or marry a rich man.
I had never considered what all the listening kids might be extracting from statements such as these. Marriage = source of funds?
I pondered these questions and discussed them with close friends. I asked them what advice did their own mothers give them about marriage and we discovered that many of us in my generation did not have proper discussions with our parents and were not given sound advice about marriage and finding a life partner.
Instead, these were the more common refrains heard:
“Marry someone who loves you more than you love him”
“Marry wealthy man” (translated)
“Don’t marry xxx (race)”
For some, the closest advice they got regarding dating/marriage was, “Don’t get pregnant! or to the guys, “Don’t get any girl pregnant!”
And this one, “Don’t marry someone like your father!” we all laughed about, but isn’t it sad that many of our mothers felt this way? Possibly because that generation did not ‘wash their dirty laundry in public’, all that was seen was the false appearances of blissful marriages.
This topic became quite intriguing and I was curious about how couples ended up tying the knot. The more I asked around, the more I realised that in the void of good advice from our parents, many of us actually married for the wrong reasons.
Some were swept off their feet because the man was very handsome and owned a house and a nice car.
Some married caucasians because the romance of migrating to a foreign land was exciting while others “wanted a cute ang moh-looking baby”.
Some got married because they couldn’t wait to get out of their parents’ home and some did it because they have been together for many years and their friends were getting married one by one, so it was a natural progression to the “Which HDB should we get” discussion.
Some were pressured by parents or grandparents to tie the knot and start a family.
Now that we are married and wiser, we all agree that it is important to teach our children to seriously consider their choice of life partner and not just the circumstances surrounding the relationship before making such a huge commitment.
It is choosing someone you will want to spend the next 50 or more years with, raise a family with, and grow old together with. Isn’t that the most important decision they will ever make in their lives?
As parents, we know that a broken marriage is never easy for the children. It is important to guide them towards building strong and fruitful marriages and the first step is in providing them sound advice in finding the right spouse and teaching them that marriage is much more than the champagne and flowers on the wedding day or the ring, for that matter.
Being in a good marriage will bring them (and us!) much happiness, while being stuck in a miserable marriage becomes emotionally draining.
Neither do we want them to grow up thinking that something is wrong with them if they are not married by a certain age, nor feel the pressure to ‘just settle down’ because it is expected.
We all have diverse opinions of marriage and suitable life-partners, but as parents, it is good to start discussing with our children what are the ingredients of a healthy marriage before we let slip comments which have been ingrained in us by our own parents.
Although as life would have it, no matter how you try to guide your children, they will probably follow their hearts and give us sleepless nights with their choice of partners we might not approve of.
What would you teach your child about marriage and finding the right partner? I would love to hear your views.
Lesson #5: Passion vs Family
Lesson #6: Finding our children’s gifts and talents
Lesson #7: Teach our children compassion by little actions
Lesson #9: What must kids do for us to stop pushing them over the edge?
Lesson #10: Who’s selfish? The kids or me?
Lesson #11: Confronting death teaches you about life
Lesson #12: To measure our lives in love
Lesson #13: The day they fly
Lesson #14: Do our kids even know we love them?