Thursday, February 3, 2011

Single Mother Saints

Carl Olson points out a story about single mothers:

Within my lifetime, single parenthood has been transformed from shame to saintliness. In our society, perversely, we celebrate the unwed mother as a heroic figure, like a fireman or a police officer. During the last presidential election, much was made of Obama’s mother, who was a single parent. Movie stars and pop singers flaunt their daddy-less babies like fishing trophies.

None of this is lost on my students. In today’s urban high school, there is no shame or social ostracism when girls become pregnant. Other girls in school want to pat their stomachs. Their friends throw baby showers at which meager little gifts are given. After delivery, the girls return to school with baby pictures on their cell phones or slipped into their binders, which they eagerly share with me. Often they sit together in my classes, sharing insights into parenting, discussing the taste of Pedialite or the exhaustion that goes with the job. On my way home at night, I often see my students in the projects that surround our school, pushing their strollers or hanging out on their stoops instead of doing their homework.
It is an interesting observation. The theory is that the state is being too generous with single mothers and encouraging them too much and that is causing more people to become single mothers. Not sure how true that is. My hope is more girls are having their baby and not aborting because there are programs that allow them to do that. But do they decide to get pregnant because  certain programs are there to help unwed mothers. I doubt it. Teens are not typically know for doing a lot of cost/benefit analysis. I will sleep with you if the congress passes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. I have trouble seeing that.

Is there a general lessening of the taboo around premarital sex? Sure. But I do think it is possible to send both messages. Don't get into trouble and if you do we will help. The problem is the state sends the second message and really struggles with the first one. It is not rocket science. You treat teen sex just like drugs or smoking. That is you work hard to discourage the behavior. You make arguments. You publicize examples of people who engaged in teen sex and had bad consequences. The trouble is governments never do that. All they do is hand out contraceptives. Contraceptives always have the opposite effect. They always increase the pregnancy rate.

So it is great that these woman and their children are getting some help.Taking it away would be unchristian. But we need to look at why they are making the choices they are. Why do they see being a single mother as the best they can do? Most teenage girls see hope for marriage and/or career. Obviously these girls do not. The articles goes into some of the whys. Their homes were not good. It is a complicated problem. But just cutting off the support is not going to solve it.

They need love and truth and money. They are getting the money and that is great. What they need is love and truth and they will turn around. Just pointing at them and saying that proves the government should not help single mother is not the answer.

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