So, the Chinese have changed their mind on the legally allotted number of children a couple can have. After strictly no more than one for several years it crept up to two, was very recently changed to three and probably counting, seeing how Chinese couples found that one was plenty of hassle and I am not at all sure how many couples will follow regulations. It looks like so many official roadmaps that are handed out to the masses from on high, wherever you might be: first you complain, then you fall in with what becomes the norm and in the end you resent changes to what has become an officially sanctioned way of life that has become comfortable and perfectly manageable. Besides, one costs less than two, always a consideration. The Chinese didn't work out the effect on the population numbers when they blithely ordered that a knot was to be tied in the baby producing mechanism.
What are children for? Seriously. When we had no means of birth control other than some very fallible methods, children were produced, wanted or not. You may be too young to remember the days when women dreaded that time of the month, particularly when they, or more often, their partner, had let the heat of the moment overtake fear of pregnancy, a fact they may soon have come to regret. Whether you were married or indulging in sin mattered not so much, although married breeding at least didn't bring the opprobrium that unmarried mothers faced. Breeding is not a word used nowadays although I recently saw a programme which provides brides for millionaire old men; the old codger who looked every minute of his 73 years was laying down his requirements before acquirement, viz. : must be attractive, must breed at least two sons, have some money and means of her own, and the most astounding requirement was that he "couldn't go above 35" What he was not asked by the note-taker?/ agent?/marriage broker? was what he had to offer an attractive young woman with means of her own, other than an urge to impregnate her. "So tell me, Miss Brown, what first attracted you to Mr. Shrunken-Shanks Moneybags?" might have been a suitable question for a possible contender. I remember that wonderful scene in Sex And The City when Samantha takes an elderly man to her bed who has indulged in Viagra beforehand. When he leaves the bed to go to the bathroom (we oldies need to pee more often) her face is a picture of distate as she watches his back view recede toward the bedroom door.
So, what are children for? To continue the human race, of course, you will say. Me too, when I'm feeling generous towards said race, although there may soon be no planet to house and feed all these children. In my peregrinations in blogland I have seen many female bloggers describe themselves as doting mothers, wives, grandmothers etc. In other words, apppendages first and foremost. A lot fewer mention professions, or give a precis of interesting facets of their lives. In other words, a purpose other than caretaking. I admit that there are many women for whom this caretaking is a holy and much loved pleasure, to be seen as the fulfilment of a woman's deepest needs, as well as her bounden duty. Fair enough, to each his own. But give those women who prefer not to have children - not the poor souls who desperately want a child but it just doesn't happen for them - I mean the ones who choose not to get pregnant - the right to follow their own path. All that phoney pity, the intimate questions re the "patter of tiny feet", "w-h-e-n can we expect a happy event? Is there perhaps a touch of envy when the harassed mum sees her friend's active social life, her independence, her clean and tidy flat free of Lego strewn about to trip you up?
Children are wonderful in their allotted sphere. They can be a joy and delight and, I suppose, mostly are. But we can no longer count on children as an insurance policy for old age, "to take care of us as we once did for them", which, if I remember rightly, was the way in Far Eastern civilisations (and maybe other civilisations too, but it was the Chinese which caused these ruminations), where old age and its concomitant wisdom were much revered. We can be proud of them when they reach maturity, we can also be disappointed, we come in quite useful when the children's children require a doting grandparent to double up as unpaid childminder, we can sit and watch from the sidelines, but we cannot - or very rarely - be part of a family embracing all ages under the same umbrella, the way things once were, even in my lifetime.
My son is a very good example of what I mean. He has a large family circle, with the usual chequered his- and-her children, inherited adult siblings, adoptive and inherited grandchildren, his own soon to be grandchild; I know that he is happy with the status quo and enjoys it all immensely, albeit slightly sporadically. I am no part of this family, not from any malice on any side, it just never happened that I was included, or to be honest, included myself. He does what he can for me, visits several times a year, cheerfully works his way through my extensive list of jobs reserved for him; we take the time to sit and reminisce about "our olden days", then he leaves to return to his busy life. That's how it should be, I must be glad that he leads a loving and contented life. For the rest, we have slightly "dutiful" telephone contact on Sundays, when we catch up on the week's events. I am not complaining. Besides, he means well.
I also have - or had - a daughter. As those of you who have been my faithful readers for a while know, she fell out with me many years ago and has never felt any need to enquire after my wellbeing, neither during good times nor bad. For a long time I fretted and worried, but everything passes.
When you get to my ripe old age you realise that nothing much matters, and that includes children. You want them to do well and live well-adjusted lives and if they pass on the better parental genes to following generations you can sit back and say:" job done as well as can be expected under the circumstances".
One thing I would advise you to do, even though you absolutely do not need my advice: keep those pennies safe for the time when the Happy Endings facility beckons; without those pennies God Help Us All. And, in the meantime, enjoy yourselves.