I was thinking back today to when I first became a wife, and then a mother. It was a bit of a shock in a few ways. I can remember in the first weeks of marriage having  a few moments of “what have I got myself into? Is this what marriage is about?” as I picked up his socks, and hung out my fourth load of washing, or as we argued over which room of the house some piece of furniture went in.

As a female in the 21st century, I was taught from a young age that you could be anything you want. Girls can conquer the world. Anything a male can do a female can do better. And all that. But for some reason being a wife and mother was left off the list.

I mean, most girls I would say play “Mummies and Daddies” and all that when they are young. Even as teenagers somewhere they aspire to one day get married and have kids. But first thoughts are to becoming prime minister, or a doctor, what to do as a career to earn squillions of dollars or how I can travel the world etc ASAP.

And there is nothing wrong with that as such.

However, when pretty much everyone will be in some form of relationship in their lifetime (whether it will be as a wife or whatever), and a good proportion of the population will be a parent, what preparation really is there for this? With the exception perhaps of having the good luck of having been brought up with parents who had it “together” (literally), which unfortunately wasn’t my case and increasingly in an age of divorce isn’t the case of many. The only other real education in relationships is perhaps health class in school (which is more preparing for what to do in case of promiscuity?). And teenage dating.

Today people spend on average between 120 and 200 hours planning a wedding. But how much time do they spend on actually preparing for marriage and the life long commitment it entails? And if there isn’t a wedding or marriage on the cards and people are living together “out of wedlock” how much time is spent preparing for that to last? I mean apart from living and sharing a life with someone in a relationship that you want to make work, there is finances and budgeting (shared or separate accounts?), household chores, leisure time, sex, emotional baggage and past histories to negotiate. And thats before children are even thought of…

Perhaps in our rush to achieve the modern ideal of being rich, travelling the world and owning all the best fashions and gadgets all while having a good time, we have got our priorities slightly out of whack?

In connection with this, to pinch a friend’s facebook status: A study by sociologists at the University of Queensland found that premarital cohabitation, as well as premarital childbearing, significantly increases the odds of marital breakup. While cohabitation increases the odds of divorce by 41% for men and 31% for women, out-of-wedlock childbearing increases those same odds by 63% for men and 2.3 times for women. On the other hand, the birth of a first child within marriage had just the reverse effects: reducing the odds of marriage breakdown by 85%. – “Marriage Breakdown in Australia,” Journal of Sociology 41 (June 2005): 163-183.

So while we get an education and work experience and all that in preparation for our career, preparation for our lifelong relationships with our spouses and children is also (more) important.

How to do this?

I’ll post more about that tomorrow.