The New York Times recently ran a story about the staggering numbers of unwed mothers under thirty who are having children. The national average of single women under 30 years old having children is 53 % but in one small town in Ohio, it is 63%. There are a couple of troubling things about this story.
First, as a staunch child advocate, I am deeply troubled that the rates are so high. Children born to single mothers are born with a profound disadvantage. The likelihood that the children will be poor, engage in high risk activities, suffer depression and sexual abuse (to name a few) is much higher than if their mothers were married. Not to mention the pain of growing up without the consistent involvement of their fathers. But we know all that. Beyond this, there is the troubling phenomenon reported in the story that these young women birthing children complain that there are no men out there “marriage-worthy.”
Here’s what bothers me. When did we come to the place where young women feel that men are “worthy” enough to engage in sexual intercourse and birth a child with them, but not suitable to marry? How profoundly sad for them (and their children) that these women believe women that sexual activity is divorced from commitment and respect, not to mention marriage, that they avail their most intimate selves to men they feel aren’t marriage material.
Second, the great hypocrisy is that many Americans, like some reporters for the New York Times, would accept single mothers having children as a positive, acceptable, even laudable gesture if these women were older, wealthy or famous. The truth is, we can’t have it both ways. Either intentionally birthing children into a single mother household is good for kids or it isn’t. Period. Studies show that it isn’t good for kids. We can’t ooh and ahhh at the young mothers in Ohio who are poor, single and living with a child or two and claim how sad their lives are and then oogle over single Moms in Beverly Hills. Regardless of the household income, age of mothers or notoriety, kids without Dads hurt.
Finally, we, as parents need to teach our daughters and sons that recreational sex divorced from mutual respect, commitment and marriage hurts kids. And ultimately, it hurts the single mothers left with children and the fathers who so often fade into the woodwork.