I am blogging this week about the virtue of patience—and the role it plays in helping kids (and adults) to mature well and become leaders. Today, I start with harsh news.
A growing number of first-borns in the U.S. have unmarried parents, which reflects a dramatic increase since 2002 in births to co-habiting or single women, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The percentage of first births to women living with a male partner jumped 83% between 2002 and 2006-2010. The percentage of first births tripled from 9% to 27% for births between 2003 to 2010. Further, today there are more single women having babies than co-habiting women.
USA Today interviewed Karen Guzzo, a sociologist at Bowling Green State University says she thinks the big jump is likely because of the recession. “I think it’s economic shock. Marriage is an achievement that you enter into when you’re ready. But in the mean time, life happens. You form relationships. You have sex. You get pregnant. In a perfect world, they would prefer to be married and they don’t want to have kids.”
Hmmm. May I provide my own commentary?
Call me the Master of the Obvious, but people just don’t want to wait anymore. We cannot delay gratification. We won’t wait for a commitment before we have sex. We won’t wait until we’re ready emotionally or economically before we have children. We can’t even wait to use contraception. In many ways, the cliché is true: we have a bunch of children giving birth to children.
I know a twenty-three year old single girl who got pregnant out of wedlock and now has a four-month-old baby. She lives with her parents and is nowhere close to being ready to parent her child. So, most of the work is being done by her mother, while she insists in living the lifestyle she had before she became a mom—partying, playing with friends, staying out late, etc. Sadly, she is not feeling the consequences of her actions, and may continue on as a “child” herself until she finally has to come to grips with the life-altering decision she made to have sex.
Here’s my point. We cannot develop the virtue of patience until we experience the consequences of our impatience. In other words, if I fail to delay gratification, but have no penalties for my impatience, I will continue living impatiently. My patience muscle never develops; in fact, it atrophies. I will keep insisting on getting what I want…now. I will grow increasingly irritated when things don’t go my way. And my prospects become bleaker as employers will seek and find “mature” workers.
Let me offer some thoughts on this issue of physical pleasure:
1. Decide now where your standards are—and stick to them. Before any potentially negative temptation arises, choose what you will and won’t stand for.
2. The next time you want a material pleasure, determine what’s in and out of your control. Then, choose the steps you take and the time you’ll wait for that goal.
3. Live with the consequences of your patience level. I’ve found when I suffer the outcomes of bad choices, I eventually get to enjoy more benefits of my good choices.