Saturday, August 04, 2012

Double X: Four myths about single mothers

http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/08/myths_about_single_mothers_what_bloggers_and_pundits_are_getting_wrong_about_them_.single.html

Discussions of single mothers, this author notes, tend to be predicated on a series of myths that are not necessarily true about what goes on in the lives of single mothers.  Single mothers, it seems, can often be useful to pundits and bloggers and the like as a way to remark on what has gone wrong in society.  Some discuss what is wrong with me, others discuss what is wrong with education, still others discuss what is wrong with other things.

One of the myths the author considers to be widespread but inaccurate is that ignorance about contraception accounts for unplanned pregnancies but this is problematic on two fronts. The first problem is that "unplanned" can be a statistical category mistake in itself.  Here I digress into an anecdote about a married friend of mine.  He and his wife were expecting a new child.  A mutual friend asked, "So was this one planned?"  The man smiled and dryly said, "Sort of, in the sense that we know this was likely to happen."  That, dear readers, can be construed as an unplanned pregnancy as much as the mythological teenager or 20-something who doesn't use birth control and somehow imagines that she won't get pregnant.

The second problem is that, as studies have indicated, single motherhood is less and less a teen situation and that single motherhood is tending to be more of a 20-something thing. There are three sorts of single mothers: 1) the career-established woman in her 30s or 40s who chooses motherhood without having a spouse and who is financially stable 2) the mother who was once in a relationship, is no longer, and has the kids from that earlier, failed relationship and 3) the never-married woman who ended up as a mother.

Myth 4 is interesting because the myth is presented as "if people would just get married things would go better."  The reason this is presented as a myth is not because some couples wouldn't be better off marrying but for another reason, a reason social conservatives would probably agree with--that many of these couples are people who should have thought better about being sexually active to begin with because they were not going to go the distance anyway.  There is something to be said for "first comes love then comes marriage then comes the baby in the baby carriage."

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