Normal: Thoughts on Maths and Life

“The trouble is not that I am single and likely to stay single, but that I am lonely and likely to stay lonely.”
― Charlotte Brontë

I’m a bit of a nerd. Ok, often I’m quite a lot of a nerd. This is a sort of disclaimer for what is about to follow…

A confession: I’m rather fond of the normal distribution. It’s simple, beautiful and just makes so much sense to me, especially when talking about large populations, such as the human race. Take, for example, intelligence. The IQ test has been designed to identify a person’s ‘Intelligence Quotient’ which is basically a comparible level of intelligence for your age group. The average IQ is 100. That’s how the test is designed. The majority of people will have an IQ between 85 and 115, whilst you’ll find a small number of people below 70 or above 130, and a very tiny number below 55 or above 145.

IQ Bell Curve

So many other attributes can be plotted as a normal distribution; height, weight, any of your vital statistics, shoe size. It basically tells you what is normal for the population, and what is less common.

Which brings me on to today’s topic. ‘Normal’. (Yep, the more I type it, the less it seems like a real word… Is there a name for that?) Google’s definition of normal is as follows;

nor·mal
/ˈnôrməl/
Adjective
Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
Noun
The usual, average, or typical state or condition.
Synonyms
adjective. regular – standard – ordinary – common – usual
noun. normality – normalcy – perpendicular

I originally wanted to write today’s blog about the definition of the word ‘family’; about the typical nuclear family of mummy, daddy, brother and sister, and then about how that’s not the only option. But then I took a bit of a step back. I am lucky enough to live in a country where, although that family construction is ‘normal’, it’s not the only option. Homosexual couples can adopt children and soon should be able to marry, rather than enter into civil partnerships. Couples have the power to choose how many children they want, if any, and they have a number of options available to them to enable that to happen. The rant I was forming quickly fell to pieces as I realised that, although there is still plenty more to be done to ensure every person has the ability to have the family they want, we’re heading in the right direction.

What I am most curious about, as a single woman with more desire to have a child than to secure a husband, is how the other singletons do it. There are all too many cases of women becoming single mothers due to circumstance – relationships ending for various reasons, or never starting, but you rarely hear of the mother who chose to ‘go it alone’ from the beginning. More than that, you never hear of a man voluntarily becoming a single father; not through winning custody, nor through losing the mother, but through chosing as a single man to adopt a child, or to enlist the services of a surrogate mother.

So I did some googling… It turns out the rising levels of divorce/separation are actually making it easier for single people to adopt. It’s becoming less abnormal for individuals to raise children without being part of a functioning two-person unit. An article I found on parents.com (an American site, so the legal stuff is different, but the article is interesting. Link – http://www.parents.com/parenting/adoption/facts/can-a-single-person-adopt/ ) states that ‘Mental health experts say that the “ideal” is to place a child in a two-parent home with a mother and father who are compatible and loving.’ I can’t argue against the theory behind the statement, but I could argue that ‘compatible’ and ‘loving’ are highly subjective terms, and far from measurable, not to mention how it’s impossible to predict at the point of adoption what the next five or ten years will bring. It’s quite clear to me that a good number of two-parent homes fall short of the compatible and loving requirements, without churning out a hoard of emotionally damaged children. Likewise, a good deal of separated parents, and single-parent households manage to raise healthy children.

When my mother was my age; 2 months from her 28th birthday, she had been married for eight years, and was five months pregnant with me, her first child. In comparison, I am resoundingly unmarried and the closest thing I have to offspring is my oft-crotchety eleven year old labrador cross. I desperately want to have a child in the next five years, but I have no such drive to find a partner of either gender, let alone to rush into a marriage just to fulfil that need to become a mother. And so I find myself on the outskirts of the bell curve; ‘normal’ is the heterosexual two parent family, and here on the outside, but gradually increasing in number are the adopters, the fosterers, and the single parents. I have so many options; I could apply to adopt a child in need of a home and a parent, I could book an appointment with the local neighbourhood sperm bank and have a romantic evening with a turkey baster, or I could bump into my one true love on my journey home from work this evening and gradually slide on into the normal zone. The fact that I have these options is amazing, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been born in a country where I don’t have to be someone I’m not; where it’s no longer a toss up between being a wife or a spinster.

So you may hear us ranting a whole lot about the government, or the world as a whole. We can see a lot of things in need of fixing. But here and now I declare Britain to be ‘not all bad’. Gavel!

Discuss…

P.S : In my research into single fathers I came across the following blog and thought it looked rather interesting;
http://goodmenproject.com/

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 13:01:18

    I applaud your self-examination and recognition that options always exist and that “normal” may not be appropriate for you. Too many people make choices they end up unhappy with simply because they are scared of not being protected by the padding of the center of that bell-curve. I would ask though – with or without marriage (to either gender); and whether it is natural birth or adoption – what is it that makes you want to have a child in the first place? It is very expensive and it is a lot of work and just like marriage itself, in our society these days children are optional. Rationally understanding your motivation may give you insight into the best way to achieve it.

    Reply

  2. Alison
    Feb 22, 2013 @ 16:02:55

    Hi John,

    Thanks for your comment, and more so for your incredibly pertinent question. It took me a long time to reach the decision that the normal answer wasn’t the only answer, and that I could be just as happy, perhaps happier by looking outside of the traditional life choices.

    As far as the ‘why’ goes, I’m my answer is pretty much that ‘I just do’. It’s not something I’ve sat down and dissected. I’ll try to keep my initial thoughts brief;
    – I’m sure societal norms are a big part of it. Ever since I was a child I knew that little girls grew up to become mummies so the expectation was planted early on, and it was something I always felt comfortable with. Being in the middle of the normal curve isn’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as it’s where you want to be.
    – I don’t really want to blame biology but, without getting too graphic, the regular reminder that my body is capable of bearing a child does keep the topic in my thoughts.
    – On a more personal note; I’m what people would probably call a ‘homebody’. I don’t feel any great desire to travel the world and to experience that jet-setty life. I’ve been lucky enough to travel a little bit and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t the be all and end all. I enjoy making a difference; I enjoy nurturing and supporting and I see motherhood as being the logical next goal for my particular lifestyle.

    Naturally there are some hesitations; I strongly believe that this country, and indeed the world, is vastly over-populated, and I’m quite aware of the small level of hypocracy of wanting to bring another life into the world. The expense and the hard work don’t worry me anywhere near as much as you’d imagine. I’m not super-rich, but I know I can save. I can put someone else’s needs before my own. I can survive on little money and less sleep.

    I could completely write another blog post going much further into the reasons behind my choices. The point really is that I have the power to make those decisions.

    I did see something earlier which is rather appropriate to bring up here; I follow Amnesty International on Facebook and they posted a link to a (rather easy) quiz on sexual & reproductive rights – here as part of their My Body; My Rights campaign. At the end of the day, this is what it’s about; I have every right to have a child if I want to, just as I can get a tattoo or wear whatever I want to wear, or take the necessary precautions to prevent myself from becoming pregnant. It’s about choice.

    Reply

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