04 January 2013

Single Mom Apologia

This story is making the rounds:

Kids of unmarried parents, according to all of those studies (of rich moms and poor, educated moms and not-so), are supposed to be failures. They are supposed to abuse drugs, get pregnant, and end up in prison rather than grad school. One-fourth of them are supposed to experience the kind of emotional havoc that renders them useless forever. There is of course no data suggesting that these particular kids might have had similar paths regardless of the number of adults sleeping down the hall. But beyond that there is also the beauty that emerges from the strain, the impediments, even the sometimes terrifying knowledge that their parents might fail them. No single mom wants to fail them—provide less, teach less, support less, be less—but it is in our minds that we might. So we struggle, and over the long term, we impart to our children that struggle can be good. This is something they know intimately.
Chuck has already weighed in on this, and I think his analysis is top-notch.  The only thing I’d like to point out is that, from my own personal observations, this single mom is not at all representative of all single moms.  Most of the single moms I know personally are young, black, and poor.  They’ve never been married to the father of their children, and tend to have short-sighted judgment in evaluating a mate.  Thus, this apologia for single mothers strikes me as nothing more than a rationalization used to encourage women in what would generally be stable—though not necessarily exciting—marriages to get divorced.

Single motherhood is a generally terrible state of being for not only the children, but also for the mother.  There’s a reason* why marriage has been the preferred vehicle for raising children:  not only do the children turn out better, it’s easier on the parents.  And so, while one woman has not apparently completely ruined her daughters through her life as a single mother, she has not had the easiest time of raising her daughters, and she has enjoyed far more advantages of single motherhood than most women could hope for.  Thus, this defense of single motherhood is predicated on a highly unlikely best-case scenario, and even then it’s still too soon to tell how the daughters will turn out.

* Cracked.com had a post (see here, entry #5) that detailed how even in a highly promiscuous primitive society, children were still raised by two parents.

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