Garth George: An era when pay rises rate above almost everything

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'Couples leave having children until the last minute and suffer sometimes agonising disappointments.' Photo / Thinkstock
'Couples leave having children until the last minute and suffer sometimes agonising disappointments.' Photo / Thinkstock

Many a time since this column first appeared have I used as a last sentence, "We reap what we sow".

And reading the newspapers lately I am persuaded that we are reaping an increasingly abundant crop from the seeds of social and economic destruction we have sown these past 50 years.

One of the saddest things I've read in this newspaper of late are the results of a survey which record that getting a pay rise or a compliment at work is more important to many young women than getting married or having children. And, even sadder still, that for twentysomethings getting a pay rise was seen as better than sex, partying, going on a first date or meeting up with friends. Sex, which can be an incomparable pinnacle of human experience, ranked merely the same as chilling out on a couch.

Just to show how really upside-down our society has become, the Colmar-Brunton poll of nearly 500 folk in their 20s showed that while females are busy focusing on their careers, it seems the young men they work alongside are dreaming about becoming fathers.

The man who led the study, Spencer Willis, said while young men were also interested in work, the statistics showed they were far more eager to get married and have children than their female counterparts.

The reversing roles trend, he said, had been building for five to 10 years but the gap between the two genders was now bigger, prompting warnings that "the friction between the male desire for fatherhood and the female priorities could be challenging" in the future.

Well, I don't know about the future, because I reckon that the "challenges" of this reversal of roles have been apparent in society ever since the bra-burning rhetoric of the 1960s, but increasingly for the past 25 years or so.

The effect this movement has had on society is socially and economically incalculable already and if it gets wider in the "future" then God help us all. What began - and I admit absolutely necessarily - as a movement to get women out from under male domination has got out of hand.

As with all campaigns for the betterment of mankind - and I include Christianity in that - it soon ended up in the hands of fanatics, in this case those who saw equality as sameness and who ignored the unarguable fact that men and women are different - physically, mentally and emotionally - and always will be.

And what has made it worse is that alongside this thrust for women to be recognised, quite properly, as partners rather than servants of men, has come an obsession with materialism and the acquisition of money, property and prestige.

As Colmar-Brunton's Mr Willis says, the survey findings didn't indicate women didn't want marriage or a family, but rather that they wanted to try to have it all.

Aye, and there's the rub, because we cannot deny the absolute truth of the old adage that "you can't have your cake and eat it, too" or, more simply, "you can't have it both ways". Nevertheless we continue to encourage people to try, and the economic cost to this nation is becoming inestimable.

We spend, for instance, millions on what is euphemistically called early childhood education, which is really nothing more than glorified babysitting, millions more on the domestic purposes benefit and millions more on providing maternity leave.

The human cost is even more tragic: our birth rate has dropped to barely replacement numbers; we spend tens of millions on abortions, many of which are done simply because having a baby is inconvenient.

Yet we spend millions more on fertility treatments, while those who seek to adopt have to go overseas because adoptions in this country have been made far too difficult to achieve.

More and more parents choose caesarean births because they want the baby to arrive when they want it and not when the baby wants to arrive, and couples leave having children until the last minute and suffer sometimes agonising disappointments.

Just last week Children's Commissioner John Angus said an increasing number of under 2-year-olds were being enrolled in childcare and for longer periods than before, and there were cases of babies less than 10 days old being put into childcare so their parents could return to work.

In a report he found childcare was not bad for young children as long as the quality of care was high. I, however, cannot see how that could possibly be so in view of the simple fact that there is no substitute for a mother's nurture and bonding, especially in the first two years of a child's life.

"Rather than spend a large amount of taxpayers' money on subsidies for infants to be in childcare, that money might be better put into supporting care at home by the parent," Mr Angus said. Have we so devalued motherhood that it's not okay for women to have children unless the state is prepared to pay for their upbringing?

- NZ Herald

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