So yesterday, I tweeted this, “Single mothers shouldn’t be vilified, but they shouldn’t be glorified either. They’re people who made bad life choices.” Naturally, I was deluged with comments from angry single mothers and a few single dads, too. You see, we have an unwritten rule in this country that says, “Single mothers have it hard so no matter what people really think, they can’t ever speak a negative word about them.” When people get that oversensitive about a topic, it’s a good bet that there’s a lot of uncomfortable truth that people are thinking, but aren’t willing to say out loud. When I run across a topic like that, I love to talk about it because I’ve already heard every insult in the book five times over, so all the wailing and gnashing of teeth isn’t going to do anything except produce more great pieces of hate mail that I can read to my friends for their amusement.
All of that being said, even though that Tweet was largely correct, it was also a LITTLE too broad and generalized. That’s how it goes on Twitter, where you only have 140 characters to work with. On there, you can’t throw in dozens of caveats about widows, women who were raped, people whose husbands unexpectedly started using heroin one day and turned into junkies, or the other assorted exceptions to the rule. So, let’s get that out of the way: This does not apply to every single mother. Not EVERY single mother got that way via bad life choices.
Now, let’s get down to it. First off, as I noted, “Single mothers shouldn’t be vilified, but they shouldn’t be glorified either.” Let me just add to that: I do not think, in any way, shape, or form, that single moms are bad moms. To the contrary, judging by the single moms I know, they actually work harder to try to take care of their kids than most moms do in two parent families. Granted, that’s not because they’re better people; it’s because parenting is a two person job and they’re trying to fill both roles all by their lonesome. It’s extremely tough for them to do that, which I think most single moms would acknowledge. Single mothers tend to struggle more financially and they do miss having a dad around to help with the kids, bring in more money, help soothe their frayed nerves, give second opinions, be a rock, and do all the things that men do to help make a happy home.
Of course, single dads have it tough, too, but as a society, we put single moms up on a pedestal and we don’t do the same for single dads. The courts always give the mom preference over the dad, TV shows lionize single moms, but rarely single dads, and we generally treat moms like they’re the better parent by default. So even though single dads who take care of their kids are as important as single moms and care just as much for their children, they’re not looked at the same way as single moms. So, since single moms are much more common and are treated differently, they’re the ones we should focus on.
The problem we have in dealing with single moms in this country is like that old story about the man fishing by the side of the river. Suddenly, the man sees someone in the water, being swept away by the current. He dives in and manages to drag the person to safety. Then, just as he gets out of the water, he sees 2 more coming; so he jumps back in the water and with heroic effort, he saves them both. Unfortunately, this keeps going all day long, the man is saving some people and others are drowning, and eventually he gets exhausted. So, he decides that he just can’t do any more and he goes home. As he gets up the road about half a mile, he finds that the bridge has been out and that people have been falling in the water there all day long. So, he blocks off the bridge and nobody else falls in.
Because most of us know single mothers, know how hard they’re working, and wish them well, we do what we can to support them and build them up. That’s very understandable and it undoubtedly does some good. However, because we’re constantly talking about how wonderful single mothers are, we’re also making the option look a lot less scary than it should be to young girls — and that’s a very bad thing for them and for society.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how much a single mother loves her child or how diligent she tries to be, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to do as good a job of raising her child as a mother and father could have done in her place. People hate to hear that, but it’s true. Incidentally, this isn’t me just talking off the top of my head. Statistics bear this out and show that many of the problems we have in our society, when you look a little deeper, are really caused by the number of out-of-wedlock births we have in this country,
From the FBI: 63 percent of all suicides are individuals from single-parent households. From the Centers for Disease Control: 75 percent of adolescents in chemical-dependency hospitals come from single-parent households. From the Children’s Defense Fund: more than half of all youths incarcerated for criminal acts come from single-parent households.
As I describe in my new book, “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and Their Assault on America,” controlling for socioeconomic status, race and place of residence, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single parent. (The second strongest factor is owning a Dennis Kucinich bumper sticker.)
By 1996, 70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced.
Again, as I noted, it’s important not to vilify single mothers. Those devastating statistics are not a result of their being bad people or not loving their children; those numbers are a result of the situation that they’re in.
Having kids outside of wedlock creates a lot of poverty for women, it leads to some of them having to leech off of their fellow citizens with government programs, and it’s really bad for their kids. So, if you’re a single woman and you get pregnant, what are your choices? You can kill your own baby with an abortion or you can have all those negatives come into your life along with a child. Choosing to have the child is the right choice and children do bring a lot of joy into people’s lives, but young girls need to be aware that they will be far better off if they don’t get pregnant outside of wedlock in the first place.
Superficially, we send this message. The problem is that it’s a mixed message. They may hear, “Don’t get pregnant” in school or church, but Hollywood promotes promiscuity at every turn, talks about single mothers like they’re saints, and our government financially rewards people for having children out of wedlock. You may say that the amount we pay out for welfare and food stamps is so small that it shouldn’t be an incentive, but you can directly trace the explosion of illegitimacy in this country back to the decision to allow unmarried mothers to collect welfare.
So, maybe instead of doing everything we can to make single motherhood easier, we should focus on doing a lot more to discourage single motherhood. Maybe Hollywood could start to regularly show the consequences of sexual promiscuity (Bond. James Bond…and I guess I should probably mention I have herpes before this goes any further). Maybe liberal feminists could stop talking about how great it is to have “sex like a man” while they get angry about “slut shaming.” Maybe they could admit that “slut shaming” is good for everybody concerned, including the slut, because it might lead to her ceasing to act like a slut. Getting rid of no fault divorce would also be very helpful and so would disallowing welfare and food stamps for kids born outside of wedlock, although it would be very difficult to put those Genies back in the bottle. It’s also a shame that there’s no “shame” associated with being a single mother anymore. We were better off as a country when it was considered to be disgraceful for a woman to get pregnant outside of marriage.
Does all of that sound horrible? You may think so — but, how horrible is it balanced against the suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents, high school dropouts, poverty and drug addiction created by having so many single women who are trying to raise a child without a father?
At the end of the day, this isn’t about blaming people, shaming people, or pointing a finger. It’s about trying to help as many people as possible live a better life. Yes, it’s better to become a single mother than to abort the baby and, yes, a child is a wonderful thing, but how many parents are hoping their child gets pregnant at 17? Most people wouldn’t wish that on their worst enemy. We need to do a better job of communicating that, we need to stop promoting single motherhood like it’s the most wonderful thing in the world, and we need to start talking more realistically and openly about what we can do to discourage single motherhood as a society.