My oldest hija just turned 13. For most of those years I was single. I dated but it wasn’t until she was 10 that I was in what I would call a “serious” relationship. When that relationship ended, I was mami’ing another hija, now 3. According to a study referenced in this article, the fact that I am a mami to hijas, doomed me from the get and dooms me well into the future, dooms me to single’hood that is.
Economists Gordon Dahl (at the University of Rochester) and Enrico Moretti (at UCLA) discovered the following facts in 2003: In the United States, the parents of a girl are nearly 5 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of a boy. The parents of three girls are close to 10 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three boys.
Not only do parents of daughters divorce more, but divorced women with daughters are substantially less likely to remarry than divorced women with sons. Landsburg suggested that “daughters are a liability in the market for a husband. Not only do daughters lower the probability of remarriage; they also lower the probability that a second marriage, if it does occur, will succeed.”
The alternative explanation, isn’t any more nuanced. It makes my daughters crutches, replacements, companions for my spinsterhood…
When we add up these facts, a conclusion we might draw is that wives with daughters are less likely to stay with their husbands because they know that with a girl, they’ll never be lonely or without help. Thus, they may be less willing to tolerate any bad behaviors from their husbands (and less willing to stay married) because they don’t need their husbands as much. This idea could even explain why couples expecting a girl are less likely to marry: A woman carrying a girl anticipates that she won’t need a husband.
I am not known for making great relationship decisions however I wouldn’t say I blame these decisions on my mothering daughters. In fact I find it pretty gross how ready people are to apply blame to daughters, how willing to assign responsibility based on rigid roles and expectations of what our daughters can do for us.
Why not a discussion of the complicated nature of romantic relationships and the burden that the institution of marriage, with its rules and expectations brings puts onto them? Why not a real discussion of what single mami’hood really means and that it’s not a better than or less than inequality when compared to marriage?
I also wonder how the dueling psychologists would place women of color, women like me, who could have been married but choose not to be in this spectrum. The lives of women of color are already denigrated and less valued. We see this in the media and the role of violence in our lives.
And what of women and daughters who fall outside the heteronormative, binary gendered system under which “marriage” exists?
My daughters are not liabilities nor are they excuses for my choices in life. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that they are the end all and be all in my life or that they owe me something.