Author: Sharen Cervantes
It’s a testament to the changing times that single motherhood is no longer a lamentable predicament but a choice, something premeditated and embarked upon with pleasure. An even bigger testament to the nature of the twenty-first century is the fact that more and more of these unwed mothers do not fit the archetype of the uneducated, hapless teenager.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, the number of college-educated women choosing to have children out of wedlock has increased by a staggering 145 percent since 1980, with most of the women in this pool of mature age (in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s).
Now, I support progress as much as the next person and I’m especially supportive when it comes to women’s progress. Up until a short time ago, women were bound to the household and familial unit, unable to aspire toward anything beyond domestic and childcare obligations. It’s nice to see that they’re breaking free of these social norms by juggling (successfully!) motherhood and professional employment.
Single motherhood, however, doesn’t strike me as progress. While it may serve as testimony that the modern woman can singlehandedly manage a household and act as a financial provider, it also denies the single-parent child something essential: a father. It’s hard to explain what it means to have one or why not having one is significant. The impact of a father’s absence ranges from the trivial (like not having a father to buy a father’s day card for) to the vital (forever wondering what a father could have brought to your life, for instance). And there’s just something about having a second parental figure in the house to forget or disregard a punishment when Mom is away. Things aren’t always this rosy, of course. I’m enough of a cynic to realize that phenomena like divorce and negligent fathers make single motherhood almost more desirable than traditional husband-wife parenthood. But shouldn’t the dual-parent model still be a goal?
My biggest issue with single motherhood is its effect on a child’s psychology. It’s not that I find these twenty-first century women incapable of raising children on their own—they’ve been doing so for centuries. The issue here is not ability. The issue here is efficacy.
What happens, for instance, when a single mother decides to play the inevitable dating game? Does she introduce these men to her child? Is it even appropriate to an impressionable child to do so? Not in my eyes. It actually strikes me as rather selfish. It is not in a child’s best interest to witness a slew of men (or even a handful) come into and out of his or her mother’s life. It’s even less permissible for a child to witness men coming into and out of his or her own life, especially when there’s a strong chance of attachment on the child’s part. Is attachment avoidable? Probably not. No matter how responsibly the single mother goes about playing the dating game, in all likelihood there will be at least one Mr. Potential who is eventually brought home and introduced to the child as “mommy’s special friend.” Once Mr. Potential is introduced, he spends more and more time with mother and child and becomes, eventually, a regular figure in the son’s or daughter’s life. Hence the attachment. Attachment then leads to affection, affection leads to love, and love leads to a sense of hurt and loss if and when Mom and Mr. Potential end things.
Is this fair? No. Does this promote a happy and healthy childhood experience? No. Is this type of situation inevitable and nearly universal? Unfortunately, it is. So really, why the suddenly-escalating need to put children in this difficult position? And what’s wrong with a little tradition? Progress may be great, but so are old-fashioned values. After all, isn’t it especially critical that we uphold traditional ideals like daily family dinners and family game nights in today’s high-tech, progress-driven world? It seems to me that there are already too many conflicting interests to which the family must take a backseat, including work and financial anxiety. The one point of stability in all this disunity and dysfunction is the mother-father-child dynamic. I firmly believe that it should be maintained.
Sharen Cervantes is a sophomore ECLS/Economics major. She can be reached at [email protected]
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