Solely In Black and White: Age Old Debate

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Age Old Debate



Recently we (us and our extended family and friends) have been having this debate. Who is more “mature” a married 20 year-old girl who has had a baby or a single 24 year old girl? Originally, I was tempted to argue that the girl who is a mother was inherently more mature just by the fact that she has to take care of a baby. However, after some consideration and people watching I am now unsure. Can maturity really be defined by one single event or is it mealy a façade or societal opinion?

TAW: Frum society presumes that (very) young mothers have acquired a certain amount of maturity and so we treat them as if they have. Our society values certain traits over other ones. We value caring for children and running a household more than we value obtaining an education and running a business. Some individuals SIBAW and I know argued that even the most “immature” nineteen year old young mother knows more about managing a home than a thirty year old single woman. This, in her mind equates to life experience and world knowledge. These individuals believe that life does not really begin until you’ve had your first child. They point to the fact that older singles never live “beyond themselves” that their lives might be hard, but it’s a personal hardship. They’re never forced to be selfless. 

The Torah encourages us to marry and says it isn’t good for man to be alone, implying that the true path to growth is through marriage and children. Many in our society use this knowledge to support the argument that there is no other way to achieve growth and maturity. For many of them, they aged as these stages came upon them, so what may simply be the maturity of aging they attribute solely to having children.  This belief that only marriage+children=maturity may be the source of people’s patronizing attitude towards singles and those who cannot conceive.  Is marriage and children the only way to achieve true growth and maturity? 


8 comments:

  1. Maturity is subjective. There is no objective standard.Everyone is different. There are girls with families who are completely immature and have no idea what they are doing and can't seem to get it together. There are older singes who are mature and those who do nothing but despair over their single status. The immature and mature walk among us in all different ways.

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  2. What aminspiration said.

    I know women with a fleet of children but go through life with the most childish of reactions, even though they are 40+.

    There are some who were always mature, it being an inherent quality as they gravely look upon the world despite the fact they are 5.

    There are some who learn from their mistakes and achieve maturity.

    Some are born into maturity, some achieve maturity, others have maturity thrust upon them.

    Some remain immature their whole life long.

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  3. I agree with Princess Lea.
    There are some people who are inherently mature. They seem to have been born that way. But most of us are not born that way. It happens. Sometimes that can happen just because we get older and life will mature us. And sometimes things happen in our lives that give us a maturity that can only come through life experience. Having a baby...raising children...is life experience. But it's not a guarantee of maturity. I know enough singles who've lived life...who've dealt with challenges...and have a maturity which many married women of the same age don't come close to.

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  4. "They point to the fact that older singles never live “beyond themselves” that their lives might be hard, but it’s a personal hardship. They’re never forced to be selfless."

    I find that statement particularly presumptuous. As a single, I can say that singles (especially those still living at home) have plenty opportunity to be selfless. Being part of a family unit means going according to their schedule, going where they want to when they want to, it means giving up their bedroom to guests when necessary, it means putting a smile on their face or offering a listening ear even after a bad date or a shidduch that fell through just because everyone around them doesn't have to suffer.

    Saying that they don't live beyond themselves or are never required to be selfless is quite frankly an insult to the numerous amazing singles I know.

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  5. What Princess Lea said. That being said...I agree that people who aren't married don't have as many opportunities to live beyond themselves and are "never forced to be selfless." However, that does not equal selfish.

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  6. I agree with what has been said about maturity, however, I am of the opinion that maturity comes through life experience and circumstances. Maturity is not a factor of age or stage, but of personality. At the onset I think the originator of this argument assumed and attributed maturity to one event, having children, to which I don’t think they are entirely wrong. In some ways having children does make one mature just by the virtue that one has to share their time and prioritize many aspects of their life. Granted, it will not change an immature person into a mature person. It will not change their opinions, feelings, values, or even their actions as a whole. I guess I agree with how Mystery Woman put it; “its life experience, but it’s not a guarantee for maturity.”

    Sun inside Rain; I hear what you’re saying and that statement by itself can be a bit presumptuous. Nonetheless, I think the emphasis of that statement is on the “forced” part. That’s not to say that singles don’t live beyond themselves, many do. Furthermore, many singles volunteer for organizations and act entirely in a selfless manor, giving of themselves beyond what is remotely expected of them; however, that is not forced, that is their choice. They choose the amount of selflessness that they are inclined to provide.

    As a member of a family unit you’re technically not forced to do anything as you’re a consenting party within a decision making group. You can say I don’t want to, I’d prefer not to, or now just isn’t a good time for me, try back later. Arguably, marriage is the same way. However, I really don’t think mothers of newborns have that luxury. There is an aspect of forced giving that is expected and arguably entirely forced upon them. Granted, part of it is a biological necessity etc., but I don’t think the two are comparable. I mean, I highly doubt that the majority of singles are woken up in the middle of the night to perform familial duties on a consistent basis, at least that’s my take on it…

    SIS, agreed, a lack of selflessness is not equal to selfishness.

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  7. Triple the vote for Princess Lea, but I do agree with SiBaW on the 'forced' issue. Mothering, at least for me- has caused changes in my personality that I don't think would have come about with out it. (So has marriage, but mothering seems to affect me more.)

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  8. I'll take a slightly different tack, and say that people are given the circumstances that they need to develop themselves and become mature (a life-long process, imo). So for some people, yes, getting married and being responsible for running a household or taking of care of children is something that forces them to grow. For others (i.e. older singles--and I include myself in this category, being in my early 30's), learning to find a place for yourself in a society where you are pushed onto the fringes, learning to accept your situation that Hashem has given you, navigating the tricky relationship of being a child at home when you are no longer a child, learning how to accomodate or let friendships go when married friends have moved on, etc is what is needed for their personal growth and maturity level.

    So I wouldn't say one group has it over the other group.

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