Childrearing

This Mom Thinks We Should Teach Our Daughters to Marry Rich Men, Because Apparently It’s 1917

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A parenting forum is a good place to go to forget what century we’re in, as in the case of flame war heating up Mumsnet right now about whether or not we should be trying to teach our daughters to marry rich men, because apparently we all woke up this morning in a Jane Austen novel, but not in a fun way.

Over at Mumsnet, a user going by windygallows started an “Am I Being Unreasonable” thread to say that she thinks we should be encouraging our daughters to marry well.

She writes: “I wonder if marrying well – marrying into money or marrying someone who is in a well-paid profession – is something we should be encouraging our daughters to do. Why? Because not every woman wants to have a career and if you want to be a SAHM then really that’s easiest if your DH is well paid. Also women still experience a pay gap and are in lower-paid roles by comparison, so having a well paid DH really does make up that pay gap.

Plus – when I look around at my female friends and peers (I’m mid-40s) of the ones who have a comfortable lifestyle and are able to work part-time or be SAHM, for about 3/4 that lifestyle is attributed to having a well-paid or wealthy DH. The other 1/4 got there through their work/career, family money etc. This is purely a sample of my peers, by no means the norm.

I’m a staunch feminist so it’s a bit hard to write this but I’m also a single parent and know what a slog it can be making everything work on my own salary. Marrying well doesn’t mean a good marriage or relationship but it does make things easier. In the end shouldn’t we be having an honest conversation with our daughters about this and encouraging them to think a bit more about ‘marrying well’?”

No, we should not. We should be having important talks with our children about financial security and adult responsibilities, and those should include talking about saving money, avoiding “lifestyle inflation” where when they get another $100 they spend another $200, and not pinning their self-worth on public trappings of wealth, and always having a “Fuck-Off Fund.” But I would never tell my daughter to try to marry a rich man for financial security, because life is too unpredictable for advice like that. What if the rich husband gets hit by a bus? What if he leaves you? What if he gets cancer and the medical bills bankrupt you? What if he gets disinherited for marrying some tacky fortune-hunter, and now you’re both penniless? What if your daughter is gay?

Hell, what if you just can’t find a rich guy who wants to marry you? It’s probably not as easy as it sounds.

As far as I’m concerned, I would tell my daughter the opposite of “try to marry a rich man so you’ll be provided for.” I would tell her to make sure she has access to her own money, and her own means of making money. Marry a rich guy if you find a great person and you love him and he happens to be rich, but nothing in this life is certain, and if your rich husband spontaneously combusts tomorrow, you don’t want to be  homeless or without options. If she wants to be a stay-at-home-mother, that’s great. But she needs to know that not all families can survive on a single income, and that death and illness can come to anybody.

Money is great. Money makes just about everything in life easier. It completely erases some problems and makes other problems smaller. Money is not omnipotent and it cannot solve all a person’s problems, but it sure as hell makes a lot of things a lot easier.

But somehow these mothers went from “having money makes life easier” to “therefore I should try to teach my daughter to try to marry a rich guy.” Instead, maybe they should tell their daughters that money is important, so they should try to figure out how to make some. They could encorage their daughters to be doctors or engineers, or to look for in-demand fields like speech pathology or nursing. Nothing is guaranteed, but at least it seems a little more reliable than, “Marry a rich guy and hope nothing ever goes wrong.”