Unwed Mothers: Having a baby by someone does not make them your fiance

01 May

I totally realize that I am a dinosaur, a relic from a time when we actually had community and that community and its approval or disapproval counted. In my era you did not get pregnant in high school because you were moral, chaste and good, you did not get pregnant in high school because you were terrified of what would happen to your reputation and that of your family.

Because we were not able to get birth control easily, not even condoms were readily available discreetly, the choices were not to have sex or to risk getting pregnant, thereby bringing disgrace on yourself and your family. It must be noted at this time that in the 1960’s, a less evolved time for gender roles, almost all of the disdain was heaped on the female if an unplanned pregnancy happened. Men were, it was held, just being men, or boys were being boys depending on the time frame.

It was their job to press the girls to have sex, but it was the responsibility of the “good” girls to say “no.” The irony is the girls who routinely had sex were savvy in the ways of not getting pregnant, so the few girls who actually did get pregnant in my high school class ( there may have been two out of a class of more than 400) were probably much closer to being good girls than a lot of their female classmates.

If anyone had told me forty years ago that having a baby without benefit of marriage ( in some cases it seems without benefit of introduction) would come to be viewed as business as usual in some circles I would have sworn they were crazy.

If we set aside all religious, moral and societal standards having a baby without a stable relationship with its father is still insanity. In this society people of virtually all classes are struggling. Getting pregnant in the 1960s usually meant the young man, if he was any kind of decent, would marry you. That did not mean the marriages were long and happy, but most generally they did occur. At least for the beginning of her child’s life the mother had a partner. Someone to hand her a bottle, hold the baby while she took a shower, make some money to help support the child.If he did marry you it was likely he could get a decent job at one of the factories to support the family. Manufacturing jobs no longer exist. If the male has no skills you have no source of income help.

Now it seems more than ever that far too often reproduction is left on the shoulders of the mother, especially if she is unwed. If the man decides he does not want to be a husband and a father he simply falls back on the 1960s tactic of swearing he is not the father. Unfortunately for him we now have Maury and DNA.  And, we have child support enforcement. So, in most cases if he has got a job he will be paying child support. But, a lot of the fathers do not seem to understand what a job is, and paying money, and generally not that much, is not the same as partnering in raising a child. It does not mean getting up with 4 AM feedings, driving the child to daycare, taking him to the park, bathing her, feeding her, reading books to him, taking her for walks and pointing out interesting things.

It means one person, the mother has to do everything, including work to earn money to have enough to live decently. If the mother cannot bridge the gap between what the father gives and a decent life, then the child will suffer, as will the mother. I cannot imagine having a child that you would love to give things to but being unable to buy them even the things other children take for granted.

So, with birth control available, with career paths open to women that I could have only dreamed of at their age, with all of the information about sex, conception, relationships, economics and family structure available at their fingertips why are women still getting pregnant who cannot afford to raise a child? Even more puzzling why are they sometimes having more than one?

And no, my Republican friends ( as if I had any) it is not to suckle more deeply at the public teat. The 1994 TANF act made having babies to get more money obsolete. As a matter of fact the amount of time you can collect welfare is limited.

So why do these women commit economic, emotional and psychological suicide by having babies without benefit of stable relationship, let alone a marriage license. A marriage license can mean a lot of things, some of them romantic, but most of all legal. The license not only implies to the world that you all knew each other well enough to know each other’s middle names, it also means you cared enough about the other person to make a public declaration of it. Even if the marriage only lasts two minutes after the kid is born, it makes things much tidier. Everyone having the same last name, for example.

And, please, please understand America. Having a baby by someone does not automatically lift him or her to the status of fiance. Has the person asked you to marry him/her? Has a ring been exchanged? Are wedding plans in process? Plans that involve a wedding happening before the child enters school? If not he is NOT your fiance. He is your baby daddy, a totally meaningless term on so many levels.  I know it makes you feel better to claim this person who you have three kids by intends to marry you, but generally speaking  if y’all have not managed to go to city hall and get hitched after three visits to the labor room, it ain’t happening.

In addition being a “single mother” is not a badge of honor, nor does it mean that I, the president, your friends, the grocer, butcher, baker or candlestick maker, owe you one darn thing. I have seen women explain some failure on their part to do something they are supposed to, from providing a decent home for their children to participating in parent groups at schools by saying ” I am a single mother.” My question to them is, ” Did you know you were single when you had sex with that man and got pregnant?” If so, then single mother means irresponsible person. It is not the same thing as a woman whose husband has died, or who is single by no fault of her own.

Those of you who know me know that I am a serious feminist. I have mixed feelings about the institution of marriage, despite having been happily married for more than four decades. It still seems to me that women get the dirty end of the stick in marriage far too often, something that will be the subject of a future blog.

But, having raised three children, and been in the lives of several thousand more ( I taught 180 students a year for 18 years in public school and at least that many in ten years of college teaching), I know that the more people involved in meeting the needs of children the better. Since our communities have largely collapsed ( does your neighbor have a key to your house?), we need to have family units that have as many stable people in them as possible.

Part of being stable means having a JOB. I would personally like to see orphanages run by the state re-instituted so that people who should not  have had children, cannot support them sufficiently and have no idea how to raise and care for them could have their parental rights severed to save the child. In my universe a woman who continued to have babies she could not afford would not be forced to stop having babies, but she would not be allowed to pass her feeble minded lifestyle on to future generations by raising them herself.

Again, this is not about moral right or wrong, being against premarital sex or anything of the sort. It is about the economic and societal destruction that comes about from producing children without having a stable environment to raise them in.  One parent working is not going to make as much as two parents working, one parent raising kids is not going to be as vigilant and present as two parents. It is a matter of economics and child welfare, nothing else.

Here is a simple primer for you young women out there. I do not care if you have sex with everyone on the Eastern Seaboard, but do not get pregnant. Here is a checklist for you before you have a baby.

  • You have finished your education–high school diploma at least
  • You have begun a career that will support you and the baby
  • You know how much it costs to raise a baby ( $13,000 the first year, about $310,00 until he is 18 if you do not send him to college, which btw would make you a bad mother)
  • You know the man you are planning to get pregnant by will be around and do his part financially and otherwise.
  • The man in question has finished his education
  • The man in question has a job
  • The man in question has not been involved with the criminal justice system in any serious way
  • You have a support system of other women in case Prince Charming turns out to be a frog
  • You are ready to be a mother, which includes being there to do what you need to do for your child even when you do not want to do it.  In other words clubbing with the girls is a thing of the past for the most part
  • You understand that the relationship between mother and child is for 24/7 until one of you shuffles off this mortal coil.  My mother is 93 and still worries about me

There is nothing, nothing at all romantic about having a baby. They are noisy, messy, demanding and expensive. They will not improve your relationship with your man/boy, they will try it.

I enjoyed having and raising my kids, they are great human beings with good hearts, much intelligence and zany senses of humor. The fact we opt to spend a week together in a beach house each year and nobody ever hits anyone else is proof that we do like each other, at least most of the time. But having a baby mindlessly is one of the dumbest things a human being, particularly a female human being can do.

I look forward to the day when the only women who have babies without a stable partner are the celebrities who can afford to bridge the gaps left by a daddy, at least to some extent, with hired help!


Posted by on May 1, 2011 in Uncategorized


7 responses to “Unwed Mothers: Having a baby by someone does not make them your fiance

  1. Julia

    May 1, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Cookie, I agree with many of the points you made, particularly in regards to the economic realities that most (young) single mothers are simply incapable of grasping, but I will stand up for a non-traditional family plan, too. Simply put, marriage simply isn’t necessary if the other conditions (education, career, financial stability) you mentioned are met. And frankly, in my opinion, gender is similarly irrelevant if those conditions are met.

    My boyfriend (not fiancee) and I are not married. We live together in a nice house he owns in a nice safe neighborhood. We don’t share money, but we each pay our part as any married couple would do. We equally parent our daughter. (Even if we did marry, I would never, ever, ever change my name, so the last name thing is irrelevant in this case as well.) I feel we are well-positioned to care for the financial, educational, and moral needs that our daughter requires, regardless of our marital status.

    • minerva5

      May 1, 2011 at 8:58 pm

      We agree on almost all points Julia. If I had not been born in the time I was born in I am almost positive I would never have gotten married, I simply am not sure I would have seen the point. The name thing is, however, relevant, you can always solve it with or without marriage by using a hyphenated version. Our society, particularly in backwaters like Ohio—I love the Buckeye State but no one is ever going to call it progressive–is not ready for modern relationships. When your daughter goes to school she will probably be taught by some of the same breed you endured at XHS, conservative, unimaginative, in some cases mean-spirited individuals. The fact that her last name does not match yours or your partner’s ( that is what we say here in the evolved Triangle) will matter. Peer pressure is a bitch. I do not think there is anything magic about a marriage license, two people who care for each other and the child are much better than people who have a piece of paper but cannot stand each other, and/or are indifferent to the child.

      • richard

        May 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm

        Cuz Cookie , On the question of marital status,and community standards let me start offr I am twice married ,each time for over twenty years ,oth wives were beautiful and wonderful women, I am not at all sure marriage is meant to be permanent. I have 5 wonderful children. We has people men and women do evolve,life is dynamic and always changing ,we as men and women in a committed and loving relationship don’t always grow at the same pace and in the same direction.During my first marriage i was still completing my education, I was employed and in general able to keep my end of the financial bargain and also to share fairly and honestly in the chores of raising the children.
        But to discount the fact that marriage 1 ended upon my competion of education and admission into the legal profession is leaving things out.
        So I agree that mariage makes things a lot easiier for all involved in rearing children and throughout my entire life have lived in the progressive centers of these United States New York City and Los Angeles. Commuinity standards are absent and are necessary. But the fault goes well beyond that we live in a period of “subjectiviity”, where everything is subjective , there are no objective truths and anything and everything is valued by each being subjectively.

      • minerva5

        May 2, 2011 at 2:07 pm

        Hi Cousin!
        My concern is for the children and for society. I think it is absolutely preposterous for anyone to be concerned about who anyone else has sex with unless it is with your partner. But, I want all the folks having sex to realize unless they are beyond child bearing age or infertile themselves that having a baby brings with it certain immutable responsibilities. Getting married is not one of them,but being able to support the child financially decently, provide them with a stable, loving home and living in a manner that will not cause them to be the object of scorn and derision from other children or their parents, or their teachers. I still simply cannot understand why people have babies they can neither afford to raise, nor seem to want to raise.

      • Julia

        May 2, 2011 at 1:09 am

        I think the name thing only matters because we let it. I feel no guilt over my “unwed” status, so I simply don’t care if our last names are different. Someone has to be the first “evolved” person here in the Buckeye state!

  2. Jennifer

    July 28, 2012 at 8:11 am

    I am not married, nor have I ever been pressured into marriage by my family, friends or society (I was born in 1982-currently 30 years old). I have no children. I feel I must comment that, although it is socially and fiscally irresponsible to have children before you can properly care for them, there is a strong biological, emotional drive to have children. It is really naive to say it is “irresponsible” or “insanity” to have children until you are in a stable situation in life…I’m sorry, but every living thing has a teleological purpose in life to….continue life…so…imagine if our ancestors decided it wasn’t stable or prudent to have children because of malnutrition, war, high infant mortality, whatever else… imagine the middle-ages. I understand that in the 21st century, women have birth control and choice, but just please, allow women to have the choice to have children if they want them, not if YOU want them. i am totally pro-choice and for lower birth rates, but i am against your attitude, that somehow a woman who is irresponsible is LESS deserving of a child. it just seems elitist …defintion: (of a person or class of persons) considered superior by others or by themselves, as in intellect, talent, power, wealth, or position in society. I have interacted , through my job, with many poor (on social assistance), uneducated, single women with criminal backgrounds who have children and have come to the conclusion that these children are still happy, well adjusted and loved…even after a meal at the soup kitchen…so stop your judgement. it’s just weird.

    • minerva5

      July 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      Your response points up a common difference between your generation and mine. What you want and what you should have are not always the same thing. To want a child for either biological urges or some other emotional or psychological need is not a rationale for having one. A child is not a possession, it is a human being with certain needs. Being a parent is not something you can tire of and decide you do not want to do anymore. Anyone can make a mistake and get pregnant and I certainly do not believe everyone should share my beliefs about abortion, perhaps they feel duty bound to have the child. But, if they are not in a place to parent it may be in the best interests of both of them to put the child up for adoption. Of course, if they are of color it is less likely that an infant will be adopted, which adds yet another variable to the mix. Your comparison of our ancestors’ decisions on child bearing are not valid, as I think you realized when you mentioned their lack of birth control options. I stand by my original position. In a world that is becoming more and more materialistic and using the possession of things as the bellwether for whether or not you are successful bringing a baby into an almost guaranteed life of poverty is irresponsible. The children you saw in your experience at the social services venue were probably pre-schoolers. They may well have been happy. Do you think they will continue to be happy when they go to school and bear the peer pressure of not having decent clothes? Not having a house they can invite their classmates to? Not having the electronic toys their peers have? Not being able to talk about vacations? Kids cannot understand why they are deprived no matter how it occurs. Anyone can be poor, or become poor, we do not know what fate has in store for us, but dropping out of high school to have a baby with someone who is not interested in being a part of the life of you or the baby is a formula for disaster for both you and the baby. Look at the statistics of men and women in prison and how many of them were raised, and by whom and in what economic circumstances. If you can take care of a baby at least until is it is 18 ( I mean take care of including going to school functions, making sure the child can participate in extra-curricular activities, be decently dressed and equipped and have most of your undivided attention for 18 years) and support (you’ll need about $3000,000 conservatively) a baby enjoy! If you cannot take that pill or use a condom.


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