Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What To Teach My Son?

My son currently insists he's never getting married.

He's still just a little kid, though, so it could still be the childhood "girls are yucky" sort of thing, or it could be more serious, such as seeing what my life is like as a husband. I try to put on a good face, but he is more than smart enough to observe the fact that I have to go work as much as I do and yet we have to watch our spending and that I spend much of my time at home being my wife's butler.

I know what I'm supposed to teach my son, according to the standard operation procedure of the subculture to which I belong: Stay "pure", go to college and/or the military, get a career, get married and make babies, and stay married at least until those babies are all grown, all while regularly attending church and giving "ten percent" and more to the church, in addition to time and effort serving in some capacity. And he should do this so... his sons can do the same thing, and their sons can do the same thing.

However, I can't, in conscience, encourage a son of mine to enter into what our laws and culture now call marriage.

And there's the great paradox.

I wouldn't have my kids if I never married.

Then again, life would be a lot easier I wouldn't know what I was missing, either.

I love my kids. I'm not going to lie you, my dear readers - they've been very difficult and aggravating on pretty much a daily basis. Not quite as difficult as some people have it with their kids having severe physical and mental handicaps, but they are very tiring, and not all in a good way. And yet, I love them and I love it when they greet me with an enthusiastic hug, and not just because it means they have to stop beating each other to do it.

Without the kids, there is no doubt whatsoever: I shouldn't have married. Marriage has been a net drain on my life financially, socially, physically, spiritually and in many other ways. The kids exist, though.

I decided to write this entry after hearing Dr. Laura take a call in the second hour of her Monday, January 9, 2017 show/podcast. A woman was calling in because her husband was telling their kids (sons?) they shouldn't ever get married. Dr. Laura was unequivocally disapproving of the husband's behavior. She talked about him robbing his children of the joy of their future possibilities. The problem is, though, that the odds are, those children would make a mistake in marrying. That's a fact, given the divorce rate combined with the marriages that don't legally divorce but end up being more trouble than any of the "joy" is worth.

If a husband sincerely believes that marrying is more likely than not to be a mistake, shouldn't he say so? Shouldn't a good parent warn their children about choosing an option with so many significant risks and pitfalls?

This is what I ponder.

I know from the other things she said in the call and has said at other times that Dr. Laura enjoyed marriage and wanted the kind of companionship that comes with the kind of marriage she had with her last marriage. But there's something very important to note: Dr. Laura was the wife, and Dr. Laura surely knows she's very different than the vast majority of women who are reaching marriage age or will be in the next 10-15 years. The main reason her marriage was the way it was, was that she is who she is. And not every person of either gender wants to same kind of companionship she wanted.

For many reasons, but even just of the sake of their benefit, I would never imply to my kids that I wish I'd never become a father by saying I shouldn't have ever married.

I do regret that they've had to deal with a mother who is so ill mentally and physically, and I regret that I'm really not the father they need, especially given the mother they have. I struggle to provide enough for my family financially and have enough saved and invested for the future. I just crunched the numbers again and it's really depressing.

We can never know for sure how things would have been if we made different choices (which is one reason why I question it when people imply unmarried men would be better off married), but based on certain reasonable assumptions, instead of struggling, if I had never married and never had children, then I'd likely:
  • be living in a smaller, but nicer home in a better area
  • fully fund my Roth IRA instead of not contributing a dime
  • make other wise investments I have standing opportunities to make
  • do some investing almost as a hobby
  • have a significant "drop dead/emergency" fund I could live off for a year and also use to make major purchases without financing
  • be making significant contributions to church, charitable, and political causes
  • pay down the mortgage early
  • be more active in my hobbies
  • travel
  • be earning more whether working more in the same career path (having had more flexibility) and/or doing profitable side projects (which would increase my income and wealth)
But... oh well. I married, and had kids, and then the truth finally came out about my wife, significantly adding to expenses and liabilities.

Now, I could fudge things a bit and tell my son that, while it was good for me to marry and have kids, things have changed since then so, now, he and other guys like him are better off not marrying. Being as intelligent as he is, he'd probably see very easily that my assessment is wrong, that I shouldn't have married, either, but at least he might think that I don't regret it, and thus he couldn't infer that, by extension, I regret having kids.

And fathers, you don't have to come right and tell your sons they shouldn't marry. You could just tell them they should only marry the right woman. That is another way of reaching the same result.

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